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Survivor: Starting Over
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The escape from domestic violence was successful. The new environment looks dismal. But now is the time for starting over. The first step is focusing on requalifying for work.

To recognize Workplace Domestic Violence Awareness Day and the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I offer you an excerpt from my upcoming book.

There you sit feeling like yesterday's three-day-old trash. Your self esteem and self confidence are pulverized. What clothing you do have is shabby and donated. Two or three pieces are actually what you had to begin with. If you're lucky, even half a dozen pieces are yours. But that's not counting underwear.

You're sitting on an Army cot in a warehouse-style building. It's a homeless shelter. You have roughly 100 other roommates and share six showers and toilets with them. You have about $5-10 to your name and you haven't held a job for years. All of this world about you is because you are one of the hundreds who escaped non-classical abuse from a lover or spouse. None of the traditional women's domestic violence shelters were available for a woman in your circumstances.

But you survived. Now it's time to start over.

As you look around, two thoughts keep hammering at your psyche.

"With all of my education and experiences, how did I wind up here?"

"How do I ever get started again? How do I get a job?"

You're in good company. Lots of women have survived domestic abuse and violence and started over. Many men have as well. You have a lot of skills and intelligence. If that were not so, you wouldn't be sitting on that Army cot. You'd be lying in your grave. Now it's time to put that intelligence to work for you by being strategic about the use of your present resources.

As you earn some money to cover those essentials, you need to start working on your resume as well. There are several entry positions out there that have low requirements. Consider pursuing one or several. For starters, there's telemarketing. Not to be overlooked is fastfood work. There is also messenger work as well as file clerking or data entry, if you have typing and computer skills. Even more basic is a position as a laborer or something in the nontraditional occupations field. For a laborer position, you will not need a formal resume but you will need to be able to recall your past employment history and be able to honestly explain any gaps in time.

Obviously, if your wardrobe is limited and does not match the Evan Picone couture you formerly wore to the office, you're not going to be competing for executive-level positions immediately. In fact, about the best your present wardrobe qualifies you to do is laborer work. So you have a choice. Talk with your counselor about visiting The Closet (the free clothing that's been donated to the shelter that is office attire) or start checking the want ads for laborer agencies and opportunities. What you ultimately need to do, and do quickly, is get some income coming into your pockets. That will allow you to purchase the essentials for minimum resources and get you started again. It will pay for your laundry. It will pay your transportation costs. It will allow you to buy lunch. Keep in mind that this first new job is only a means to an end and is not necessarily where you are going to be forever.

One thing you also need to focus on now is the circumstances that got you where you are. In all likelihood, you opened the door without realizing the beautiful scenery of assistance from some loved or trusted partner was actually the door to hell. So now it's imperative that you start figuring out how to be the self-sufficient, independent, confident woman you used to be. You made good, sensible choices and decisions in the past and still do. You just made a few bad choices and trusted too much. But that can be fixed.

Quite frankly, though, if you do decide to go the laborer route, they're not really going to ask you a lot of questions about being the Treasurer of XYZ Corporation. What they will want is to see that you are ready, able and willing to do the work. They want to know that you are easy to get along with, catch on quickly. They will want to see that you work quickly and efficiently without making a lot of demands. They want a person who gets the job done the right way the first or second time out. In return for all of that, you get paid on the same day and probably sent out the next day.

If by 9 or 10 o'clock you have not been sent out, there will be no work for that day. Don't waste the day. Use your time constructively.

While you're waiting to be sent out, read the newspaper and stay abreast of current affairs. Scan the want ads and take notes of openings that fit some of your background and skills. Call those ads and line up an interview. If you weren't sent out, use the rest of the day constructively. Go to the library and check the online ads, job boards, career discussion lists. Network online.

Once you've landed a more secure position, make certain you take every opportunity to learn and master as much as you can. This will do not only demonstrate to your employer that you are a dedicated worker, it will also qualify you for more opportunities and it work wonders for your self esteem.

Speaking of self esteem, you may want to do some small things to help rebuild it and prove to yourself that you are okay. Take a free skills assessment. With a good score, you not only prove to yourself what assets you have, you have an independent measure of your talent that can be put on your resume. You would also do well to take some assertiveness course; perhaps one that's self-paced and on the Net. Eventually, you'll be seen as a top achiever. That's a very good reputation to carry about.

No. Life isn't the way it used to be. With all that you know, it will never be the same. It will be better but it will take some work to not only get back to where you were but striding further ahead of where you ever dreamed you could be.

Originally published on October 1, 2001.