“Congratulations! You’re starting a new chapter in your career journey.” That is not what I told myself when I got the phone call informing me not to come into work because my position had been eliminated. I was told my personal belongings would be packed and shipped to my home (it never arrived). The new department that began one year to the date that I joined was now gone, but some members were reassigned to other teams. So, I asked myself, “Why me?” While I was trying to make sense of it all, a dozen mostly irrational reasons came to mind. Here is how I made it through and my suggestions for you, should you find yourself in a similar situation.
Allow yourself time to grieve.
It’s okay to feel sad about losing a job. Besides the obvious loss of income, you may miss the camaraderie with co-workers, the routine of your work day, or feel a loss in your sense of purpose. I am grateful for the genuine friendships that I established (and still maintain) with my former co-workers, who reached out to offer their condolences and support. I grieved for a week, and I allowed myself to accept and cope with the job loss. I had to stop asking myself, “Why?” because it was more important to determine what I needed to do next.
Open yourself up to others, but shield yourself from negativity.
When you lose a job and are seeking new employment immediately, the last thing you should do is go into isolation. I reached out to former team members who were also laid off and offered my support, and I continued to stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues in my network. However, beware of well-meaning individuals who express great concern but offer no solutions. As the sole parent of young children with zero savings, it was easy for me to understand why many people were very worried for me, but I kept a positive outlook and quickly flicked the negativity away. Try to understand that worrying eats away at your time and clarity of mind. I told the worry-warts not to not trouble themselves because I had faith that things would work out.
Develop a plan.
After my week of grieving, I immediately started downsizing and minimizing every possible expense. I created a shoestring budget that allowed me to live on unemployment and my severance package as long as possible until I was able to obtain employment. I notified my family and close friends of what happened and discussed contingency plans in case I ran out of funds. I started job searching and applied for positions for which I was well-qualified to give myself the best shot at obtaining employment as soon as possible. I avoided jobs that did not meet my minimum income needs because I knew that if I accepted any of them, I would just be looking for another job later.
Have an attitude of gratitude.
Losing my job in early December meant that the holidays were around the corner. Instead of lamenting on the fact that I could not afford any Christmas gifts that year, I was happy that could spend the holidays with my family without requesting vacation time. As a graduate student then, I also had more time to study for class, but that was short lived. I was offered a position the following January! It was this opportunity that officially began my journey in career services which helped me discover my calling.
I am grateful that I did not spend time worrying and embraced the opportunity to embark on a new journey even if it was not on my own terms. I managed what I could control, especially my attitude, despite my circumstances. What some may have seen as failure was only a spring board for my success. Now, as a career coach, I help give job seekers hope and tools to help cure their layoff blues.
By Cathy Francois, MBA, GCDF, Career Coach at American Public university