The world in which we live in today is extraordinary, with mass layoffs happening each week.
When you lose your job due to circumstances that are out of your control, such as your company just cannot afford to keep you, it’s difficult to process, because it’s not that you did anything wrong.
The current pandemic has brought U.S. unemployment to an all-time high, and has put our economy and so many lives on hold.
Because the coronavirus happened so suddenly, it was a crushing blow for many who were unprepared and who live paycheck to paycheck. Those who are lucky to still have jobs are finding themselves dealing with salary cuts, no bonuses and sometimes reduced hours or furloughs. The employers that will emerge stronger are those that treated their employees with care and empathy.
The bright side is that you can emerge from these situations as a stronger, better version of your professional self and use this time to propel you to greater success and work situations that are a better fit for you.
I wrote this article because a few friends of mine have recently lost their jobs in ways that surprised me – by group Zoom, by group email and by phone. I know in-person contact is not possible right now, but hearing these stories of mass layoffs by videoconference struck a chord with me. It’s not like it’s going to be easy to find another job right now and I worry that companies are having knee-jerk reactions to cash flow issues and fear of the unknown.
I do understand that some cuts just have to be made, and companies are facing hard decisions to stay afloat, but I would caution employers to use the utmost empathy and care when communicating this news to their employees. Layoffs and furloughs should be your last resort. The employers who handle layoffs and salary cuts in a compassionate and fair way, will be the ones in a better position to rehire employees when the world rebounds. Empathy should be at the forefront of every employer’s mind right now.
Companies need to also remember that their employees have many online tools they can use to their advantage to publicly air their grievances – such as Glassdoor, Above the Law and social media. Negatively treating your employees now can have negative ramifications for your company in terms of reputation management and your future talent pipeline. You don’t want to be known as the company that was unsupportive and cold to its employees during COVID-19. It won’t be easy for these employees to find another job anytime soon, so try to find other things to cut first if you can.
Hearing so many stories of people I know who have recently been let go, furloughed or had their salaries cut brought me back to when I was let go and the important lessons that I learned as a result. I choose to believe that every dark situation has a silver lining. Also, getting let go can happen to anyone at any time. You think it will never happen to you until it does.
I also want those who have been let go to know that they are not alone in this – maybe it helps to know that so many others are in the same boat as you right now. Also, you can experience speed bumps along you career path and still have a successful career. Although things may look bleak for now, there is nowhere to go but up from here.
What doesn’t kill you really makes you stronger and you will be okay.
How our ego fits into this: When you are going through a crisis that cuts right to the core of who you are, it’s important to remember that you are not the first or the last person who will lose their job (Oprah and Steve Jobs did too and look how they bounced back). And you will be okay.
Have a pity party (but with an expiration date). If you’ve been through it, you know that the first few days after you lose your job are surreal. If you are like me and crave routine in your daily life, it is disconcerting to say the least to have nowhere to go during the day, but the thing is everyone is home too right now. It’s crucial that you build a new daily routine and do things for you. This is the time in your life where you need to be really kind to yourself. Also, file for unemployment as soon as possible so you can maintain some sort of regular income flow.
Self reflect (but don’t ruminate). Spend time self-reflecting as you would after the breakup of a relationship, but try to be kind to yourself at the same time. Don’t overthink things or beat yourself up – so much of this is out of any of our control. The world is upside down right now. So many people are in the same boat, so perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that.
Be productive and creative. I don’t do well when I’m not taking productive actions so sitting around watching TV is not how I spent my unemployment period. You may want to take an online course (Yale is offering its most popular happiness course online for free and there are so man other great offerings on Coursera). Use the time to develop an action plan to find a new job. Take the time to think about what you want out of your next position. What is your ideal work environment? What kind of boss do you want to work for? Then take positive actions to move toward these goals.
Work out. Working out releases feel-good chemicals in your brain which will give you energy and a burst of confidence when you need it the most. I’m doing a ton of online Zoom courses led by my favorite Flywheel instructors who were all laid off themselves. It’s a way for me to get exercise and support people who need it right now.
