I remember it like it was yesterday. We had just gotten back from our family vacation when my father got the news. He was fired from his job with no advance notice. His employers had already replaced him with someone else. My parents looked at each other and walked into the home office, closing the door. My sister and I stood outside, trying to listen in.
“I guess it’s finally time to start that business I talked about,” my father said. I never saw my mom’s face — only that she nodded and placed her hand on my father’s shoulder.
It’s been more than eight years since that fateful day, and I’ve seen both the highs and lows in my father’s business. As much as I’d love to say that it was always smooth sailing, there were some painful moments.
Luckily, I learned a lot of lessons from my dad's setbacks, not just in how to run a business, but in how to manage my money effectively.
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1. Know and Declare Your Worth
My dad didn’t get fired because he was a terrible employee — rather, he got fired because he was too outspoken about illegal practices at his place of employment. Far from being a bad employee, he put in tons of time and effort into that job, working overtime with no extra pay and even using his own car to make deliveries. He was by all accounts a trooper.
But my dad stopped being a doormat when his job was taken from him. He stood up and made something of himself.
When he started his own business, he did everything he could to land customers and build relationships with vendors. He worked all hours of the day.
There were times when he would give things away for free or let a few clients pay their invoices late. This meant that he was letting clients take advantage of him. But over time, he learned what it really meant to be profitable, and he started enforcing due dates on payments in addition to cutting off troublesome customers.
I saw him standing up for himself and demanding what he deserved. Today, I do the same.
2. Get Organized
I didn't just learn positive lessons from my dad. From watching him, I knew that I wanted to avoid the messiness and chaos that he often dealt with.
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No lie, I never saw my dad’s desk — it was piled high with papers and random product samples. My mother, sister, and I would go into his office and help him file papers every few weeks, only to have it messy again by the next session. This meant that he often missed invoices he needed to enter into his bookkeeping software and forgot payments to his suppliers.
Once, my dad almost lost thousands of dollars because he forgot to invoice a big client.
He finally realized that he needed assistance and asked my mother, an accountant, to help with his paperwork. Together, they organized his desk and created systems for his paperwork. Like clockwork, the business began running smoothly, and he felt less stressed as a result.
So what did I learn from this? Simple: Organization is crucial for any job, not just a business. When I first started out in my career as a teacher, I made sure that my desk was clean and that everything was filed away. It helped to clear my head and let me focus on one thing at a time.
The more organized you are, the more productive — and, dare I say, more successful — you will be.
3. Create Clear Boundaries
My father let a few payments slip by, and in some cases, let friends pay cost price. Not to say that’s necessarily a bad thing, but doing it more than a few times means that the business is no longer profitable.
There’s nothing wrong with saying no, especially if it means putting food on the table.
I thought that I was good at enforcing boundaries until I let an ex-boyfriend take advantage of me. It was a painful lesson to learn, and seeing what my dad went through only cemented the fact that saying no will help you thrive in your financial life.
Lessons From My Dad: Tying It All Together
My dad may not know this, but I’m thankful that I got to see those ups and downs during his time in business. Of course, I can only speculate as to whether or not he was happy that he had made this career change. But in seeing him work through the process of building his own livelihood from scratch, I certainly learned a few valuable lessons from my dad that I’ll never forget.
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What to Do If You Lose Your Job
If you or someone you know was recently fired, don’t despair. It’s easy to feel pessimistic when you’re out of a job, but there are actionable steps you can take to bridge the transition from one position to the next, says Kelly Charles-Collins, Esq., an attorney and partner at Smoak ChistoliniBarnett, a labor and employment defense firm. Here is what she recommends:
Apply for Unemployment Compensation Benefits
If the employee was not terminated for a violation of a workplace policy or if the employee believes they were wrongly accused of violating a workplace policy, they should apply for unemployment benefits. While this will not replace their income, if awarded, it will at least provide a cushion for the employee during their job search.
Update Your Résumé
Employees, terminated or otherwise, need to ensure that their résumés are more than just a recitation of the places where they've worked. They should use their résumés to highlight their skills and accomplishments. You can update your résumé by perusing well-crafted examples on sites like Indeed, having it reviewed on Monster, or giving it an aesthetic update with ResumeGenius.
Don’t be shy about highlighting your accomplishments. Job duties alone do not convey an employee’s full value.
Tell future employers what you have accomplished, changes you have made or played a role in, policies you have implemented, etc., so they can visualize the value you will bring to their organization.
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Phone a Friend or Connection
Reach out to your network. LinkedIn is a great resource for employees looking for new positions. I’ve seen several people post their résumés on LinkedIn and ask their network to forward it to someone who might help. I always forward these emails. There are many jobs that aren’t posted, but people in companies or in search firms are aware of them.
The key is letting people know that you’re available, what you are looking for, and asking specifically for their assistance. This is also why it is so important for your résumé to provide details about your accomplishments. That provides a roadmap for others to advocate for you if they are aware of an open position.
Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.