I’ve wanted to write a series of blogs that address everyone involved in a work displacement situation, specifically those who are laid off and also their loved ones.
Dear Fellow Displaced Workers,
Right now as you face the fact that you no longer are employed at the place you worked at every day, I’m sure there’s lots of emotions running through your mind and heart. I know that’s how it was for me, when I lost a job I had for just short of eight years.
Part of me was numb, part of me was grieving, and part of me was almost relieved. Relieved because in my specific situation, which came about because two competing companies merged, I knew that it was very possible I could lose my job. When two companies merge, they obviously don’t need as many workers so some of us had to go. After two long months of wondering what would happen, it was a relief to finally have an answer. And truth be told, I think I was ready for a new adventure. I had placed my future in God’s hands and this was apparently the direction he wanted me to go so losing my job was difficult but still palatable.
I realize that I’m probably a little out of the ordinary on that last part, though. My heart goes out to you as you struggle to come to terms emotionally with the loss all while trying to figure out how you’re going to make your next paycheck. My heart also goes out to anyone who has to deal with the unemployment office!
I wanted to share a few thoughts and pieces of friendly advice based on a few things I’ve experienced, witnessed and discovered as I’ve walked this journey called being “laid off.”
The first thing is, try to avoid the urge to openly and excessively criticize your former employer. It’s like bashing someone after a breakup where the other person said “it’s me, not you.” OK so yeah, that may seem like a ridiculous analogy but it’s the same concept. To me, bashing your former employer for laying you off is counterproductive. It won’t fix the situation and it will just cast a negative on you because it will look like sour grapes.It’s one thing to express displeasure, but it’s entirely different to dwell and fester.
While it’s probably wiser to already have one’s resume ready to go even before a potential layoff happens, I realize that’s probably not the case for most people. We all have friends or associates check out our resume to see if they have suggestions, right? But who are we choosing? I learned that it’s best to have someone who works in recruiting, human resources or is somehow related to hiring be the one to help you with your resume. Why? These are the types of people who know what people like them are looking for in a resume. Sure, someone can write a resume and they know what most Web sites say you should have, but resume writers aren’t the ones hiring.
As you run through the many emotions that you’re bound to have after becoming displaced, it’s easy to have self doubts. I know I did. I couldn’t help but think, “if I’m not good enough to keep a job I already had, why do I think someone would want to hire me?” Well, my advice here is going to almost seem like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth. But hear me out.
Most people realize that being laid off is far different than being fired. Lay offs usually happen because of a decrease in need, or a decrease in ability to provide for, a given position. People are generally fired for screwing up. On one hand, I don’t think it’s worth the time worrying about the “why me” of being laid off. It will drive you crazy. But I also think it’s something to at least consider for a short time. If you can find out the method that was used to determine the lay offs, that might be a good idea. That information could either ease your mind or it could be a wake up call.
If who was being laid off was determined by department or by “last hired, first to go”, then there was nothing you could have done to prevent the job loss. It’s not your fault and I hope that helps you move on. But what about if the lay offs were determined by productivity or via human resource files? In that case, it’s usually the least productive or the most problematic (most written-up, etc.) employees who are let go first. If that’s the case, then it would be a good idea to search within your heart and head to figure out why you were struggling to that point. It’s important to make changes in your behavior so that you are less likely to run into trouble at future jobs.
In my case, I still don’t know how the lay offs were determined. The supervisors who were required to tell me the news were not the decision makers in this specific situation. Because they were my direct supervisors, however, I was able to ask them if there had been any problems with my job performance or if it was anything I had done. I was told that no, it was nothing that I had done wrong in their opinion. That was enough for me and I was able to move on. I’ve had many people offer their opinions about how the lay offs were determined, but I just tell them it doesn’t matter and I try to stop that part of the conversation. As long as I know I was doing my best, that’s all that matters to me.
Something I’ve learned through all of this is that I’m much more capable of many more things than I ever thought about or realized. I want to encourage you to do the same. Don’t just look at your former job description. Look at your hobbies, your passions, your latent skills. How can those be combined to be the perfect skills for a completely different field of work? I always thought I would always be a newspaper reporter. I now find myself doing all kinds of writing, sure. But in my new business, that’s actually the smallest part right now. I’ve taken my ability and love for social media and turned it into a marketable skill. I am using my experience in covering many events and my organizational skills to coordinate events. I’m also using my knowledge of what reporters and newspaper editors want to see to be on the other side of the proverbial coin. I am now working with businesses and organizations with public relations to help them establish a relationship with media.
My final thought is what I consider to be probably the most difficult, but also the most important. It’s why I saved it for the closing thought. As you adjust to this lay off, try not to let it alter your perception of your identity. Your job is not who you are, it’s what you do. I know that what we do as a living is a large part of who we are and it’s one of the primary “measurements” that society seems to have when gauging people. But your value, your identity should not be in any job. Jobs come and go, but who we are doesn’t.
I struggled with this because I didn’t know what to call myself after I was laid off. I couldn’t say I was a reporter any more. So what’s my title? I was looking for a job and then started my own business so I couldn’t even say I was a stay-at-home- mom, which I see as a perfectly acceptable and admirable job title. (Oh, and the fact that I have no children also made this hard!) I was very sensitive about it at first, to the point that I became very offended when a health care worker marked my occupation as “disabled” without asking me first why I was unemployed. I’m learning to get over that and to realize that my identity is in my relationship with God and my husband, not what brings in the proverbial bacon. Now that I’ve become more comfortable in that fact, I can see that me losing my reporting job didn’t make me any less of a reporter. What losing my job did was open up new opportunities to become a better reporter and so much more.
I now turn to you and ask, what have you learned in your own journey since being laid off?