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Laid Off After 50: 5 Dos and a Don't

After losing his job, a journalist learns a few things about working at home, alone

By Jon Friedman | June 7, 2013
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Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com and freelances for such publications as The Motley Fool and Adweek. Previously, he wrote the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com and wrote for Bloomberg News, BusinessWeek and USA Today. He is the author of Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution.

This blog post originally appeared on Jon Friedman’s blog, Me! Laid Off — What Now?

A few months ago, I got let go, along with a dozen or so colleagues. I was a victim of massive budget cuts by my employer where I’d worked for more than 13 happy and productive years.

So I’ve started blogging about what I went through — and continue to experience — as a way to help people who've recently lost their jobs.

A New Life Without a Corporate Office

Since my layoff, I’ve learned that your life changes dramatically when you no longer have an office to go to every day.

(MORE: What Over-50 Entrepreneurs Say About Going Solo)

But it isn’t all bad or bad at all, really.

You know something? Once you get over the initial shock of a layoff, you start to appreciate the verities of working from home — for yourself.

One Big Advantage Working From Home

For one thing, your commute becomes much shorter, if not cheaper. Consider my instructive example.

It used to take me an average of 37 minutes to go from my Manhattan apartment to my employer’s headquarters. Make that 38 minutes and, oh, 31 seconds when I stopped to buy a black-and-white cookie at the Evergreen Diner.

Nowadays, I’ve found that I need roughly 7 seconds to stride from my bedroom to the desk in the living room. And I am never tempted to wolf down a fattening, delicious cookie.

I’ve also learned you need to follow a few basic rules after losing your job in your 50s.

5 Dos and a Don’t

Here are my five dos and one don’t:

Do observe strict daily grooming habits. Just because you aren’t going to face your colleagues any more, don’t slip into the bad habit of, say, refraining from brushing your teeth. (I know: ewwww.)

Looking (and feeling) presentable isn’t just good for your appearance. It helps your psyche, too.

The alternative is a slippery slope to ruination. If you’re a man, first you stop shaving every morning. Before you know it, you start to look like Don Was (an iconic musician and producer, but not exactly McKinsey material, I would imagine).

(MORE: Self-Employment: How to Know if You’re Cut Out for It)

Once you nosedive, the result is a self-perpetuating process. Now, you’re on the express train to a life of eating ice cream for breakfast, checking out the TV listings to see who’s on The View and watching the same ESPN SportsCenter highlights over and over.

The act of shaving, on the other hand, tells the world you’re serious about working.

I don’t mean to exclude women from this discussion. Not being one, however, I don’t want to give the wrong kind of advice. So if you’re a recently laid-off 50+ woman, do whatever needs to be done to look your best each day.

Do act like you’re preparing every morning to go off and do a day’s work. Stand in front of the mirror and psych yourself up. Tell yourself what a winner you are! (Lie, if you have to.)

The TV and the Internet are your sworn enemies. Don’t let them distract you for the next 12 hours. Settle in and start working or job-hunting.

Do force yourself to get organized. Make sure you put your work essentials — reading glasses, pens, a stapler, whatever — in the same place.

If you don’t, trust me: You’ll be wasting precious minutes in the morning as you tramp around your home, muttering, “Where the heck are my paper clips?” when you could be working and making money.

Do get out of your home, at least once a day. It doesn’t have to relate to finding a new job or bringing in more self-employment income.

Meet a friend for lunch. Take a lap around the block; it's important to stay healthy.

You’ll go batty if you remain inside your place all day long. It turns out that our mothers were right about the virtues of breathing fresh air.

Do throw out the empty pizza boxes. (This tip is especially aimed at single and unattached people who are likely to be eating many meals alone.) You really don’t want pizza boxes piling up. They take up space. They attract bugs. They begin to stink.

(MORE: The Perils of Working From Home)

It’s OK to eat cold pizza, even for the odd breakfast. But it’s unsanitary, unhealthy and unwise (to sound a little bit like Seinfeld attorney Jackie Chiles) to let the boxes accumulate on your kitchen table.

But don’t DVR too many sitcoms. If you do, you’ll find yourself spending your days watching all of them. Before you know it, your coffee break will stretch to lunchtime. Then you’ll find it’s the middle of the afternoon and you’ve accomplished only one task on your rather long to-do list.

And do you know what that one accomplishment was? You guessed it: Throwing away those wretched pizza boxes.

Setting up shop at home after a job loss is full of opportunities, but also pitfalls. If you’re not careful, you can wind up with pasty skin and a home that looks like the New York City brownstone where the compulsive hoarding Collyer Brothers lived.

Hang tough!
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