After several years in Los Angeles developing a marketing career I loved, I took a leap of faith and accepted a promising PR position in Charlotte.
Four months later, my employer lost a lot of business, and many of the new employees — myself included —were let go.
I was 3,000 miles away from my professional and alumni-based network, a few months into a lease, saving for a down payment, a brand new mom, and jobless. My Excel spreadsheet hadn’t accounted for this abrupt development. It was not pretty.
Since then, I’ve learned that the period after you’ve been laid off can be a time to thrive. You may even be able to look back at this time with fondness. A few things I’ve learned in the process:
Figure out what you want to tell your friends and family, but don’t feel obligated to spill your guts before you’re ready.
As a career marketer, I was immediately looking for the spin, even before the ink on my severance was dry.
I told my close friends, “Honestly, it’s fine. I was working crazy hours and now I’ll get some time to spend with my baby.”
While that was true, it didn’t address the very real anxiety that losing your job unexpectedly can trigger.
Transitioning from someone who leaves home every day to interact with adults to someone who has nowhere to go in the morning seems fun at first. Then it’s a bit depressing. I needed a couple weeks before I was ready to dish.
Once I shared the news with my immediate family and others (who were probably wondering why I suddenly had a lot of time to post selfies), it was easier to ask for help and to talk through next steps. I didn’t have to announce my layoff to the world, but if I wanted my support system to be there for me, I needed to be transparent about my situation.
Determine if the layoff was a hiccup in your career or an escape route to your true purpose.
There’s nothing like losing a job to remind you that placing your financial destiny in the hands of a corporation carries a risk, just like entrepreneurship or freelance work.
A layoff gives you the time to determine whether you want to continue to work in the same field.
Charlotte offers opportunities to explore what another path may look like, including Creative Mornings and PitchBreakfast. Worst case scenario, at least you’ll get a free meal.
Separation from your company doesn’t mean you have to be separated from your former colleagues.
In the past, when I’d watched colleagues lose their jobs but had mine preserved, I didn’t say anything to my former coworkers for fear of being insensitive.
Now that I was on the other side, I realized how unnerving it can be to go from sharing lunch, jokes and career wins and losses every day to potentially never seeing them again.
Colleagues ghosting you only adds to your damaged self-esteem.
Eventually one former colleague offered to be a reference, and a few others connected with me on social. I have learned that if I’m ever in a similar situation and I’m the one left standing, a simple “How are you?” or “I know you may need space, but if you’d like to talk, I’m here” text can do wonders.
When interviewing for a new gig, the best policy is honesty.
Lying to a potential employer about a past layoff is a hard lie to keep up. Plus, Charlotte’s a deceptively small city.
I’ve addressed it straight on by mentioning it in the obligatory “tell me about yourself” question.
I spoke candidly but kindly about my former employer, noting that I appreciated what I learned in my time there. If the mood felt right, I joked that my time was like a well-paid fellowship. As it turns out, this wasn’t a bad idea and potential employers are much better able to handle the news when it doesn’t feel concealed.
The months I spent unemployed gave me the time to figure out that my career at advertising and PR agencies had been excellent training for a career shift and gave me the confidence to pursue other passions I’d always put off for later. While there was certainly short-term loss, I’m confident the long-term benefits of the forced time off will pay in huge dividends.
This doesn’t mean I’ll be sending a thank you card to my previous employer, but the long-view perspective does help me to feel grateful for the experience.