Laid Off in Los Angeles

I have become a statistic.  I am now one of the 5.7% people without a job.   Laid off, reorganized, restructured.  Whatever term you choose, the result is the same – without a steady paycheck.  I survived a merger and two reorganizations and now when I least expected it, the big conference call announcing the end.  I received the news in a calm and professional manner but internally, I felt the proverbial rug pulled from under me.

Visions of homelessness danced before my eyes.  Two years ago, I was ready for a lay-off, even expected it.  Now, with a mortgage, a self employed husband and a dog, I was not prepared.  I have heard the war stories of downsized corporate executives now working in retail.  I have heard that the job market is tight and competition stiff.  I meant to get an MBA, I just never got around to it – too busy working so that other people’s jobs would be secure.  Now here I am, a middle executive, highly qualified, under degreed and jobless.

I wrote these words 10 years ago. I had forgotten about them and found them while searching through my writing file. It was after the dot com bubble had burst, and there was a lot of fear in the halls of corporate America. At that time it was a tough job market, but it would get worse post 9/11, a few short months after I left my job.

What we considered bad then would be considered amazing today. It is a reminder that what seems like the worst possible outcome in the moment could be viewed from a completely different perspective later.

I thought I would share what I felt because so many are now going through the same emotions I felt so long ago. While I gave myself room to feel, and treated myself to a spa day, I did not dwell on the loss but began to plan my future. Below are a few things that helped me to not only survive but take control and design my next steps.

Make a scary list. I listed all of my “what if” fears on a sheet of paper. Just the act of listing them took away the fear but I took another step by preparing a plan to deal with them. How many of my fears came true? Zero. Not a single thing I feared happened and I am convinced that the battle plan helped me to avoid playing it into them.

Stay close to the market. I loved my job but I also kept my resume updated and interviewed at least a couple of times per year. I was not interviewing to leave but to stay abreast of what was going on in the market and to ensure that I was getting all that I could from my career. I took calls from recruiters and gave them candidate names. As a result, when I was in the market, I made a couple of calls and received interviews immediately.

Don’t neglect your network. I had a busy job, and busy home life, yet I found time to nurture relationships with other professionals. There is nothing more offensive than not bothering to keep in touch, or be a resource for others and then suddenly send out a slew of LinkedIn invites and emails looking for help. It really does not take much effort to stay in touch and you can use technology to your advantage. Connect on Facebook and other social networking platforms. Attend or arrange a networking lunch for a group of colleagues once or twice per year. Send a card or pass on an article of interest.

Pay more than lip service to work-life balance. I watched former colleagues struggle after a layoff because work was their life. They had been too busy working to cultivate interests and friendships outside of work. Their identity had been tied to work and losing that led some to become depressed.

Today is not forever. My faith played a huge role in helping me to frame the events as a moment in time. I knew that life would be different but it would go on and great things were still in store. Turns out I was right.

Have you ever experienced a job loss? What helped you to get through the experience?

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  • Karen,

    Being laid-off is not much fun. It happened once to me about seven years ago, when I had been working at a technology company for two and a half years. Fortunately for me, I had only myself to look after financially, and was renting so didn’t have mortgage payments to worry about (my rent was fairly cheap). Actually, it was kind of what I needed. I had started to think about moving on to new challenges anyway – going overseas in particular (which, of course, eventually I did, but that ended up being almost two years later. In between times, I had a couple of short-term contract roles)

    What’s more challenging for me personally is getting back into the market after coming home. Though the job market in Australia is actually pretty good (unemployment is 5.4%), I am really finding it tough. I always expected this, given that I am trying to break into a new profession (as I think I have shared with you before, I am trying to get into the writing profession), but still, it’s not easy.

    All I can do is stay active, get out and about and remain as upbeat and positive (without being in denial) as I can

    • Karen Swim

      Andrew, lay-offs can be very tough and many experience self-doubt and depression following a job loss. It’s important to acknowledge the loss but then embrace the future and get moving on making things happen. You have a great attitude about your own career transition. Look for opportunities everywhere – and don’t be afraid to offer your services. Companies, non-profits, trades and even online publications are potential writing assignments. You also have the advantage of already having a blog so you get to write and publish regularly. Use that platform to expand your opportunity.

      Best to you Andrew!