Make a list of people who may be able to help you. Make an Excel spreadsheet with the full contact information of certain former colleagues and classmates, supervisors and headhunters, and reconnect with them when you are feeling up to it. Wait until you are feeling more confident and back to yourself – trust me on this). Let them know you are in the job market. Refresh your resume. Let those contacts know you are open to freelance work in the meantime.
Put pen to paper. Now is the time to establish or reinforce your position as a thought leader in order to build your brand. If you are a published author, write as much as you can on LinkedIn Publisher and right here on JD Supra. If you haven’t published content before, try it, you’ll need to find your voice first. Do this while you actually have the time.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – really. I know it sounds cliché (and it is the title of a Kelly Clarkson song) and it’s hard to believe when you are in the midst of a crisis, but what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. Use your failures to help you to achieve your goals.
One positive side effect of failing is that you’ll realize that if you can survive your present situation, you can survive anything. Failure also makes you less afraid and more willing to take chances. There’s a reason why so many people use that other cliché about dusting themselves off and trying again.
Continuously build your network. When you are looking for a job, you will need to draw upon every resource possible and every connection that you have. Actively cultivating your connections before you r need them is one of the smartest things you can do to keep your relationships “warm.” Make sure your Outlook contacts are up to date and that you are an active user of LinkedIn – in fact, LinkedIn should be your best friend. Why? Because it enables you to build relationships – and your brand – quicker and faster than ever before.
In addition, when you’re seeking a job, LinkedIn will be a valuable job lead and competitive intelligence tool. Remember, strong professional networks don’t just happen – they’re strategically built.
See yourself without rose colored glasses. One of the hardest things to do is to receive constructive feedback, but more importantly to act on it.
Many people can’t take criticism well or they brush it off and blame anyone else for their misfortunes. Don’t be that person – instead be introspective and learn from this experience. Even if you disagree with some of the feedback, I guarantee you that there are shreds of the truth there and some areas of improvement for you. So really listen to what others are saying about you and how they really see you. To do this, I sought out former supervisors and colleagues, and asked them for their unfiltered thoughts about me.
…really listen to what others are saying about you
Even though some of the feedback was hard to hear, I made it a point to truly listen to this information – because I needed to hear it in order to change my behavior.
Practice makes perfect. Every mistake you make is an opportunity to learn and grow, but you must commit to actively changing self-sabotaging behavior, and break negative patterns and bad habits. There are a lot of techniques to do this, but one that has worked for me is to set aside some quiet, reflective time each day to think about what went well and what I wish that I had done differently. Being mindful and more self-aware has been one of the hardest and most important lessons I had to learn in order to grow, and it is not easy.
Don’t burn bridges (unless you really have to). It’s never a good idea to burn bridges, gossip or badmouth anyone, no matter what the circumstances are regarding your dismissal from a position because many industries are tight knit and you never know where from your next recommendation or job will come.
Try your very hardest to maintain a civil relationship with ex-colleagues, bosses and even human resource departments. Everyone talks, period.
Support others. If you’ve personally lost a job, you know firsthand just how much it means to have a strong support network around you. I will never forget those who were there for me (and sadly those who were not) when I was I unemployed.
So, take that call from a friend who’s floundering after losing their job. Regularly to check up on them. Don’t treat them any differently than before. Go out of your way to help them – connect them with a recruiter or someone who you think they should meet. These actions won’t be forgotten when they land back on their feet. Be kind to everyone because it is just the right thing to do. And you just never know whose help you may need somewhere down the road.
Everyone thinks something bad like this can’t happen to them until it does – no one is invincible. Failure makes you more empathetic and humble, and when you wind up back on your feet again (and you will!), you’ll appreciate what you have more than ever.
The hardest times in your life are often those when you grow and learn the most. Remember that this pandemic will pass. Every bleak situation always led me to a better place, and I’m confident that it will lead to a much better one for you as well. Remember, setbacks are just speed bumps along a long and successful career, so hang in there, because you got this.