Many years ago, I read about a well known company laying off a large portion of its senior sales staff to replace them with lower paid junior staff. It caught my attention because I had an interview scheduled for an HR Manager position with that company the very same day. As I chatted with the manager interviewing me, I referenced the article and asked if the company was in trouble. She said enthusiastically, “Oh no, we’re fine. We are just changing our model to use junior sales staff. Our long term employees were getting paid too much.” I commented that the process of letting so many loyal employees go sounded horrible. She said, “It’s OK, the market is responding well. Our stock went up today.” I left that conversation thinking two things: one, I do not want to work for that company, and two, I hope the former employees do not take it personally.
I’ve worked in HR for 25+ years, and I’ve seen my share of layoffs. I know the reasons they happen, and they rarely have anything to do with a person’s character or job performance. If you work in the corporate environment long enough, a layoff is likely to happen to you at least once, if not more. Sometimes you have noticed; other times, it catches you off guard. In both cases, it can be downright unnerving. Your mind races to important concerns like paying your mortgage or keeping health insurance. Later, as you continue to think about it, other unpleasant realities come to mind, such as not seeing your close friend at work or not being able to finish the project you struggled to launch. You wonder, how can today be my last day when yesterday I had to work overtime because I was so busy?
It seems nonsensical because it is. It feels unfair because it is. There’s no denying that the loss is real in many ways. It can change the trajectory of your career. It can affect your ability to support your family. You find yourself suddenly working on a resume when you are expected to be on your annual family vacation. It can be a very tough time.
I recommend taking the time to feel the pain and grieve what has changed for you based on others’ decisions. Your career has taken a sudden turn, with no input from you. You become unemployed without your consent.
Most adults want control over their employment status. In fact, we are raised to believe that we have it. We are told just to work hard, and we can be anything we want to be. Even if we do that, we are faced with this reality, I did all of the right things, and I’m still unemployed.
If this happens to you, do not doubt or blame yourself. Do not be embarrassed to admit you are now out of work. Layoffs are so common in Corporate America; adding to your suffering with self- doubt is not only counterproductive, it’s undeserved.
The best thing you can do after a healthy period of self-care is to use the opportunity to reflect on what you loved about your job and what you didn’t. Did you look forward to going to work, just tolerate going to work, or absolutely dread it? Did your job pay you what you’re worth? How was the commute? Did the job align with your personal values? What would you like to change about the next job?
This is your chance to prioritize personal career goals, aspirations, and what brings you joy.
As you narrow down what you’re looking for, it’s time to ask for help. Rather than hiding the fact that you are unemployed, advertise it. Let people know that you are available and what you want. Someone in your network, or their network, can probably help.
Let me help you and can turn this challenge into an opportunity!