Being laid off is one of the most devastating experiences you go through as a professional especially if it is a company and a job you love. It is a feeling of “loss”; losing part of your identity, your routine, your friends, your second-go-to-place after home, your money and your future. Even if the company prepared you that things are not going well, you never think it is going to hit you. You stay in shock for a while in total disbelief when you get the news.
Some layoffs are worse than others for sure. Some companies don’t even let you back to your desk - like you are a criminal or expect you to leave a space you have occupied for many years in 5 minutes. They don’t always realize, that was where you lived (second “home”) for a while where you kept your pictures, your half eaten granola bars, your travel documents, your books, your receipts, and even your bills. How are you going to dig in and clean all of that up in 5 or even 60 minutes while you cannot even think straight with the bad news you got? Some companies will treat you with dignity and leave you time to pack and even offer you help in your next steps. I wish all of them did that.
The worst part is, even if you got laid off with 1,000 other employees, you take it personal. You start questioning yourself- if this is the first time it happened to you. (Second time around you are such an expert, you take the 2 pictures you had with you at the office and leave happily.) You are so heart broken. You remember this happened to others around you before and you calmed them down by saying “it could happen to all of us” but secretly thought it will never happen to youbecause you are such a responsible and hard-working employee. But now you are also facing the brutal reality of our times, it can really happen to the best of the best and to everyone at every level of a company.
How do you I know all of this? Because I was laid off from a company I loved too. I literally got heartbroken although I knew for sure it was coming as someone who was seeing all our numbers dropping. But I still felt bad and could not even drive by the office for a very long time.
The good news is this could be a blessing even if it is impossible to see it at first. I think the most important thing you can do when you get laid off is to stop, trynot to panic and give yourself a break.
Ask important questions to yourself: What have you done so far that you loved at your job? What are the skills that you love to use? What matters to you the most? What did you love and also did not like about the job that you just lost? What would be the ideal job you want to have? What would you want different next time? When my career counselor asked me these questions I was angry.” Come on, I have to find a job right away to pay my bills. Let’s get real.” But I am so thankful that she insisted I answer these questions at the time. I found my calling and started my business because of that pause I took. When I look back now I am grateful because with my level of responsibility I would have never left that job on my own. I never even had time to think what I want to do next. When we have a job we are so busy, most of us never take the time to pause and ask these questions to ourselves.
Please look at this as an opportunity. Take the time to think what you want to do next even if at the end you want exactly the same type of job and company. You will feel so grateful that you did it.
Take an assessment of your life. Give yourself a chance to think of your dreams and see if this break can lead to that. Explore it. May be you want to carve some more time to do things you love and you will negotiate different hours at your next job. All of a sudden starting your own business may not seem so risky anymore knowing having a job is as risky as well. You may have always wanted to see if you can transfer your skills to a new career path. May be you wanted to take a month long trip to visit your family and this gives you the chance to do so. Or you want to go back to college or move to a place where you always wanted to live. Whatever works for you; it could be a minor or a major change but could improve the quality of your life and make you happier.
I have several clients and friends who changed their lives for the better after a layoff. Just recently I had an engineer friend who had a dream to open up a restaurant and he did it; he is very happy now. Give yourself and your dream a chance. Don’t even have to follow it at the end but please take the time to look into it.
One of the best companies to work for Qualcomm is laying off people in my town now. They are part of my community and I feel for all of them knowing what they are going through. They are lucky to be given time and help with their next steps. I hope they all take the time to stop and think about the next chapter in their lives. Layoffs are always hard; we all know the reality of life with mortgages, babies to feed and bills to pay. But for some, I am sure this will be a blessing in disguise. They will only see that in the future, not now, as Steve Jobs said:
You can't connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.
Who knows one day you may look back to this day and say “I was devastated at the time but I am so grateful it happened. Look what happened to my life. I am happier.”
When we are forced to leave status quo, I believe we owe it to ourselves to stop and ask:
“How do I want the rest of my life to look like? Can I build a life that reflects my priorities, my purpose and my values now that I am given another chance?”