“The sound of her heels clicking on the tiled floor coming towards me still echoes in my ears.”
This is what Dave remembers most about the day, several years ago, when his company told him that “he was no longer needed.” Dave had been laid off. Terminated. Sent out to pasture from the job where he had spent over twenty-one years as a faithful and dedicated employee. Talk about a crushing blow to the ego!
Looking back on it several years later, Dave now realizes he should have paid better attention to the signs and signals that were being sent to him. He was slowly and methodically being phased out of his job, and deep down he felt this growing feeling of dread. The problem was, his mind wouldn’t accept what his heart was telling him. So he chose to fight the inevitable for as long as he could. Was this the best choice for him? Not really.
Getting laid off from a job you’ve had for a very long time (like Dave had) can be a devastating shock to the body. The brain practically cramps from hearing those fateful words, and the heart sinks with sadness and dread. The panic starts almost immediately, and the adrenaline rush and shock to the system can send someone into an almost paralyzing position. “What do I do now? I’m lost!”
Never fear. There are many things you can do when you’ve found yourself at the wrong end of the corporate barrel. First and foremost, do not panic. I feel I need to repeat this:
DO. NOT. PANIC.
Nothing good ever comes from living in a panicked state. If decisions are made in haste, the body is traumatized by the overload of adrenaline flowing through it, and stress hormones shoot up to dangerous levels. Is this the kind of situation that solves problems, or can it just lead to worse choices and actions down the road? I say it just makes matters WORSE.
Here is something very important to understand when you’ve suddenly found yourself out of a job, even if it was through no fault of your own:
This could be the best thing that happened to you. You just don’t realize it yet.
That may sound a bit harsh, but I’m serious. Getting laid off from a job is NOT the end of the world. The sun will continue to shine and the earth will continue to spin. That’s the reality. This isn’t about the layoff, it’s about how you handle being laid off. What you do in the following hours, days, weeks, even months after you’ve been laid off is entirely up to you. YOU will determine your progress.
Will you be sitting around in a profound depression, simmering with anger and thoughts of revenge for your former employer? Or will you throw your shoulders back, hold your head up high, and move forward? Those are your options—which do you think better serves your purpose? I bet you know.
The space between jobs is known as the “transition time.” This is the most critical time for you. I understand it’s a time of worry, stress, concern over finances, status, insurance benefits, and more — there are so many aspects at play here, I get it. But I do have advice to help you get through a layoff, and how to come out the other side with your pride, dignity and happiness intact.
Are you ready to hear me?
Here are some important points to understand and acknowledge:
- Saying your goodbyes can be shocking.
You might feel like you’ve just been thrown under the bus, stabbed in the back by the company you loyally served for a very long time. It’s okay to feel a sense of loss and dismay—as long as you don’t dwell on it. Say goodbye, and leave your goodbye where it belongs—in the past. Make closing the door of your former office one last time a symbolic gesture for you. You’re saying goodbye to one chapter of your life, and entering a new one. Imagine the possibilities!
- Know you are in a better place than those left behind.
How is that even possible to believe? Simple—they are still in a company that has experienced turmoil. You’re no longer a part of that. Perhaps the signs of economic stress and corporate mismanagement have been missed up until this point. But be glad you’re out of it. I know that’s a hard thing to do, but reframing it this way will definitely help you as you move forward.
- Remain focused on what YOU can influence: attitude and approach.
Don’t try to control what you cannot. They had their reasons for doing what they did. You need to focus now on what you can and must do. Channel that anger and frustration into more productive action, and let the rest go.
- Remember to grieve.
Yes, this is a major loss. It deserves to be treated just like other losses. Don’t tell yourself to get right back out there and start looking for work. Take the time to stop, breathe, reflect, and recharge.
I have a good story I want to share.
A colleague of mine lost her teaching contract after a very bad series of personal losses. She had just lost both parents, and a sibling was very ill and going downhill fast. Her working environment was less than supportive to her at the time. She was white-knuckling it through the day, bottled up with unexpressed grief, sorrow, and depression. When she was told her contract wasn’t going to be renewed, she was so numb she barely cried. She walked out of her boss’s office and finished up her year, remaining as professional as she could be. She refused to burn any bridges in the process.
Three months later, as the school year was about to begin without her, she finally recognized the loss for what it was—a chance to re-evaluate nearly everything she had valued. With the realizations she was having, her biggest one was that she was happy not to be going back to that environment. She had spent a lot of time getting caught up in the dysfunction and drama, and that wasn’t serving her purpose.
In the end, she wrote a long email to her principal, thanking her for what happened. It provided the insight and clarity she needed to pursue her true interests, which was writing. But it took courage and a lot of reflection and reframing for her to get to that point. It was all about attitude!
5 Tips to Help You Move Through Job Loss
- Give yourself a set time and schedule for grieving and reflecting. Then, start anew.
- Stay away from the gossip and chatter of your previous employer. Otherwise you’ll be stuck in a place you don’t want to be—your past.
- Reflect and journal about it. The act of writing things out can help you process what you’re having a hard time putting into words.
- Take care of what you’ve been neglecting. Practice self-care and self-love.
- Make time for fun. Listen to music you enjoy. Dance. Sing. Watch movies. Laugh with friends.
It can be a tremendous blow to your ego if you’ve suddenly found yourself out of a job. I absolutely understand this. However what you do right after your job loss can mean the difference between progress and setback.
By following my tips, you will make it through this difficult time. You might even find yourself in an even better position—maybe even your dream job—because you’ve had the time to create and work on your vision!