Life after layoff

You used to have a job. Oh, sure, it might not have been the best job in the world, but it got you up out of bed every morning, gave you a reason to shower and choose a great outfit and people to talk to every day, and a predictable influx of money into your bank account every two weeks.

Were there days when you didn’t particularly like that job? Certainly. But still, that biweekly paycheque … that was nice. Ditto that feeling of belonging, of contributing, of being needed.

One day you went in to work where a person you had never met — or, perhaps even worse, the boss you’ve had dinner with on multiple occasions — handed you a thick file of paperwork and told you your services were no longer required.

Whether it’s your first or your seventh (yes, some industries are like that), a layoff is a painful shock. It can trigger depression, and a debilitating loss of self-worth.

So, how should you react? Some say pick yourself up the very next day, dust yourself off and start your job search. Others advocate taking time to relax, sleep in, maybe take a vacation or two.

As a career coach — and someone who has been through a downsizing in my previous life — I’d say the answer is neither, unless A) you have no financial safety net and desperately need to earn money NOW, or B) you’re independently wealthy and can afford to bow out of the rat race for a while and see the world.

For the rest of us, here’s what I’d say is the healthiest way forward from a layoff.

First, please DO take some time to heal. Healing doesn’t mean sitting in your PJs, surfing the Net all day. Healing is purposeful. Healing is asking for help and kindness from the people you love and trust. It’s building structure into your days, getting regular exercise, communing with nature, eating right and getting a good night’s sleep. It’s thinking about what happened, letting yourself feel the hurt, betrayal, anger, guilt and fear. Talk about it, journal about it, paint a picture, write a poem. Do these things, and gradually the bitterness will give way to small glimmers of hope.

Second, understand and accept that the weeks and months following your layoff will be a roller-coaster. Some days you’ll feel lost and hopeless, others you’ll find yourself going back in time to that day, angry and agonizing over what you did to deserve it. And some days there will be a ray of sunshine on the horizon, illuminating the hint of a possible new path. Be prepared to roll with the feelings and know that this, too, shall pass.

Third, if you’ve always dreamed of doing something else, take this time as a gift to figure out what that something else is. Volunteer, take classes (there are countless online courses that cost next to nothing), try some exploratory work with personality assessments.

Talk to someone objective who won’t judge your wildest dreams, who will listen to your fears and hold up a mirror to your greatest strengths, who has the training to walk you through the darkest days and toward where you’re meant to be next.

You will recover from this blow. And, like so many who have gone before you, chances are you’ll come out the other side happier and more fulfilled than you ever thought possible.



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