When my former employer restructured, I was one of the first to go, and I was blindsided. They'd been gracious enough to provide a lead for an even better job, which would start almost immediately. I didn’t fully process all that was happening then but was thankful for a new opportunity.
But the new job didn’t start immediately as promised. An expected start date in a couple of weeks turned into months and a pile of bills. Initially, I experienced feelings of failure because I could no longer use my exciting new opportunity to shield me from the reality of job loss. Over time, I came to accept that I am, indeed, unemployed, and I have work to do. Here are three big lessons I’ve learned so far.
A layoff is like a breakup.
At first I used activities and weekend getaways as distractions from unemployment while I waited for the new gig to begin. Then, when there were fewer events on my calendar, I experienced a full spectrum of emotions, from satisfaction to indifference, and eventually anger and hurt. Things turned around when I considered why being laid off was best for me in the long run. Ultimately, all of these emotions were necessary for me to arrive at a clear mental space to make sound decisions for the next steps of my career.
Self-assessment is required.
When things on the outside get crazy, it’s time to look inward. The separation was necessary to push me to another way of thinking, which I’d been too comfortable to realize on my own. I’ve been able to decide how I want my personal life and my work to align. What did I want my next professional opportunity to look like? What did I want and need in an employer? It wasn’t until I answered those questions that I could spring into meaningful action.
I can make good use of the time.
Unemployment left a big empty space in my life and more hours in my day. I’m fortunate that I was financially prepared to go without work for months, if necessary — and unemployment benefits didn’t hurt, either. So I’ve started to welcome the plans and activities I’d pushed aside while I was working back to center stage. I no longer feel guilty about pursuing those things, and I have the time to do so without neglecting my family responsibilities. The door is open for me to travel, volunteer, revisit a hobby or side hustle or reconnect with personal and professional contacts. If you’ve had dreams of self-employment, consider this as an opportunity for a test run. If you desire to reenter the workforce, it’s likely you won’t have an extended break from employment once you’re working again, so go for it while you have a bit more time.
While these epiphanies have been unfolding, I’ve been spurred into action, applying for jobs daily, reaching out to recruiters and working on small personal projects. I’m on track for a corporate contract opportunity that will allow for some personal flexibility and a chance to earn steady income again. Layoffs may come to teach us lessons, but you can’t put them into action until you do the work to move to the next phase of your professional life. I’m moving forward.