Hard work is something that I learned from my family at a young age. Growing up in the south, being a minority, it was not unusual to see your mother and father leave a daytime job and have to supplement the family income by cleaning and painting on the side. As a child, I often watched my mother and father work regardless of their medical condition. The one thing that I was taught and I have tried to instill in my children is: Working hard will get you ahead. While my family did not reep the benefits of that hard work, they were successful in ensuring that I was afforded the gumption and drive to pursue the financial security they were seeking.
Growing up in Mississippi, there are many things that you have to combat. Mississippi has one of the highest obesity rates in the country. The academic system was a failure when I attend school. In fact, just like many of my high school classmates, I initially left school at the age of fifteen to seek employment.
While my story would appear to be a tragic one, it is not. Unlike my high school classmates, I left the state of Mississippi, got my GED, and then obtained a college degree. I did not want to be a product of a failed education system or a poverty-and-unemployment statistic.
Over the course of my life, I will have to say that I have been fortunate. I have worked for various companies—always obtaining tenure within the system. About a decade ago, I found the ultimate career experience with a prominent company in the Dallas area. For the past thirteen years, I have worked hard and been promoted through the ranks.
Last week, our department was called in for its weekly meeting. This meeting was a bit special. It plunged me into despair where many Americans find themselves. It was a meeting to say that the employees in my department are going to be unemployment, effective October. My manager tearfully explained the severance package to each of us. One week of pay for each year that you have worked with the company.
What does this mean?
It means that I have thirteen weeks to find employment. While that is a tough task under normal circumstances, I have the age factor to consider as well. I am over 55. While I have experience, my age is a limiting factor in the best of circumstances. With unemployment being so high, age is almost like being bitten by a poisonous snake.
As my parents look down from heaven with pride that I managed to vanquish the poverty level, fight the obesity rate, and combat literacy limitations that a lot of Mississippi minorities face, this is a battle I was not prepared for. I am over 55, and laid off.
Has this happened to you? What advice can you give?