It was a normal Wednesday morning filled with emails and departmental meetings. Before my bi-monthly one-on-one with my boss, I passed my desk to collect a report that I planned to share like I regularly do when we meet. However, as soon as I walked into my director’s office I knew something was off. The report would wait. Seated on her couch, her appearance was solemn and emotionally constricted. A moment later I learned why.
I was being laid off. Ugh.
This was a company I loved filled with colleagues that I had grown close to. However a leadership change and major acquisition meant that I was headed out the door in a few weeks—just before the Christmas holiday. Double ugh. My boss and I discussed a few details of the transition. It was neither a heated conversation, or a loving one. It just was what it was. Within ten minutes I exited her office and was left to my own devices.
My head spun as I took the elevator to the bottom floor of the HQ and walked out into the cool winter air for a moment of reflection. I called my Mom and then my mentor to share the news as a balance of fear and strength repeatedly washed over my body in waves of alternating emotions. Within a few days the transition was announced to the rest of the team and two weeks later I packed up my desk and turned in my ID. I thought to myself, “So, how can I make the best of this change emotionally, physically, financially, professionally, etc.?”
This is what I learned from being laid off and how I lived, loved, and landed my next gig.
Don’t Freak Out. Really.
I mean it. Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck when you lose your job and have loved ones to care for, losing your cool is the last thing you want to do. Have faith that you have many, many people who care for you and internalize the truth that things will work out. Then take action. Contact your state's unemployment office and file for benefits if you qualify.
Next make a list of your resources (your $$ and work opportunities), your burn-rate (how much you spend versus take in each month), and the expenses that you can cut back on. Find out if your student loans or other debts can be put on hold. Often they can if you explain your employment change. Make smart choices with you finances, but don't cut your lifestyle to the point you lose all disposable spending and perspective. A weekly treat to Starbucks or ice cream with the family helps to remind you of what life is really all about.
After losing your job you might feel paralyzed, even hopeless, but there are always three things you can do. Is THREE a magical number? No, not really. But it gets you up and moving and that’s what is important if you’re looking to change your employment situation.
Inertia is your enemy.
When I was laid off I made a quick list of the things that I knew I could do to land my next role. I polished my resume, updated my LinkedIn profile, made a list of local companies I admired and reconnected with well-networked colleagues.
To keep me sane during my job hunt I also made additional time for family and friends, did more creative writing and got deeper into filmmaking. I also found calm through running, yoga and each afternoon I took a moment to breathe and to “own” my experience. This tactic worked out remarkably well because you can’t be anxious about work when you’re tired from a hard session at the gym or a 15-mile mountain run. I even booked exercise into my weekly calendar in the same way one schedules office meetings.
“I can absolutely do this”, I thought. So I did.
After getting my pink slip one thing I realized quickly was that I needed a little mental space before jumping back into the job market. Travel was my goal and my sights were set on a foreign destination. Following a few Google searches and chats with globetrotting friends, I selected Iceland as my land for adventure. Shrugging off the extended darkness of winter Reykjavik promised, I booked my ticket and just one week later I took off on my frosty adventure. Outside of a return flight a few weeks in the future, I had no set plans except to explore.
While my tours through Iceland included surviving gail force winds, white-out snow blizzards and plenty of treacherous driving, the people were warm and welcoming, the sights were "unique" and I experienced nature in its rawest form. I couldn’t have picked a better place for respite (or at least my type of rest). I returned nine days later to Seattle with a new perspective on life and my career.
In addition to visiting Iceland during my unplanned sabbatical I took several trips to Los Angeles, one to Canyonlands National Park and found time for a host of smaller weekend running trips. I bought airfare with frequent flier miles and stayed in hostels or camped to keep my budget dirt bag-cheap. By embracing my situation I made new friends near and far (and sometimes very far) and realized a new identity. I wasn't a cast-off employee, I was a seasoned globetrotter!
Reflect on What You Loved
Shortly after returning from my Iceland trip I took time to reflect on all the great moments I had at the company I just left including the awards that I won, projects that brought me joy, and the friends I made during my tenure. I found this to be beneficial because looking back not only eased the blow to my professional ego the layoff had inflicted (ouch!), but also helped me shape my vision of what's next. The questions I asked myself included:
- What did I love most about my last role?
- What projects did I enjoy?
- What did I love about my past company’s mission?
- What did I enjoy and not enjoy about my past team dynamics?
By looking back, I began to envision the next job that would be a perfect fit for me. This practice also gave me emotional strength and focused my job search. I made a spreadsheet with all the brands I was targeting and used LinkedIn's 2nd degree connection feature to identify my friends at each company. My goal was to be introduced to the director and VP-tier leaders at each organization. After sending out a few InMail messages (and don't forget LinkedIn Premium's 30-day trial) and emails, I got introduced to execs and scheduled coffee. Done and done!
Whether I learned about a new marketing or digital career opening or not, these face-to-face meetings were almost always rewarding. Othertimes I learned that a company just wasn't a strong fit for me, but at minimum my professional network expanded and I got my daily dose of caffeine.
Instead of spending 90% of time focused on monitoring job boards, I found this "high-touch" relationship-building process to be more effective for my job hunt.
Just Tell People
While some might view being fired or laid-off as a private, sensitive and maybe even shameful affair, I say NO WAY. The first thing you should do when you lose a job is to let friends and family members know. Over beers. On the phone. Just tell people! Chances are you’ll get a wave of emotional support, and when done in a responsible way (no burning bridging with flaming🔥 social media posts about tyrannical ex-boss), you might just get a job offer or referral from your network. But your friends and family can only help if they know you’ve had a change in employment so be forthcoming with your news.
As it turns out, my next job came precisely this way. A friend and former colleague who learned that I was in the job market reached out to me about a new role at her company. I interviewed for a marketing position at a local, loved brand. A few weeks later I received and accepted an offer while on a trail running adventure with friends. After giving a YES! my miles few by on the trail.
What landed me this new job? Was it my personal networking, company and role research, personal reflection or maybe it was my openness inspired by seeing new sights? Who knows! But I am certain that the path towards overcoming a pink slip starts by investing in yourself through travel, fitness and friends.
"Yes, I'll Take It! " [Puts down phone and runs down the trail]
I never would have guessed that being laid off would have brought me so much adventure and personal growth. Luckily, I stayed true to my values and remembered to run, smile and explore throughout the process. I wish the same for you.
This was how I found my new path after being laid off. If you have job search tips to share, please add a comment below and good luck on your journey.