Rising up from a layoff

Someone came to me with news that a coworker and friend, a man in his late 50s with a stellar resume, had just been laid off after nine months at a job that he got While You Were Out Formafter a previous layoff.

What should he do? he asked. His plan was not to wallow but to help his friend see this latest turn of rotten events as pointing toward something better.

Layoff usually strikes without warning. One morning you walk into the office as usual, then walk out in the afternoon without your employee badge. If the employer is generous, you might be allowed to pack up your desk items. If not, they’ll be packed for you to pick up. It’s a humiliating end to an often mutually beneficial tenure, truly a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yet it can also be the time of your life, the start of something good — maybe even the best.

I learned a lot from being laid off:

  • Accept that, yes, there IS somebody who can do your job besides  you. Maybe not as well as you, but somebody to get the job done, letting your old carousel turn without you.

 

  • All those sympathy lunches? They’re reassuring, and they provide you with a square meal while money is scarce, but most of them have little to do with you. Instead they’re about your old coworkers seeking solace in you. They want to know that when the hatchet falls on their own jobs, they’ll survive.
  • The end isn’t near. Layoff is a beginning. If you never truly assessed your skills and desires, now you’re forced into it. If you’ve hankered to try something new, there’s no better opportunity, even if you have to take a cash-flow job for now.
  • You will never again view employment as a parent/child relationship. You’ll form a more pragmatic view of future employment, and you’ll never again sacrifice your identity and your heart to your job.
  • You just might enter the best years of your career post-layoff. The difference is that you’ll be looking out first for No. 1. Freedom from office politics means freedom to take charge of some of your own goals and professional development. Steve Jobs told Stanford graduates in 2005: “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” In the next five years, he started two companies, NeXT and Pixar, and fell in love with his future wife. Getting let go – and letting go – shaped his success.
  • Layoff may be the kickstart that your financial future needs. It forces you to evaluate how you spend, save and invest money. Priorities shift, and you may discover that you spent money that could have been saved just because it would be replenished with your next paycheck. Hold onto some (or all) of your layoff finance strategies, and you’ll ease into the future.
  • Recovering well is the best revenge. Oh, yes, it is. Besides, it sets you up as a role model for others who get laid off.

My friend decided that the best thing he could do was to take his laid-off friend to lunch and listen. Pleasantly, he discovered that the laid-off friend was already mapping a new direction, one he had always intended to follow someday. They commiserated not over misery but over what a blessing layoff had handed to each of them.

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