It has always been that way. But there hasn’t always been unemployment insurance. If you quit your job, you are not eligible for it. But if you get fired, they’ll pay you a little bit to get over the hump (although these days it is not nearly as easy to qualify for unemployment payments as when I was an employee in the eighties, see discussion in the comments below). Remember, unemployment is called “entitlement” because you are entitled to it. They are just giving you back a small portion of your taxes that you paid over the years and will be paying for the rest of your life for unemployment insurance.
I was fired from my job at Ramada Renaissance Hotel in San Francisco sometime in April of 1987. I remember that in the evening on Saint Patrick’s day, I was thinking about how miserable I was in my job while listening to drunks yelling something and singing on their way home from an Irish bar around the corner from our apartment on Fifth Avenue. A couple of weeks later, the job was history.
I paid a professional placement coach two thousand five hundred dollars for his advice on what to do next. His name was Charley, he was about 65, he was kind of short and he had a funny white mustache. His company had an office in a redbrick building near a famous San Francisco tourist trap called Fisherman’s Wharf. He gave me a lot of advice on how to prepare myself for interviews and such, which later turned out to be completely useless.
But he also gave me almost 25 years ago two pieces of advice that were really useful. And I will share them with the readers of this blog for free (because that’s the kind of guy I am). I should have actually figured out what he told me on my own, but I didn’t. Most people don’t for some reason. Here is his advice:
1. You have to do something that you really, really like. Forget about stupid jobs that pay your bills but make you miserable. Can you be happy, or even stay sane, doing the job that you are doing today for the next 20 years? If the answer is no, you have to find another job ASAP.
2. Try to find people who are already doing what you consider your dream job, hang out with them and imitate them until you find yourself.
It so happened that there was a group of Japanese translators who were meeting in a house not far from where I lived in San Francisco every few months. I started hanging out with them and imitating them. Within two years, I was already making twice as much as what I used to make at that hotel doing what I found much more interesting than dealing with Japanese and German tour groups, namely translating in my home office things like computer game manuals and patents from Japanese, and a box full of issues of the Journal of the German Hemophiliac Society from German (this was after blood containing the AIDS virus was sold to Germany in the eighties).
I would probably never have had the courage to start my own business had it not been for the fact that I got fired from my job back then. That’s also what I said to my son who called me last week after he told me that he got fired from his job by his boss.
He said that there was something wrong with his boss. He called him “socially awkward”, and also “an a..hole.”
I hope my son will start a business at some point. Unlike his father, he does not know how to fake very, very convincingly seven languages. But he is definitely not socially awkward, which I probably am.
He will figure out something. He already did get fired, which is the first step to enlightenment.