What if being laid off isn’t the end of the line but rather a new beginning? When I was laid off over a decade ago, I was told that I march to the beat of my old drum, which was considered a negative in the real world. I was told I should be someone’s personal gofer. I was told I would never be more than that.
I was so worried and in need of money that I failed to see how much this event could positively transform my life. Being laid off is scary and often leaves us feeling lost and confused. It can be a huge hit to the self-esteem and to the bank account – especially if you don’t have an emergency savings fund. (Which I didn’t!) While it may seem like the end of the world at the time of the layoff, what if it could actually be a positive?
I’ve Been There…
After the 2008 recession, my first business, The Résumé Girl, had gone under. And ironically, I couldn’t get anyone to hire me. I wasn’t qualified to go back to the investment world where I had started my career because I’d been out of that game for too long. So when a small family business took me on, it was a huge relief. Every day I commuted into Dallas and endured a daily berating from my boss, who told me I wasn’t good enough to do anything else. And then… I was laid off.
I remember driving home, sitting on my couch, and just ugly crying. I was so worried about finances that I didn’t have the perspective to see that this was a good thing. I had been freed from an awful job that didn’t suit me. I applied for so many positions and was met with the same resounding no. Over and over again. I knew that I couldn’t stay like this forever and decided to take a leap of faith in myself.
I hired a career coach and started taking career assessments. To my surprise, these assessments overwhelmingly said I should be developing software. I enrolled in a Java course at a community college in downtown Dallas. During this time, I realized that when one door closes, another door opens.
Being unemployed and enrolling in this Java course were key elements that helped set me on the trajectory to where I am now in my career. I didn’t have the perspective at the time to realize that this major life event was actually what set me on my path to success.
Reassess Your Goals
Being unemployed forced me to reassess my career goals. I wasn’t happy at my old job but had sort of forced myself to accept that this was my reality. It wasn’t until the layoff that I realized maybe I could find a job I actually enjoy. In fact, maybe I even could help other women find jobs they enjoy. Maybe I could start my own company! I began to see endless possibilities for myself that I honestly couldn’t envision until I was left unemployed.
Now that you’re in the position to figure out a new future, take some time to reassess what you want. Where would you like to be in a few years? Or even look shorter term, where would you like to be in a few months? Take the time you couldn’t afford while employed to set career goals for yourself.
Treat Your Job Search Like a Job
While unemployed, it is now your responsibility to treat your job search like a job itself. Once you’ve assessed your goals and can envision where you want to be in a month, a year, or even five years, you need to figure out how to get yourself there.
A great way to do this is by setting micro-goals. By focusing on mini steps, you can go all in. Then, when those are completed, you can set new goals and keep going from there. I create twelve-week goals for myself. I’m a firm believer that twelve weeks give time to form a habit and see real transformation. And within these twelve weeks, I do one-week sprints. I’m constantly evaluating and iterating. Treating your job search like a job and setting small goals for yourself will help set you on your new path to employment.
Keep a Positive Perspective
Being laid off can feel extremely isolating, and most people have or will experience this in their lifetime. And it’s important to understand that you’re not alone. When something so out of your control happens, it’s essential to take a step back and re-evaluate where you want to go next. While it’s natural to feel down, try not to lose perspective. I created the DevelopHer Membership to provide a safe and supportive community for hard-working women in tech to get ahead, stand out, and encourage one another to grow to their fullest potential. If you haven’t yet, you can check it out here.
It’s crucial that you prioritize taking care of your mental health. Make sure that you are eating well, exercising, getting outdoors, and getting plenty of sleep. These sound like the basics, but it’s easy to forget to do these things when you’re feeling a high level of stress.
At the time, I didn’t have the perspective to see that being laid off would be one of the most positive life-changing experiences for me. If I could go back, I would have been nicer to myself and told myself not to panic as much. Believe in yourself and your skills. Understand that being unemployed is not the end of the world.
I understand financially how scary it can be to lose your job and not know where your next source of income will come from. Believe me; it was not that long ago I was in the same position. But if I can do it, so can you. Remember that the end of one job just means the beginning of something else (maybe even something better).