Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart but it is has honest practical advice that will help you move past the experience of being laid off and come out a winner. If you’re overly emotional for being just let go, maybe come back and read this in a couple of weeks. Or read it now and start the recovery process sooner than later.
Picture this: It’s a lovely Friday morning. You are busy answering emails in your cubicle, and still on a high about the recent chat with your boss. He said you are doing “great work and keep it up!” You’ve worked so bloody hard lately – maybe that overdue promotion is finally within your reach.
You care about your job and your current project, even though it’s another stupid “corporate initiative”, but hey, you are proud to work for this company. I mean, you wouldn’t hang around all of 12 years for nothing!
And then it happens! Your boss calls you in his office for a “quick chat”. Then he tells you that you’ve been laid off. Or wait, he actually says: “Your job has been restructured.”, “Your position has been eliminated due to the recent budget cuts.” or something cryptic like that. No wonder it takes you a few minutes to realize that what he’s really trying to say is this:
“Look! We don’t need you anymore. So we’re letting you go even though we are going to keep all of our very expensive Vice Presidents and Senior Directors. You got 2 weeks to pack up and get outta here. And truth be told, nobody is going to miss you, least of all the company but we’re going through the stupid shenanigans to pretend we will because we kinda have to. Dumb HR rules!”
You think that’s harsh? Then you are naive, my darling, and naiveté is the first thing that has to go out the window if you are going to survive the layoffs and come out a winner beyond your wildest imagination.
My ex-employer just announced its umpteenth layoff. I clearly remember the company president swearing that he’d never do another one after the very first layoffs in 2000. Silly me, I actually believed the guy. I used to admire him for his integrity. Alas. That workplace has not been able to afford integrity as a core value for over a decade now.
What about your company? Are you putting your future in the hands of a reliable place?
Did you know that layoffs are a decision that is often outsourced to fancy expensive consultants that neither understand the culture nor the value of long-term employees and have only one “skill”: bean counting. Funny how companies can afford to pay the consultants but not to keep their loyal and top performers.
But this post is not about making sense of why companies do layoffs. There is no sense to be made. They Simply Do.
Get this, I used to believe that layoffs are a necessary part of running a company, albeit a harsh one. Then I learned that even as layoffs happen, the higher ups clear millions – yes millions – of dollars in salary, not to mention their hefty bonuses, and that an outrageous number of outside consultants eat up the company budget to do God only knows what!
The truth about layoffs: Layoffs are an excuse to get out of a financial crisis. Don’t be fooled. It is a company CHOICE! Not a NECESSITY!
Your job is to be prepared for the impending layoff with a smart exit plan that takes YOUR safety and security into consideration above all. Because no matter who you are, you are not above being let go so know exactly – and I mean exactly – what to do when the layoff happens to you.
Here’s the not-so-funny fact about layoffs: They shock and devastate you.
Even if you hate the job, the boss, the place. Even if you’ve been threatening to leave forever. Even if you are far better off in terms of your health and sanity without this stupid job. Even if you are on the verge of walking out that door with a smart exit plan and your resignation letter. Layoffs just kill the spirit because they send a harsh message.
Layoffs say: You are rejected. You are not needed. You are no longer welcome here. You are not good enough. You are not a part of us anymore. You are not valued. And you are not worthy of being kept on.
That’s a pretty harsh message even for the hard core among us. So let yourself absorb that, digest it, deal with it, and accept that it is hard, really hard, to come to terms with a layoff. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t expect it, and you most certainly don’t deserve it.
But layoffs have nothing to do with you, your talents, your brilliance, your ability and least of all, your future!
So deal with the emotions prono because if you haven’t been pulling together a smart exit plan in advance, then you are racing against time and you need to “get over” the layoff, as you would if it were a nasty breakup, and know in your heart of hearts that it is BETTER this way, that this is a blessing in disguise, that it is your wakeup call and you are going to come out better on all accounts.
7 Tempting Things You Should Avoid after You Are Laid off:
1. Pleading with your boss or employer to reconsider and give you another chance: Never, ever beg your employer to reconsider. The relationship has been impaired the moment they let you go, and you are far more worthy than taking on a beggar – yes beggar – position. This isn’t about pride, it’s about truth. You can do much better. Move on.
