With all the high-profile layoffs, I am compelled to focus this week's blog on some concrete steps to take if you have been affected by a layoff or know someone that has. As someone who has been there before both on the receiving and “helping others” end; the advice here comes both from a personal and professional lens that I hope will be helpful to anyone who needs it.
Feel the feelings
No matter how much you hated or loved your job, being let go often is followed by a torrent of feelings, including anger, guilt, sadness, remorse, self-doubt, shock, fear, etc. It’s like the first stage of grieving a loved one, only that this time we are grieving the loss of closure, your coworkers, and your identity.
It’s completely understandable that you feel the way you feel, and my advice is to let those feelings flow, but not allow them to define you or do something that you will regret later. Especially stay away from ranting online. Instead, go for a hike, write things down, and vent with a trusted friend, partner, therapist, or coach, but do not let them control you. I can assure you that as dark as this moment might feel, as the saying goes, “this shall pass too.”
Once the torrent of feelings starts subsiding, it’s a great time to get back to center. If you had a severance package which is usually accompanied by a lengthy contract, now is the time to open that again and take a careful look (did you know that you have 7 days to review those docs and more time if you are part of a mass layoff?). Ideally, seek external advice either from a mentor or legal professional to make sure that you know what you are signing. In many instances, there is the pressure to sign away and get that severance fast. However, always review carefully and don't be afraid to ask for things that are not there.
If you did not receive a severance or have very little, then look at what area of your life is stressing you the most (90% of the time is the financial area that stresses people the most). In this case, if you have access to a financial advisor or a financial counselor, this is the time to reach out. Otherwise, make a thorough list of all the savings and expenses you have and call those companies that you are currently contracting with. Most of the time, you can negotiate with them for a grace period, pause or cancel outright due to this major life event. The point I want to make clear is to ASK (nicely) and try to negotiate. Do not be afraid of a negative answer; after all, the worse question is the one that is never asked.
Look for the opportunity
One of the hardest parts of being let go and finding yourself unemployed is avoiding the negative frame of mind or negative rabbit holes, as I like to call them. First, let us understand that the amygdala in your brain is going to be overstimulated, and this, in turn, activates a whole host of fears, that manifest themselves in critical self-talk and catastrophizing. There are plenty of strategies that are proven to help to overcome many of these fears. However, the one that I find more effective is to focus on the opportunity; in other words, challenge the brain to look for the silver lining in the situation. Why do I prefer this method the best? Because when you are at the deep end and everything looks bleak, hope is your best friend. And the only way to create hope is to actually allow yourself to explore the possibilities; getting curious about where the opportunity is for you acts as a beacon for your brain to break the negative loop. The best part, you might surprise yourself and end up taking your career in a different direction.
Activate Your Network
I know this sounds cliché, but it’s been proven time and time again that the best opportunities do not come from a job post but from your network. The thought of networking is hard for a lot of people, especially for BIPOC and First Gen professionals who are influenced by generational conditioning and limiting beliefs about seeking help or the fact that many do not have a family with an established professional network to rely on.
Whatever the story you are telling yourself about networking, stop making excuses and start reaching out to people. There is no shame in the game and certainly, after the mass layoffs of the pandemic, there is a lot of sympathy and understanding about being let go.
If you do not think you have a network, think again. Start with making a list of friends, former co-workers, mentors, alumni, and affinity groups. Join organizations that support professionals in your industry or from your specific background; even your local barista might be able to help. The key here is to put yourself out there, tell others what you are good at, and what you are looking for, and plant as many seeds as possible. Believe me, even when you think you have nobody, you do.
Use LinkedIn Effectively
As you might have guessed, I’m not a big fan of spending a lot of time working and re-working your resume. Instead, what I like to advise is to focus on optimizing your LinkedIn page and mastering LinkedIn. By optimizing your LinkedIn profile, I mean that you 1) have a professional picture, 2) take the time to create a banner, 3) have a compelling summary that makes sense and showcases your unique story, 4) describe your work experience, 5) showcase recommendations and endorsements. The fact of the matter is that these days we live in an era where social proof and influencer marketing are king and queen and are going to help you land that next gig instead of sending your resume through those horrid applicant tracking systems companies have. Also, never mind that many companies accept applications with your LinkedIn profile.
You can also post about your experience during the job hunt, and join many groups like this one, that is created to support job seekers. Moreover, I’ve seen people posting their resumes in the document area of their LinkedIn profile.
Don't get me wrong, you need an updated resume for interview purposes, and many headhunters and recruiters will ask for one, but having an awesome LinkedIn page is much more effective. Nevertheless, here is a short article I wrote last year on resumes in case you need some guidance.
Shame me not
To conclude this article, I want to call attention to the feeling of shame that usually pops up here and there after a layoff. The creeping shame that prevents us from seeking help, networking, or even reaching out for support to others. The same shame that makes us feel worthless, or undeserving. I’m not as much of an expert on shame as Brené Brown is, but I do know that we tend to attach our sense of worth to the positions or roles we hold, and therefore, we personalize situations like this. From my former HR years, I can tell you that many times these decisions are the result of poor business strategy and from the top and therefore repeat after me:
It’s not about you.
It’s not your fault.
It certainly does not reflect your worth.
Many of you might not know this, but I got laid off during the initial 2020 pandemic, and I vividly remember the panic, fear, self-doubt, and negativity that flooded my mind. Never mind that I had started my side hustle a year before and had a considerable following as a career coach. Regardless, It took a while to pick me back up, and accept the situation for what it was; an opportunity to finally own my own business and become the change agent and leadership coach I knew I was born to be.
As with everything else, you always find a way to get past it. Everything that life has ever thrown at you, you got through it, especially if you come from an underrepresented, underprivileged background where the struggle was more than real. As Victor Hugo said, “Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.”
Tomorrow it will be a brand new day, a brand new opportunity. I will be here if you decide that a coach like me can help.