When you are laid off, you may need to take care of many practical things:
• Calculate your new budget
• Apply for unemployment
• Sign up for COBRA or find an alternative medical coverage
• Gather references and testimonials from your former colleagues and clients
• Update your resume with your latest experience.
Many of the things above are straight-forward, and you can find countless advice on the internet and in books on ways to accomplish them. Today, I’d like to address the psychological impact of being laid off, and offer practical suggestions for feeling on top of things as your life is taking a new direction.
Getting laid off, especially after working at one place for many years, can feel like a huge change. Here is a common set of emotions that people often go through in response to any change:
• Shock: “I can’t believe this is happening to me!”
• Denial: “Maybe, there is a way to un-do this!?”
• Frustration/Anger: “Agrh!!!!!!!!!!!”
• Depression: “I have no future; I’m not good enough for anything.”
• Experimentation/Exploration: “What do I want to do in the next stage of my life?”
• Integration: “I’m moving on.”
The good news is that every one of these stages passes. The better news is that there are steps you can take to soften your move from shock, denial and frustration to experimentation and your new life. Here are some ideas:
1. Give yourself room to dream.
Schedule at least 30 minutes a day for “doing nothing”: brainstorming, thinking about your ideal work projects, embodying your best-case scenarios for your next project. Yes, I understand that you may need to start bringing in income ASAP, and dreaming may not be a part of your equation. Yet, asking yourself the following questions may lead you to the next paycheck WITH a fulfilling career path:
- What do I want to create in the world in the next stage of my life?
- What would I love to be paid to do? How can I make it happen?
- What type of work do I find most meaningful?
- How can I make money doing the work that I find meaningful?
2. Make a plan.
There are two purposes for having a plan: one is to help you create a vision for getting to your next project, and two, is to provide structure for your time between projects so that you feel good about this time. The plan will help you stay focused on reaching your vision, so you’ll feel productive and be less likely to get side-tracked by random errands that will undoubtedly pop up. So, what is your vision for your next work project? Now, break it down to small steps, 5-10 small daily to-do items that you can cross-off your list as you accomplish them. On your to-do lists, in addition to “Send out X resumes per day”, or “Gather materials for writing a book”, don’t overlook items such as “take a walk” or “30-minute workout” or “lunch with a friend”. These things will help you maintain high spirits and well-being, which in turn make your more capable of accomplishing your vision, whatever it may be.
3. Write your ideal job description.
If you could get hired to do your ideal job, what would your job description say? Take a few minutes and type it up. Now, does your resume match that job description if you were to apply for it? Is there additional experience or resources that you need in order to get that job? What companies may list jobs like that? How can you do small-scale projects during your time between jobs in order to be best prepared for your dream job?
4. Change perspective.
What if getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to you? Yes, I know it may be difficult to see it like this, especially if you have a family to feed, and if you love the work that you used to do. Right now, though, we are not talking about the Objective Truth, but simply about a perspective, a story that is spinning in your head about the situation. If your current story is not helping you move forward (for example “I was a top performer! This layoff was politically motivated!”), simply substitute it with a story that helps you move on (for example, “This is the best thing that has ever happen to me. How can I make it work for me?”). Neither of the stories is necessarily true or false, so you may as well go with the story that is more helpful.
I would love to hear your best strategies for coping with the psychological impact of getting laid off. Also, if you have been laid off within the past month, I offer powerful Career Transition coaching sessions (a special “pay-what-you-can” deal) to boost your morale and get you moving in the new direction. Please e-mail or call me to schedule a session.