'It's Not You, It's Them': How I bounced back after a layoff
Reduction in force. Pink slip. Layoff. "Thank you, your services are no longer needed." However you phrase it, losing your job -- due to no fault of your own -- causes some temporary emotional baggage. And not the sleek Louie Vuitton baggage; I'm talking the heavy vintage leather baggage with metal corners.
I've been laid off before. I didn't appreciate it, quite frankly. But it's probably one of the most valuable things to happen in my professional life. Here's why. From an early age, I was told "Go to college to get a good job." And while this is true to some degree, there's so much more value to college than getting a job.
Whenever I have a chance to talk with young people, I encourage them to use college as an exploratory period in their lives. Learn you. Figure out what you do well. What you enjoy. What you're passionate about. And then use those insights to pick a career, not the other way around. Point being, I never took time to fully explore how I wanted to share my talents with the world. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, I never fully realized that I had options and that writing my own rules was one of them.
Cue my layoff. In a word, it was devastating. Not because I was so connected to the company I worked for, but because being laid off came with the powerful realization that I had no control over my career. I had done what I was conditioned to do: went to college and got a "stable" job. I had devoted all of my talents to a corporation that, in the end, had no responsibility for my career growth, security, or fulfillment. Feelings of embarrassment, uncertainty, and even self-pity washed over me the day I was laid off. BUT the clarity that came in the days ahead was life changing, and that's what I want to share with others who may be trying to navigate the aftermath of job loss.
Give yourself permission to mope. The day I was laid off, I went home, climbed under the covers, and said to my husband "Give me 24 hours to feel sorry for myself and then I'll get to work figuring out my next move." Take as much time as you need, but don't get stuck. Set an end to your moping period. Now, don't expect those feelings to stay buried throughout the process, but by setting an "expiration date," you're consciously telling yourself that that's not where you're expending the majority of your energy. We've moved on from there.
Re-evaluate where you are. Maybe you're already working in your dream field, which is awesome. I was in that boat, too. Loved my field, but I wanted to be doing something more with my talents. I was in communications and loved to write, but I've always written for other people. So I decided to start writing for myself (Enter 'Writing Angela'). That's not to say I wasn't going back to a corporate job (because, uhm, I have bills), but never again would that be the only thing I was doing. Ask yourself: How else can I share my talents with the world?
Let other people care. Once news spread (which doesn't take long) that I was amongst the newly unemployed, I received so many messages, emails, and calls. As heartfelt as the outreach was, I reached a point when I wanted it to stop. I was embarrassed, remember? And I didn't want people feeling sorry for me. Truth is, they didn't and I knew that. People just wanted to help. But sometimes in our most vulnerable moments, it can be hard to accept support. Those are the times when we need it most -- let it happen.
Reach out. Rarely do layoffs impact only one person, so chances are other people were effected and are sharing in your experience. Send a message (text, LinkedIn, email, whatever) to at least one other person who was laid off. It doesn't need to be anything laden with sympathy or overly emotional. A simple: "Hey, I'm in the same boat. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help." will suffice. You'll feel better having spread some positivity and the receiver will likely find comfort in knowing they're not navigating this alone.
Find a source of inspiration. Remember when I said earlier that those feelings of defeat and self-pity will likely resurface throughout the process? Beat those feelings back with something uplifting and inspirational. Be it a scripture, a song, or a quote. Find something that resets your mental and puts you back on the path of positivity and productivity. Mine was a scripture: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” -- Joshua 1:9.
Being laid off sucks, no doubt. But it forced me out of my comfort zone and afforded me an opportunity to look at my career with a fresh perspective. I haven't looked back, and hopefully you won't either. Good luck!