You didn’t see it coming.
Or maybe you did, even though you were hiding under your desk, hoping it would pass by like a tornado that lands one town over, leaving you shaken but unscathed.
Suddenly you’re out.
Laid off. Sacked. Unemployed.
It’s an all-too-familiar scenario I’ve seen recently from friends, former colleagues and current clients.
And it hurts. So, to all those affected, here are 10 Things to Remember When You’ve Been Laid Off:
Take a Pause – You might feel frenzied like there’s no time to waste and you must immediately find something to replace what’s been lost. Stop. Pause. Breathe. Take stock before you take action so that the action you take is meaningful and helpful. You’re ready to hit the ground running but need to make sure you’re on solid ground before you set foot.
Feel All the Feels – In that pause, allow yourself to experience and validate the emotions you’re having. Angry? Worried? Sad? Relieved? Feel all those feels so that when you’re ready to proceed you can do so in an objective and level-headed manner. And don’t fault yourself for whatever you’re feeling. “It’s just business” is what they say, but you’re a person so it’s understandable you’d take things personally. Allow yourself to be human and experience the full range of emotions you might be feeling at this time. It’s OK to be human. You’re OK.
Plan, Don’t Panic – When I first left my long-time corporate role with no safety net other than an “idea” of what I might do next, I found myself obsessing over items in my house, their cost, and what I might get for them were I to sell them on the open market. While the task helped me declutter, it also made me somewhat obsessive about my financial situation. Instead of panicking over finances or perceived lack and subsequent worry, take stock of what you have and what you need. When I looked at our budget, I was able to cut $1,000 out of our monthly expenses with careful planning while I got my business up and running. Follow the facts with objectivity and create a guideline for how you’ll manage both your household and your job search for the next few months.
Embrace Your Identity – You are more than your job title. You are more than the company you worked for. This is a disruption in what you do, not who you are. Create a big-picture profile of the many roles you play. You’re not just a software programmer at Company X or a graphic designer at Company Y, you’re also a 10-year veteran of your industry, a mom, a friend, a PTA organizer, a master of Excel, an avid hiker, a sympathetic friend, a coffee connoisseur… You have a lot to give and bring value in many ways.
Reach Out – There’s no shame in being unemployed. Avoid the urge to hide (you’re allowed a solid few days under the covers after which point it’s time to come out!) and reach out. Let friends and family know what’s going on and that you’ll need their support and assurances. Let your extended network know you are looking. Your Cast of Supporting Characters may change over time, but they’re out there and new ones you didn’t even know will emerge.
Lead with Positivity – Don’t follow a negative Nelly narrator on her runaway train to Crazytown. Suddenly you think despite all your years of success that you’ll never find another job again and will die homeless and alone on a street corner surrounded by your many feral cats that will dine on your decomposing body? STOP. Don’t go there. Consider the Optimal Outcome of this scenario and put your energies into plotting that course. And do things that bring you that positivity, perhaps things you didn’t have time for before. Relish that morning cup of hot coffee now that there’s no early Zoom meeting you must attend. Go for a midday walk. Pick up an old hobby. Nap with the cat… not the feral one. Whatever brings you joy.
Get Comfortable with Uncertainty – It’s one of those “Unlikelies,” the story elements we don’t like and think are unlikely to help us. But if there’s one certainty, it’s that there will always be uncertainty. Be OK with not knowing the outcome and trust in your ability to proceed when you can’t always see what’s next. One step at a time will make the path clearer.
Update Your Toolbox – Your job toolbox, that is. Revisit your resume, making sure it’s not only up to date but specific and value-driven to the reader. Don’t just post your profile on LinkedIn, get active sharing content in your area of expertise and follow groups in your industry to engage and grow your network. Follow the advice of Brette Sadler, who managed a year-long job search before landing as the Global Head of Corporate Partnerships for MGM and make Your Network Your Net Worth.
Treat Your Job Search as Your Current Job – Remember, finding your life’s work IS your life’s work. Treat your job search as your job and give it the same care and attention you’ve given your paid work. You are now your own employer, the CEO of YOU. Be good to the boss and do your best work. It will pay off.
Know That This is Just the Current Chapter and Not the End of the Story! – As William Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, “The past is prologue.” You can turn the page, at any age or any stage of your career to a new chapter. Don’t let this disappointment or anyone else define the role you play in your own story. Be the active author of your own success.
It’s Your Story… What Happens Next?
Valerie Gordon is a lifelong storyteller, a former 10x Emmy-award winning producer and the founder of career and communications strategy firm The Storytelling Strategist. She helps clients with the strategic storytelling skills necessary to land the job, nail the presentation, ascend the leadership ladder and plan fulfilling next chapters. Contact her for keynotes and workshops at firstname.lastname@example.org