Getting Laid Off Can Be A Boost to Your Career
There is nothing positive about getting laid off. Or is there? Perhaps you’ve been thinking about making a change but have been too complacent to do anything about it. Maybe you are too busy with family responsibilities and work deadlines to focus on what you really want out of your career. I’m not sure I would consider getting laid off as a gift, because there are too many stressors associated with a layoff. But let’s just say that—in the long run—you just might be better off, even though it doesn’t seem that way at first.
The downside of a layoff
In addition to worrying about practical matters, such as health insurance, you may experience a wide range of emotions after a job loss. You may find that you worry about unfinished projects or the uneven burden that your friends and coworkers who remain at the company must now deal with. After all, if you’re like most Americans in the workforce, you went to work every day with purpose. You forged relationships and established your reputation. You developed a routine. And now, you’re told that you’re being let go. You may grieve leaving projects and colleagues and not know what to you with yourself.
Though being laid off is not the same as being fired, it typically feels the same in the beginning; your ego may be bruised, and you may experience a blow to your self-confidence. You may even experience an identity crisis. Regardless of the specific circumstances, being laid off is a loss, and you may undergo some or all of the five common stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. It’s good to remember that it’s a process and everyone goes through it at their own pace, but you do need to go through it and you will come out stronger on the other side.
Time to smell the roses
Rarely in our digitally driven 24-hour work cycle do we get the chance to stop, reflect, and look at the big picture. Being impacted by a layoff can be one of those times. Americans spend about 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, more than workers in any other industrialized nation. As long as your employer has provided you with sufficient severance and access to an outplacement provider, this can be a very good time to return to those interests that you once had and that you no longer have time for. Reconnect with friends and family. Get back in touch with who you really are.
Taking the time to understand your career goals and looking at alternatives can lead you in directions you never thought possible. This, of course, requires taking the time to process what has happened and reflect on what you want to do next. You don’t want to drive home from being notified that your position is being eliminated and start calling every networking connection you’ve ever made. This is not the time to update your resume, either. If you are fortunate enough to work with a certified career coach, that person will guide you to doing some self-discovery first. Some people make the mistake of deciding that they don’t need help, that they can do it on their own. While you may be able to get another job, you may not be able to negotiate for a higher salary or find a new career path without some expert guidance.
Being laid off can leave you with the sense that you have few choices, when in fact you may have many. Now that you aren’t focused on the day to day activities of your nine-to-five, you can listen to your own internal voice and start looking for opportunities that will bring you greater satisfaction—and possibly better compensation.
I worked with an executive woman who had spent the last 20 years of her life at one company. When she was laid off, she took some time to reconsider where she wanted to be and what she wanted to do. We took some time to evaluate her years of experience and transferrable skills and creating a Professional Value Proposition for her. In the end, she was offered an executive position in a completely different industry with a whopping $90,000 a year raise.
What surprised her most, was the company actually interviewed her for three different positions and left it up to her to decide which she wanted most. Now, she works in a wonderful company, with people she enjoys at a location within walking distance from her home. This opportunity presented itself because she decided to open herself to different types of industries and didn’t let the emotions of being laid off sideline her from her next steps in her career.
Layoffs can come at the most inconvenient time for some people. I’ve known people who have recently purchased a house, lost a family member or decided to start a family when they are notified that their role is no longer required. Although the news may be a shock, in some cases it is the very springboard those individuals needed to move into the next phase of their lives.
I remember one of my clients had been selling mattresses for many years. She was the quintessential salesperson and had won every available award at her company for sales. Just as she got laid off, she received news that she would need to relocate to another state to support a family member. She was a strong-minded individual and although she did not have any kind of network where she was going, she was determined to switch to selling real estate. I supported her in that effort and could easily see the transferrable skills she already possessed that would help her in that regard.
Within a short period of time, she relocated and earned a real estate license in the new state. As soon as she was licensed, she didn’t waste any time. She approached the biggest developer in the state and applied for a position as a salesperson. After a long and arduous interview process, she won the position over several very qualified local people. Her success was a result of knowing exactly what she wanted to do and having the confidence to do it. I always tell my clients, “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You never know, you might just get it.”
Blending hobbies and work
When considering where you want to take your career search, don’t forget to include your hobbies and interests in your decision-making process. In some ways, the layoff has given you the gift of re-thinking where you’ve been and where you’re going. Look for ways to integrate your outside passions with your professional skills and experience.
I once worked with a very well-qualified marketing executive who was experiencing a period of frustration and a lack of motivation with his job search following a layoff. He was demoralized and not sure he wanted to do the same type of work he had been doing prior to the workforce restructure at his company. The one bright light in his life was surfing. He was an avid surfer and used surfing as a way to relax and reconnect with his authentic self. During his job search, he came upon a listing for a position that was a very good fit—working for a large international surfing organization. He was immediately jazzed at the prospect. We worked together to tailor his resume and professional value proposition to include his surfing interests.
As it turned out, the role was perfect for him and he for it, and he got that job. The office is near the beach and when the surf’s up they all grab their boards and take a surfing break.
If you’ve recently been laid off, suspect you may lose your job in the near future or want to make a career change and are feeling fearful, take heart. Your next, better career may be just around the corner!