It's been about a year since I was laid off. When I think back over the past 12 months, I've realized that the event was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Let me share with you what I learned.
If you expect layoffs, plan. Take stock of your financial situation, and reduce your spending. If you have upcoming conferences, membership dues, or other expenses, submit them as soon as you can. Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile is up-to-date. Start networking more; go out for coffee or drinks, and schedule informational interviews. Take care of doctor and dentist appointments. Go through your paper and digital files and make copies of anything you'll need; delete anything personal. Finish any big projects so you can walk away freely. Be proactive about your life, so you don't feel small and scared.
The ax is better than its anticipation
When I finally got the news, it was a relief. I anticipated it for months, wasting so much emotional energy for no good reason. When you get laid off, you leave behind a place with a bad morale and a heavier workload. You feel free.
Take the high road
When you get the news, remain as professional as you can. Avoid saying anything negative in person or online. When you leave a job, all you have is your reputation. Don't destroy all the years of good will you've built for a brief moment of emotion.
It's not personal, but it feels that way
Being laid off has nothing to do with your worth or performance. It's math. You are either making too much or your employer thinks someone can do your job for less. Don't personalize a choice that is economical or feel shame about it. Figure out a way to explain what happened in a neutral, unemotional manner. Practice it until you're comfortable with it. In time, you will be.
Some people won't understand
Anyone who's currently employed knows how common being laid off can be. It has either happened to them or will happen to them. Some friends and family members don’t get it and never will. Reassure them, and keep the conversation moving.
Unsubscribe and unfollow. I even sold the blouse I wore when I got the news because it bummed me out when I saw it! Realize that former colleagues, no matter how much you liked them, are not the same as your friends. Kindly decline any social engagements with them because they'll mostly talk about the office. Complete any work or training required during the transition, then move on.
All press is good press
As part of your severance package, you'll most likely not be able to talk about what happened. If the restructuring gets press, be thankful. It’s hard to remain silent when the New York Times is reporting! More than one person I know was offered lucrative consulting gigs and jobs once their layoffs made the news.
Take time off
When I got the ax, I booked trips to visit family members and went on a friends' vacation. My regret is not taking more time off. To avoid the stereotype of a bath-robed, unemployed person, I initially attended a lot of webinars, classes, and meetings. I would've been better served if I watched more movies, took more walks, and read more books. Chill and recharge for a while; you'll feel a shift in your thinking soon enough, and you'll be ready for the next step in your career.
Some severance packages offer group or individual career counseling. Take advantage of it. I attended Five O'Clock Club meetings and had individual career coaching, which I've enjoyed so much that I've continued it after the intial package ended. If you need mental, spiritual, or physical help, get it. Apply for unemployment benefits and any special training or programs available to you. Depend on professionals so you don't have to overburden your friends and family.
See the positive
My layoff was a great gift in lousy packaging, like a Tiffany ring presented in a colostomy bag. With the news, the slate was wiped clean. You no longer have to worry about making the next logical step in your career. During the decade at my former job, I was looking on-and-off for a job with a better culture, better title, and more money without having to move. (In my field, that's like hunting a unicorn). I wasn't desperate to move on, even with the looming layoffs, because the places I explored were not a good fit. I decided instead to become self-employed as a consultant. I never would've gone out on my own unless the rug was pulled out from under me. In the past six months, I've felt happier, more alive, and more confident than I ever have before.
To those who are recently laid off, it gets better. You will become a better, stronger, more empathetic person. I hope you will soon see the experience as positively as you can. I survived, and you can too!
I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.