I remember the first time I was laid off. It was during the dot com bubble in 2009. I was working at a startup and, like thousands of companies, we ran out of money. This was my second job, so I didn’t know what to make of the manilla envelopes and closed-door meetings at first.
I quickly learned those envelopes held terms of separation. On the first day, we lost our CMO and favorite designer. The next week, it was my friend and PR manager who taught me everything. We did Michael Jackson singalongs on stressful days. You can’t sing Will You Be There without feeling something.
Then my job disappeared, too.
What happened next has a fairytale twist. A few days after I lost my job, I sat down at my laptop and opened Monster.com. I told myself I’d move wherever I found the most social media jobs. Boston was the winner, so Boston is where I went. The most intriguing plot twist? I ended up with a social media job at Monster.com.
Fast- forward 5 years, I was laid off again. Unlike the first layoff, it really caught me off guard and destroyed my confidence. My life was already falling apart in so many ways, and losing my job felt like the final ledge. I felt every emotion at once and simmered in every stage of grief. I experienced the lowest moments of my life in the weeks that followed.
After talking to so many people in recent weeks about their own layoff stories during our 1-1 LinkedIn rewrites, I know I’m not alone. I’m convinced the grief and trauma that comes with losing a job becomes more significant as we get older. There’s more on the line; less we are willing to risk. One thing specifically: our way of life.
When I was in my “google and go” phase, I had a resilience that only comes with a lack of life experience and risk. I could opt into a whole new plan and walk away from the world I knew without looking back. But that second layoff happened two days before I bought a house. I couldn’t run away as I was planting roots.
At the time, it was easy to see the roots as something that held me down, but now I know they’re just the opposite. They were holding me steady and preparing me for change. Even when the change really sucked.
Not the miraculous fairytale kind of change. The inevitable rip-you-up and spit you out kind. However, getting older I acquired a new tool that I never had in those spontaneous moments: experienced resilience.
Experienced resilience is more than a young, optimistic bounce back. It’s the ability to honor my own story and become my own hero. Experienced resilience knows that bad days don’t add up to a bad life. That all of this is a once in a lifetime story that’s uniquely mine. My path is for me; the wins, the comebacks, and setbacks, all of it.
The same goes for you. The hero in this story is you, and you’re going to find out what’s next soon.
Right now, it just sucks. That’s ok. Sitting with the suck is part of experienced resilience, too.
Just remember this. Your story isn’t over. Your hero didn’t lose. You’ll need these roots for your next chapter. It will get better.
Know what is not getting better? Job ads. I mean, what the hell is a “hot job?” This is a job, not a pizza.
I’m also sharing a link for you to join the Humans@Work Virtual Film Festival. I’ll be there on August 6th, and you should join me to hear stories of justice. You’re going to see what workplace film is all about.
Here to help, listen, whatever. I know that layoff feeling all too well.