Everyone remembers the first time. The pain, the emotion, the tears and the fear of not knowing what was going to happen next. I’m talking about being laid off.
It was April 4, 2006. The entire staff of the magazine I worked at was ushered into a conference room (never a good sign). There were general something-bad-is-about-to-happen vibes and then it was announced: The magazine was folding and we were all out of jobs. It was an out of body experience. At that point, my job was my entire life—my income, my entire group of friends, my creative outlet, the reason I moved across the country to NYC.
But I got through it.
And then it happened again, and again, and again…and again. That’s right. I’ve been laid off five times and each time I’ve been given “the Talk,” the feelings of hopelessness, self-doubt, panic and anxiety always come back. However, they say practice makes perfect and I’ve become a pro when it comes to licking my wounds and getting back on that job hunt pony.
So here’s some advice from someone who’s been there…several times.
This will be completely counterintuitive to how you actually feel, but here’s what you should do the day after you lose your job: Sleep in, go to the museum, catch up with a friend, paint your nails, practice yoga, bake some cookies, do whatever the heck you want. What’s important is that you decompress and get centered.
“You’ll be licking your wounds, so self-care is your number one priority,” says Keva Dine, a creative industry recruiter and personal branding coach. “It’s like when you come back from a redeye and you’re completely thrashed. Take it easy.“
Another good reason to lay low is so you don’t do anything you regret. Liz Bentley, an executive coach and founder of Liz Bentley Associates, says: “My advice is to take a deep breath and not be reactive, because people can spiral in different ways, by retaliating or by doing or saying something they later regret.” Hey, break ups are hard, especially when they involve losing your health insurance.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen into the daily pattern of waking up, turning on the computer and opening tabs of Linkedin, Glassdoor, Indeed, and sometimes (when I got really desperate) Craigslist. You think you’re being productive and proactive by applying for jobs left and right, but hit pause, because you’re not necessarily. The job application frenzy is an easy hole to get sucked into and also one to avoid.
“I really discourage people from hopping on LinkedIn and Indeed and to start sending their resumes everywhere,” says Dine. “If you don’t have a strategy on what you’re doing, it can be black hole. You’re just wasting your time and wasting huge amounts of psychic energy. You’re going to burn yourself out.” Bentley agrees, but also says: “Of course, people get jobs from online applications, but you have to be really well-positioned for them.”
The takeaway: Applying to jobs online is part of your job search, just not all of it.
Instead, Liz Bentley suggests turning to your network: “Your network is always going to be your best, best bet – much more than applying for jobs online. Anyone who can make an introduction for you or provide a personal recommendation is key.”
Truth: The idea of networking elicits a groan from most people, including me, but it doesn’t have to mean attending events and meetups and awkward lunches. I’m an introverted person. Schmoozing and me don’t go together. However, I am a great emailer, so I always write people I’ve made relationships with over my career and life. It’s 100 percent OK to ask for a small favor now and then. Most of my employment opportunities have happened this way.
If you prefer going straight to a professional, Dine thinks working with a career coach or recruiter is a must. “Find a coach that you connect with and can help guide you, so you don’t feel alone,” she says. “You need someone to look at your job hunt objectively, like you are a marketable individual.” Plus, having someone help you update your resume would be pretty, pretty nice.
Could losing your job can be a good thing? Once you stop the eye roll, keep on reading, because it’s true. Getting laid off can actually be a great thing for your career. In fact, I owe my present successes to every single job that’s kicked me to the curb. Each time, it’s made me reevaluate my job choices and what I wanted to do next.
“Sometimes, you end up realizing that you were in the wrong job for you,” says Bentley. “That’s why it’s a really important time to take inventory of what you want, where you want to be, what resonates with you and how you can leverage your strengths and set yourself up for success.”
And it’s totally true. When I lost my magazine job, I pivoted into digital content. And when I got laid off from being a web editor, I parlayed my skills into brand marketing and copywriting. Now, I’m a Jill of trades who can take her pick of projects. It’s great.
It will probably happen again. No longer do people work for the same company for 40 years and retire with a pension and a nice pen. “The likelihood that you’re going to get laid off during your career is pretty high, let alone laid off once, but multiple times,” says Liz Bentley.
Not exactly what we all wanted to hear, but take solace in the fact that we’re all in this career rollercoaster together. Sometimes we might need a barf bag, but in the end, we’ll just get back on that ride for another spin.