- Wise Words -
Layoffs. The Afterlife.
by amber miller
Layoffs. Why the afterlife really is better
It took me some time to be able to say what I am about to say without feeling embarrassed or ashamed…. about 2 ½ years ago I lost my job. One day, my small start-up of 40-ish people let seven of us go in one day. It was the 2nd wave of layoffs that year and there would turn out to be another round later that year.
It was all very impersonal. We were all gathered in a room and told that there were going to be layoffs “today”. We were then told to return to our desks and wait. Wait for an email. If you got one that said report to a certain conference room it meant you were out.
I received that email.
I had to walk away from my desk along with the other “Walking Dead” to await our fate while the safe(r) coworkers looked on. In the conference room we were told that selection for the “reduction in force” was not based on performance. While that was likely true I was never told what the criteria was and it made a tough situation even more difficult. I was left wondering "why, why me?"
Being laid off was truly stressful, but I learnt a lot and want to share this with you in the event you join the “Walking Dead” at some point in your career - it really isn't the end of the road for you or your professional life!
Don’t Settle. Any Early Stage Professional who graduated during the Great Recession (Class of ’09 here) can tell you that it was a scary time. If you were ‘lucky’ enough to find something in your field, you took it. I think this gave me the mindset that in my first job, where I was severely underpaid and overworked (and not particularly in love with the job itself) that I should be grateful. I stuck around out of fear that I wouldn’t find anything better. That carried over into my next position too. Around 2 years into my time at the new company I knew that business was on the decline. In addition, I was not growing professionally. My casual job hunting stayed casual because I was afraid and unprepared to move on. Had I been more proactive about finding a job that I was going to be able to learn and grow in, rather than remain "satisfied", I may not have found myself in that unfortunate situation.
Always Be Prepared. I will admit that when I was laid off, I was COMPLETELY unprepared both financially and for my job search. I was incredibly fortunate to have the support of my parents who live in the same city as me and were able to help me out for that 2-month stretch before I found my next job – I’m not sure what I would have done had they not.
My resume and portfolio (I am a digital designer) were not up to date and it was a scramble to hit the ground running. I will credit myself with one thing I advise everyone to do – build your contact list, update it regularly, and SAVE every email from every recruiter, any job you’ve ever applied to in the past, any one at all that could be a connection in your field.
I didn’t even check to see if my current company was hiring, I just reached straight out to them. They had contacted me almost 2 years earlier to see if I was interested and I had politely declined. The recruiter (Ron Luongo) was only too happy to help though and I ended up getting a new role at a very successful company and was also able to refer another member of my Walking Dead "class" to the team.
My second note on the financial side of preparedness, is that as an Early Stage Professional it’s never too early to start saving and have an ‘emergency fund’. It’s also never too early to learn the art of budgeting – apps like Mint and YNAB (You Need a Budget) are great places to start.
As the Cub Scouts say "Always Be Prepared"!
No Job Is Guaranteed. When I started out I was naïve enough to think that as long as I was completing my daily duties, working sincerely and hard for my employer I was ‘safe’. Well I was completely wrong. I can honestly say I gave that job my everything regardless of how I felt about the business, management or leadership.
Again, that “I’m lucky to even have a job” feeling ruled. Being laid off despite being in good standing with a great work ethic caused me to take it especially personally. I learned that you can’t take sometimes arbitrary decisions about who to keep and who to let go personally. It’s not worth obsessing over what you could have done better when the decision has been made. It might sound cruel, but the world doesn’t owe you anything. Tomorrow everything could change, but having a positive mindset and being prepared for even the toughest scenarios can be a real head start if something like this happens to you. Hopefully it won’t!
Be Honest. During my job hunt, I didn’t broadcast that I was laid off but I was open and honest when asked about my situation. It did not hurt me in finding interviews, talking to recruiters, and eventually finding a great job. It’s a personal decision for everyone but I felt comfortable and confident interviewing without feeling like I had anything to hide.
Throughout the time I was looking for a new job, I had many seasoned professionals tell me that every time they’d been let go at a certain point (I was shocked that people could go through this MULTIPLE times in their career). They said that it always led to something bigger and better.
Thankfully that much was true for me!
I am very fortunate to have found a wonderful company to work for and a wonderful group of people to work with. So if you’re going through a period of transition due to a layoff just know that it will not kill your career and it will not define you as a professional. It’s a battle wound but will only make you stronger for the long haul and the small scar it leaves will only make you that much more distinctive!
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