2. Asking your boss or employer to give you a reason, an answer to “Why me?”: Ah our never-satiating desire to know, to know why! There is no why. This is not about you. This is about the company not being able to manage their financials and make smart decisions. Never ask. Never show curiosity. Instead focus on re-negotiating the terms of your severance package and ask for more there.
3. Wasting time feeling sorry for yourself and commiserating with peers about it: It is hard, we covered that, but you want to take care not to share this with anyone at the workplace and to focus every ounce of your energy on moving forward, not looking back.
4. Spending time wrapping up your projects neatly and properly: If you were resigning, the professional thing would be to wrap up everything nicely. That’s what I teach in my Smart Exit Blueprint course and that’s what I did when I resigned. Not so if you are laid off. Just focus on you, man! Whatever – and I mean whatever! – you were working on is now their problem. Just like your future is now your problem. Get it?
5. Attending lunches, get-togethers and “goodbye parties” from your employer: Once the layoff is official, you have no obligation to do any of this social nonsense. Your time is better spent making meaningful connections, getting ready for your job search or setting up your own business and moving on faster than a blink of an eye.
6. Confusing the layoff with a measure of your own self-worth and value: Did I say layoffs had nothing to do with you? This is not an indication of your self-worth. This does not speak to your abilities. That’s a fact, and if you want to prove it, then prove it by what you do next. Go out there and kill it. Success is the sweetest revenge!
7. Starting a desperate job search right away: Hold off for a second. Maybe another job is not what you need right now. Yes, I get it. You have bills but there are many ways to pay for bills. Evaluate what you want to do. Look at your skills. Examine the opportunities. Maybe it’s time to start a business? Or change fields to what you’ve always wanted to do? Or take a month off to take care of your declining health and sanity. Plus you are in no position to talk to potential employers right after a layoff.
5 Actions You Must Take After You Are Laid Off:
Okay we covered the tempting mistakes. There’s more to this list – hit me up for coaching to work through it all in an intense session. I need to get to the good stuff that you must do after you are laid off:
1. Grab all your personal data immediately: Ideally, you have little to no personal data on your work computer but if you do, grab it ASAP. Remove all personal files – physical or digital – from your office space instantly. Do this before boxing up the plants and calling up everyone to give them the news.
2. Get your head in the right place: Your mindset is going to be everything – your survival, your key to success, your secret to getting ahead and turning this into a massive opportunity. No self-pity allowed. No replaying the words your boss said, your reaction. No re-telling the story a thousand times to every friend and stranger. Focus only on what you will do next and on whom can help you to connect the dots.
3. Define your purpose and passion: What better time to pause, to ask yourself what is your purpose with your career, your work, and yes, even your life? If you were unhappy at your job, and your values weren’t aligned to your employer, now it’s time to reset. Take these 25 discovery questions to find your purpose and let that help you take the right next step forward.
4. Re-connect with your network ASAP: If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn recently, do it now. Call up your coaches and mentors. If you do not have an extensive network outside of your current employer, now is the time to start building it. As a last resort, reach out to your colleagues at your company and ask them to recommend 3 people you should meet to help evaluate your next steps. Don’t be shy to ask for help or references or written endorsements. This is different from the pity party up above. This is professional networking and the reward of the relationships you have built over the years.
5. Put a fool-proof plan in place going forward: You’ll be caught off guard once but not twice! So whether you return to the job market or take some time off, whether you start your own business or partner with someone else, you will be in charge. You will be the ultimate boss of you. Make this the start of a new fool-proof approach to your career. That means setting up multiple streams of income that cannot be cut at someone’s whim. It means starting a side-hustle and being vigilant about your finances and making the necessary changes to your lifestyle. It means being a winner, not a victim of circumstance ever again. You are a winner from this day forward!
Closing Remarks on Being Laid Off and Your Comments
No doubt, you will have some emotional rants here in response to this. Bring it on. I want to hear them and I want to help you without sugarcoating the disgusting reality of it all but before closing this post and turning over to you, I want to give you an embrace. Layoffs plain suck but you will get back on your feet, you know?
It may be hard to see it now, it always is when challenges pop up, so know this: I believe in you. I have full faith in you. And I can’t wait to see how you turn this little blip along the way into a massive opportunity for growth, learning and winning.