Being willing to just work can be surprisingly supportive.

Going to work can often seem like hard work, it can seem like we only do it for the money, and if we had the financial freedom we all so greatly desire we possibly wouldn’t even go to work. But work and working offer us all much more than we realise. It is a place we contribute to the world, it’s a place we learn about ourselves, it’s a place that feeds us much more than a regular income. Willem Plandsoen writes of his experience of losing a job, and what he learned along the way about what work really means to him.

A trusted friend said to him “Just get a job!”. The bluntness of that sentence can be shocking, but there is a truth in that statement that reveals much more than it first sounds.

Five years ago I lost my job. Or better said, I made choices that made me lose my job. It was unexpected and changed my world completely. I basically had never been without work since I finished University.

I lost my job, but I had also made mistakes that caused many people harm on a financial and emotional level, including myself. The job loss was unexpected and when I lost it, I did not have a penny in the bank. I had spent all my savings as well as the money I made in this job, and I was not entitled to an allowance or government support after I lost the job.

So I really needed to work. A good friend of mine advised me to just get any job.

But I chose not to.

Instead I pursued dream jobs and part-time work as a career coach. This work dried up as I was not in a position to support people with their careers, as I wasn’t able to support myself in mine. Of course, as a coach, to be congruent, I should be someone who at the very least has a job before I coached my clients in how to do that.

As the money situation got tighter and tighter, I started picking up simple temp jobs every now and then to get some income. Meanwhile I was still going for the BIG jobs. After all I had been a Managing Director, so why should I settle for less?

In hindsight, despite the money situation, I carried around an arrogance that I should only apply for ‘good’ and well-paid jobs, and with this attitude I put big pressure on my family.

I did manage to find one of these ‘well-paid’ jobs that fit my criteria, but I got fired within two weeks because I was so eager to prove myself. To be honest, in the interview process I knew this was not the right role or company for me, but I overrode this feeling by looking at the good salary and the year-long contract that was offered.

This second loss of a job within a year hurt even more and I decided, albeit subconsciously, to not go looking for jobs that needed a maximum commitment from me. On a practical level I still wanted to find a job and sent out many letters, made phone calls, and met many people in my network but it was not with my heart. The money situation got tighter and tighter, but still I chose to hang out to find that ‘good’ job.

I was stubborn, and I could not accept the fact that I perhaps needed to start in a lower job, to pick up a solid working rhythm again. That type of job would have built up my self-worth and supported me to reclaim my confidence.

The crazy thing was that I kept on saying to people I was doing fine but everybody could see and feel that I was not being honest. I was at rock bottom, with hardly any money and fighting with my partner over my non-responsibility of generating a proper income.

Two friends then came along and woke me up to the fact I was not doing well. They broke my illusion that I was somehow still doing alright, and things would change soon. They connected with me, and I finally dropped the defence of “I’m okay”, admitting that I was not doing okay at all. The honesty started kicking in, replacing the arrogance.

Then a third friend said to me – again – “JUST GET A JOB”. Any job, even if it was unpaid, to simply make a new start.

Now the message did land. I had hit rock bottom, things just could not get worse, I was about to be evicted from my house, and living on the edge. The pain of living like this became too intense, and I said to myself: ‘Enough!’

It was now a year after I first lost my job. I made the clear decision to commit in full with all of me to working again, and could feel this as a certainty, a solidness in the whole of my body. Not a mental ‘something I should do’ thing anymore. I let go of the arrogance that it should be a job with prestige and or status. The same day I made the shift, I spotted a job, was hired, and a week later started working there.

I started working in a meat factory doing very simple production work, packing meat, in a big refrigerator hall operating at +1C. I wore thermal underwear, a cap and gloves to protect myself from the cold.

Definitely not the job I had painted out I would have, but I decided to commit in full and give the job my all. I did the packing with conscious presence, which means keeping the mind present with what the body is doing and being aware of my movements in every moment.

I did not allow any negative self-bashing thoughts (like: “what are you, with a Masters in Science, and a Managing Director background doing here?”), and to my surprise I enjoyed myself very much. It was a joy in my body because I managed to stay out of my head.

And I managed to generate an income – the salary was the bare minimum, but enough to at least pay for my part in the rent and my cost of living.

I only did this job for one month, applying for other jobs in the meantime, as I was aware I had more skills I could offer an employer. I chose to commit in full to the meat factory job, but I knew it was the first step in working again. It was the right job at that moment, as I learned so much from it and it broke the arrogance and the identification that I had more worth if I had a managing position. After this job, within a month, came another and then another.

Now four years later, I realised I have managed to heal many of the hurts and the guilt that I was hanging on to – I had made mistakes and had caused harm to people – which had been running my life for years without my being aware of it. Today I am working happily again using the many skills I have, the experience I have and absolutely loving my job.

The jobs and the salary are following from my restored self-worth that was so much overshadowed by the guilt. But the starting point was for me to commit in full to working, and understand why it is we work.

Work is so much more than just a salary.

People are meant to work.

Work is medicine.

Filed under

Returning to workMoney Work

  • By Willem Plandsoen, Msc. Aerospace Engineering

    I am an entrepreneur, husband, lover and friend who loves life and who has great access to innovative ideas constantly. Living the principles of the Ageless Wisdom is the foundation in my life, a simple life based on love, truth, joy and the love for people.

  • Photography: Dean Whitling, Brisbane based photographer and film maker of 13 years.

    Dean shoots photos and videos for corporate portraits, architecture, products, events, marketing material, advertising & website content. Dean's philosophy - create photos and videos that have magic about them.