I was sitting at my desk nearly two decades ago when my boss started pacing in front of me, waiting for me to get off the phone with a travel agent for him. He wasn’t usually a person who paced, so I knew something was up.
As I sat on hold, I covered the receiver of the phone and said, “This might take a little while; I’m booking you a flight - what’s up?”
His face was doused in guilt and remorse, and he hesitated to tell me in the moment. He continued to pace as I continued to wait on the phone, and I finally said, “Will you please tell me what’s going on?
He blurted: “Tomorrow is going to be your last day here.”
Twenty-three of us in total were impacted by these layoffs. My boss, who was a kind one and felt horrible for not only the news but the way he blurted it, filled up a bus pass for me to find other jobs and then sent me on my way.
I was gutted. I felt lost. I was terrified. I had bills to pay. I was in reactive survival mode.
So, I did what any aggressive, obsessively hard-working American would do: I hit the proverbial pavement, applied to an obscene number of job opportunities, and then played the waiting game.
My experience wasn’t unlike the one we’re all experiencing right now.
Today, we see the headlines rolling EVERYWHERE about tech layoffs.
Maybe it worries you, and you wonder, “Am I next?”
Maybe you have friends coming to you asking for support after losing their jobs.
Or maybe, unfortunately, you’re already a part of the growing number of layoffs.
So, first of all, if this IS you, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It just plain sucks.
The following is a list of things I learned from going through a layoff myself and how to support others in your circle who are looking for help.
4 Tips if You’ve Been Laid Off:
Breathe immediately and often after impact. Our nervous systems can become dysregulated from the simplest of things, but when we’re told shocking and traumatic news, we often experience “amygdala hijack.” Our rational brain gets overloaded by an emotion, and we might slip into a trauma response, like fight, flight, or freeze.
In my case, this looked like, “Wow, this is it. I’m screwed. I have bills! What should I do?!”
Breathe. Alternate-nostril breathing is a great way to bring yourself back to a calmer space where you can reclaim logical thinking and be present.
Additionally, your feelings are valid. Let yourself move through what you need to WHEN you need to. Grieve. Cry. Vent. Only you can know what you need when you need it.
- Don’t think you need to go through this alone. Maybe it’s friends, maybe it’s family, maybe it’s former coworkers, but don’t be afraid to ask for support. No one is meant to move through these things by themselves. You don’t have to bombard yourself with the responsibility of reaching out to everyone you know. Where do you typically receive awesome support? Start there.
Give yourself a little time to think about your next move. In my past situation, I went immediately into Survival Mode. I was applying for dozens of jobs every single day that I was qualified for, but were they really things I was super interested in?
Allow yourself to explore what you’re passionate about AND how that could possibly play into your current experiences.
I know we don’t all have the privilege of not having to worry about our families and our bills, but even if you can give yourself a moment to make a list of the things that inspire you and light you up, you’ll be steering yourself in a clearer direction that’s more in line with who you are.
- Share stories about your experiences and strengths. Storytelling is a powerful way to get others to know more about you, your passions, and your wins. It shows vulnerability and honesty. Is there a way you can share stories on LinkedIn or elsewhere around your accomplishments and learning experiences? Make yourself visible and help grow your network - you never know who might connect with you.
4 Tips To Support Others During Layoffs:
Be proactive when you find out, but ask permission first. When I was laid off, I had close coworkers who reached out right away and wanted me to know they were there for me and wanted to help in any way they could, in terms of networking, resources, or just being an ear.
I also recognize that not everyone wants this.
There is always a risk, of course, when we reach out and support someone who might be extremely upset and not want any help at all. Their feelings are valid. Every situation is unique, and support can be universal here, but it has to be an invitation, not forced advice. Inquire if someone would like to chat first.
Be vocal about wanting to support others. If you’re on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other social platforms out there, let people know you’re there to support them and be an ear. Don’t overwhelm your schedule, though; block some time on your time on your calendar where you might make yourself available to others. You can’t carry everyone’s weight, but you can support people intentionally with a reasonable amount of your time.
Not big on social media? Think about those close to you and reach out to them to check in on how they’re doing. You never know who needs to hear a familiar voice.
- Check in with folks. Set a simple reminder to follow up with folks you’ve met with or friends you’ve talked to. It’s really scary to lose your job, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the friends who reached out to me during my job search. Finding something new takes time, and it was so nice when folks reached out to check-in.
- Connect others with your network. Know some amazing recruiters who you trust? Remember some connections you have who could really be helpful for a friend in the market for a new gig? Comb through your list and see what connections might make sense.
We all deserve to be a part of ecosystems that are worthy and supportive of what we have to offer.
For me, it took some twists and turns after my layoff experience. Eventually, I ended up somewhere that challenged me in ways I never expected and completely changed the direction of my career. I think I may have gotten there sooner if I had given myself a little time to think about what I wanted next.
If you’re on the hunt for a new gig, I wish you the absolute best of luck. But please remember you aren’t alone, and that we’re all out here to support you. Some days are going to be harder than others. And one day, sooner than you realize, you’ll land somewhere that’s even better than where you were, that can help you grow and evolve into the career you want for yourself.
We had an open discussion through our Industrial Logic TwitterSpace. Here is the recording of that talk.