At the tail end of 2019, I unexpectedly got laid off from my job of almost 5 years.
I’ve gone back and forth about writing this post, because the entire situation brought me so much shame. And if I’m being honest, it still does a bit. When you hear those words, “today is your last day with the company,” suddenly you find yourself frantically navigating this dark, hazy unknown that you were just so aggressively shoved into. No more salary. No more benefits. No more routine. But you know what? That shit doesn’t define me. So, let’s talk about it.
I can only equate the feeling to Carrie Bradshaw in the first Sex and the City movie, sitting on Charlotte’s couch, staring into space, chugging vodka, and uttering, “yes, I’m still jilted.”
So what do you do? I mean clearly, get drunk and cry a lot when it first happens. You’re human. I believe I sat on my couch, watched Contagion, and chugged wine all night as I envisioned living in a van down by the river.
But when I woke up the next morning and realized what happened wasn’t a fucked up wine-induced dream, I pulled myself out of bed, even though I really didn’t want to, and got moving. That’s key. The whole, “I’ll just give myself a day,” will turn into a week, and before you know it two months has past and your pajamas are encrusted into your ass. GET. UP.
While this will sound incredibly corny, I’m a firm believer in, “everything happens for a reason.” Anytime the rug has gotten pulled out from underneath me, I’ve found it has led me to better things. Things that made me happier and more fulfilled. So, while I don’t have a magic bandage to heal all lay off wounds, I do have some tricks to make this new, strange way of life a little easier to navigate.
Sign up for unemployment, like yesterday: Sign up even before you turn on Contagion. The whole process is a convoluted disaster area. You think you just sign up and the checks start flowing, right? Wrong. There is so much waiting, so much back and forth. It takes forever. I mean start signing up before your employer even gets done telling you you’re getting laid off. For me I pretty much blacked out during most of that talk, so mine as well do something productive, right? “Kate, today is your last…” “Yeah PA Unemployment… hi, it’s me, let’s get this shit moving.”
Oh and don’t be ashamed about being on unemployment: For me, the idea of being on unemployment was like the final nail in my failure coffin. But, my wise mother softly reminded me that, as an employee of 10+ years (ew), I constantly paid into it, so if God forbid something happened, it was there. So instead of a check of failure, I looked at it as a comfy cushion to use while I get back on my feet.
Set goals for yourself daily: Start out small. Maybe one day you’re going to aim to make your bed. The next, set a goal for networking with 5 people. They could be personal or professional. But whatever you choose, it will keep you motivated and active.
Don’t be afraid to cut people off: I can’t tell you how important it is to surround yourself with positive people who genuinely care for you and who will motivate you. It’s okay to distance yourself or set boundaries with people who no longer serve a purpose in your life, or who you just don’t believe have your best interest at heart. Trust your gut and make no apologies while doing so. I mean lay off or not, take this advice.
Don’t EVER say “funemployment”: EVER. Whomever invented the word should be shunned from society and/or burned at the stake. To be clear, this shit isn’t fun. If you don’t look at being unemployed as a full-time job of finding employment, you’re doing it wrong.
Stay healthy: When else can you workout at any time of the day, or take the time to meal plan, research interesting recipes, and go to the grocery store when it doesn’t feel like Armageddon. I mean casually strolling through the produce section without five jags evil eyeing you down for no reason? What a slice of heaven. Having your mind and body in good shape will get you one step closer to leaving lay off land.
Focus on the things you can control: When I wasn’t aggressively job hunting, I took a page out of the Home Edit (if you don’t follow them on IG, do it now, @thehomeedit, you’re welcome), and organized so many areas of my home. Every day I would tackle another basket or drawer or room, and I ended up throwing away like 20,000 pounds of nonsense. I think one of my finest accomplishments was organizing under my sink and placing my dishwasher pods in a mason jar instead of their plastic bag (hey, it’s the little things). Not only did it keep my mind busy, but it allowed me to purge and make everything clean and organized for whatever the hell my new start would be. Wait did I accidentally Marie Kondo my home?
Reach out if you need help: When you get laid off, you’re grieving a loss that comes with an arsenal full of emotions. The most important thing is to take care of yourself. Don’t be a hero. Own your bad days. Celebrate your good ones. Be selfish. Be vulnerable. Say no. Lean on the ones closest to you. Close the door to all toxic relationships. Ask for help. Seriously. Ask for help.
And remember, this shit doesn’t define you. A bunch of higher ups who barely know you or your skillset voting on your livelihood is not a reflection of you as a person or a professional. Better things are just around the corner. I know it’s hard to see through the thick, hazy film, but I promise you, it is coming. And if you ever want a reminder, reach out to me, and I’ll be happy to listen to you cry, laugh, throw things, scream, chug wine, etc. You aren’t alone.
This is just a blip in your fantastic career story. I like to think it was for me.