Getting Laid Off Is Traumatic – But It’s Not The End

Once upon a time, I was laid off just a few days before buying a house. It wasn’t magical and doesn’t deserve some fairytale beginning. It didn’t feel like anything but a nightmare. For weeks before, I was anticipating some kind of shift – praying it wouldn’t come to me.

I had too much on the line. I was so close to buying my first home and I had picked out every part, down to the floors and paint on the wall. I created this home and now someone created a moment that might stand between me and waking up in the bedroom I so carefully selected.

I wasn’t expecting it when I answered the call during that 1-1. I thought we would do some mundane Monday talk as usual. My manager was the master of it. When I heard HR dial in (late, by the way, but that’s a story for another day), I knew.

How Should You React To Getting Laid Off?

My first reaction? Anger. Just like people grieving the loss of a loved one, I went through every range of emotions – quickly to anger at first, but then dissolving into grief, panic, and everything else. The scariest part? Calling the bank to see if they would still let me have my home if I was laid off.

That grief cycle wasn’t special, though. I believe every single person who is laid off experiences every range of emotions but I pray at some point they reach relief. That little feeling that tells you it’ll all be ok.

That wasn’t how I thought at the time. At the time, I felt like a loser. A loser that needed to figure out how to get another job – fast. I didn’t have time to find the right thing. I needed a thing that would pay my bills, and fast.

I got a job relatively quickly (a few weeks later), but I did it by burning myself out. Applying for jobs 8 hours a day. Going to interviews for gigs that sounded downright awful. Pretending to be anything so I could have something – some place that would help me pay for my dream home.

Recovering From A Layoff

It all turned out ok. I got the job, I paid the mortgage, my life didn’t completely go to shit. But that feeling, that trauma of trying so hard at a job and never feeling like enough, then swirling into a situation where I had little to no control as a job seeker just doesn’t go away. There’s no part of our psychology that can simply forget how it feels to feel like you might lose it all.

As I’ve watched the recent uptick in layoffs, I swear I can feel it wash over me again. The fear. The panic. There’s some part of me that even 5 years into creating Three Ears Media thinks somehow it can happen again. That someday I’ll wake up with everything on the line and lose.

I’ve also watched others get laid off, wishing I could offer the advice I needed someone to whisper in my ear all those years ago: a system I didn’t know worked until it helped me not only get my next gig, but also launch my company.

Step 1: Don’t rush. Rest (if that’s an option). Rarely in your life will you get time to recharge and take a minute. Going from work trauma to life urgency is hard on the brain.

Step 2: Grieve. Getting laid off is traumatic. When you’re scared, on edge, or panicked – be nice to yourself. Call your friends and cry. That’s what friends are for.

Now, the ‘finding a job’ thing. Try this:

  1. Download your LinkedIn connections to Excel. Then write “yes, no, maybe” i.e. do I want to work with these people/companies?
  2. When you have 3 marked “yes,” send 3 messages. 3 messages a day, 3 messages a week, whatever you feel like.
  3. You’ll email them and say, “Some things changed in my world and I’d love to catch up.” Use Calendly to make it easy for them to book times when you’re available.
  4. Take the call and make them talk about themselves. Don’t jump right into what you need or what happened. At the very end, you can talk about what you want to do every day (*not* a job title). See if it aligns with anything they are looking for.

I’m not a professional job advice expert and I don’t write resumes, but I am connected with a lot of those people. Here’s some of their job search advice:

Networking is key and don’t be afraid to reach out to agencies or recruiters. Also, always keep your resume/LinkedIn updated (regardless of situation). And most importantly believe in yourself! 

Karla Schiller, PHR

When I was searching for my next “big adventure” a friend recommended reading “The 20-Minute Networking Meeting.” Very simple, common sense advice for “running” an effective networking meeting. Quick read, less than $20 bucks, my local library had it in an audio version via their free app. Worth the time – great advice for during the hunt and afterwards.

Greg Padley

Sign up for webinars and events – lots of free and/or low cost stuff out there! There are lots of events in my own area of expertise that I wish I had time to attend.

Mary Kay Baldino

If you’d like to read more advice from others, I asked for advice on LinkedIn and you can read it all (and connect with me) over there . Getting laid off can be traumatic – but there are ways to come out of it better than before.

Job Search Advice

Kat Kibben View All →

Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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