As floundering oil prices have taken their toll on our provincial economy, many companies have done as they always do when facing tough times. They throw vast numbers of their employees overboard in an effort to manage costs while dealing with declining revenues.
I have read conflicting reports addressing the total number of people who have fallen victim to this present situation and the numbers have ranged from 12,000 to more than 30,000 people across the province.
For many of these folks this will indeed spell the onset of very hard times. Some will lose their homes, some will be forced to relocate their families to other areas in search of employment, some will have to downsize their dreams and put on hold many of their plans.
Some will see, within these gloomy times, seeds of opportunity which they will seize and then enjoy growth and success beyond anything they may have experienced to this point.
This week I had the distinct pleasure of spending some time with one such person.
She asked me not to use her real name and we agreed to refer to her simply as Belinda.
Belinda has a PhD in engineering and viewed her career as trending upwards in rapid fashion until suddenly one day it took a sharp U-turn and became extinct.
Belinda found herself at home, the widowed, single mother of three young children staring gloomily out the window and wondering how she would be able to feed and keep a roof over their heads of the little ones who depended on her.
A few years ago her husband had gone to visit his family doctor to seek advice on how best to deal with a persistent cough and four months later she buried him – a mid-thirties victim of lung cancer.
Part of what sustained Belinda through the ensuing period of grief, mourning and adjustment was a job she loved and the pride she felt in knowing that she was able to provide a promising future for her kids who would have to grow up without a dad.
And then came that fateful day when she went to work only to discover that she didn’t have a job.
Not only was she out of work but many of her colleagues too had been “downsized” and as she interacted with several of them, she found herself falling victim to the contagious sense of doom many of them had adopted.
Jobs in her field were not scarce, they were nonexistent, and the severance package she received would only provide for her family for a certain period of time before the money ran out.
Belinda found herself being drawn into a downward spiral of depression until one day while driving back home she heard the words of a person calling in to a local radio talk-show.
The caller said something that “blew the door off” her self-imposed state of anxiety and left her with a feeling of unconquerable determination to do whatever was necessary to provide a wonderful childhood for her family.
The caller said, “If it is to be, it is up to me” and there and then Belinda decided that that’s the way it was going to be.
It was up to her to support her family in a manner acceptable to her and, therefore, she was going to find a way to make it so.
She decided that doing anything to earn a paycheck beat staying home and not getting one.
She applied for every job she could find in the local media and the following week she began working in a fast food franchise three days per week and sitting in the lobby of an office building wearing the uniform of a security guard several nights each week.
These jobs didn’t last long because Belinda, if nothing else, is one determined being. She knew she was capable of more and so she sought a career that would enable her to earn an income based on her performance.
In her words she decided to enter the ‘eat what you kill” world of sales and began working at a local car dealership.
She had little knowledge of cars but knew that with a doctorate in engineering it would not take long to learn everything she needed to know.
She immersed herself in study and learned as much this one could about the industry, the vehicles she was to sell and her competitors’ products. She then turned her sights to reading every book, magazine and article she could find that dealt with the subject of sales, influence, and persuasion.
She compiled a list of everyone she knew, including her late husband’s friends and acquaintances, called every person on the list and invited them to visit her at the dealership.
Several folks accepted her invitation and dropped by to say hello.
More than one drive off in a new car.
She handed out a business card to everyone she met and gently prodded them to refer her to their friends.
And during quiet moments at the dealership she would spend her time calling people randomly and offering to bring a car to them for a test drive.
She set a goal for herself of how many dollars she needed to learn each day and went to work with that number firmly engraved in her head along with an image of herself coming home and telling her kids that she had met or exceeded that goal.
She did this every single day.
Linda’s fifth month of selling cars was last month and, in a city with a downward spiraling economy, she sold 27 cars – a record for a rookie salesperson.
This blog is not about how many cars Belinda has sold. It about how many people she inspires. She could easily and understandably have fallen into the trap of meeting regularly over coffee with former colleagues to collaboratively agree on how bad things were.
Instead she chose to throw all of her energy into seeking opportunities because, in her words, “Boundless opportunities exist everywhere. They won’t come looking for us, we have to go looking for them.”
With a sad smile she told me that several of her colleagues had given her strange looks when she told them she was now a car salesperson and suggested they pursue similar avenues.
She described how they looked down their noses at her as if to say that they would not lower themselves to a position so obviously beneath their calling.
Belinda has and will continue to succeed and skyrocket to giant achievements in any and every endeavor she undertakes.
She is one of those rare people themselves who excel at whatever they do because the thought of not striving to be the best they are capable of being is outside their thought process.
Last month Belinda earned more than she ever had in a month in her previous job. She told me it’s not the money it’s just her new belief “it is to be it is up to me” that drives her to consistently set new standards for herself.
She knows many people whose lives have been adversely impacted by the economic downturn and her advice to all those who had the jobs taken away is to tell themselves that it is up to them to look forward, to pay no attention to negative conversation and just “get out there and do it.”
“There is no job that is beneath anyone, no work too demeaning to do and it is far better to be doing the most menial job with your head held high than to stay at home wishing you had one.”
How can you not love a person like Belinda?
Till we read again.