The 5 Stages of Being Laid Off: When things couldn't get any worse, but they did, and here we are…
Late August this year, I had a rude awakening. What was expected to be a routine company-wide standup, turned out to be a two-minute Zoom call declaring a mass layoff — the urban nightmare that we’ve all read of on LinkedIn, but never expect to happen to us. This blog will take you through the 5 stages of being laid off, albeit with the attempt to be humorous, because isn’t that the best known defense response to pain?
Stage 1- Denial
You spend the first week finding reasons to diss your job. “It was just business at the end of the day, why take things personally?”, “You already knew this wasn’t your dream job”, “You even saw this coming, so why are you shocked now?”…
Layoffs are not personal. They are usually done when a company, whose main goal was to create revenue, hasn’t been doing so well, so they switch their goal to cutting immediate costs. If you receive 2–3 months’ severance pay, consider yourself lucky.
When searching for jobs, look for companies that are solving a crucial gap in the market, have well-recognized customers, and work on a business model that is viable for the current economic conditions.
For example, choosing to be part of a hiring services company may be a bad idea during the Recession, no matter how well they may have marketed themselves, how lucrative the offer may seem, or how well-funded they are.
Stage 2- The Spiral of Emotions
You have set out once again, to traverse through the miry, forsaken lanes of ‘job search’. You reach out to all your contacts (the ones you wish a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year, once a year), you spruce up your resume using your free Canva account, apply smart filters on LinkedIn Jobs, tell your (layoff affected) colleagues to do the same, and then you wait.
You receive a few calls — some try to bargain their way into an offer far less than your ego allows you to accept, owing to you being ‘laid off’, and therefore, more desperate for a job than the average Joe. Some calls turn into interviews, then assessments, a few more days of waiting, and some rejections — despite your best analysis of things having gone well. Job search becomes your day job and you stew in a mixture of silent angst, hopelessness and the mother of all fears — the fear of rejection.
Spend time networking at live events — this is where I received 80% of all my callbacks.
Let each rejection remind you that the market is full of competent individuals.
So, don’t get too comfortable in any one place, focus on upskilling key areas essential to your line of work. For example, if you are in Marketing, invest in courses such as Digital Marketing, Email Marketing, or familiarize yourself with tools such as HubSpot & Salesforce.
Consider each completed interview and assessment as part of preparation for your next role.
Honest work done by you will reap results later on. In fact, each interview helped me better prepare for the next one, each assessment helped me sharpen my skills and focus on areas of improvement.
Stage 3- Channeling Your Inner Stoic
You have had enough time to process your emotions. Now is the moment you’ll know if all the self-help you’ve ever read was actually worth anything. Are you ready? Do you have what it takes, to remain stoic in the face of certain uncertainty? Around this time, I began spending more time talking to my seniors, those who were in a position to mentor me & offer sound advice.
Here’s what I learned —
Take the extra time you have now, to identify your strengths and passion.
See how you can channel a career out of this. Ask yourself — are you bold enough to create an opportunity for yourself, or even just wait for the right opportunity that fulfills you? Or do you want to take the practical route of accepting the next best job that comes your way?
Draw up a sheet of your dream jobs, instead of haphazardly applying on multiple job sites.
Apply for them using a unique cover letter that is sure to make you stand out. Reach out to relevant recruiters or team leads on LinkedIn, tell them why you are a great fit for the role. Let them know about you and what you can offer, even if there is no opening at present. I managed to get interviewed with a company just by being persistent — my resume had reached them through multiple channels, and they were willing to interview me, despite not having an opening at the time.
Stage 4- Travel, because You Only Millennial Once
20 interviews, 5 assessments, 1 (declined) offer and 2–3 interviews in the works later, it was time to ditch everything and set off for the mountains!
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Travel helps you broaden your mind and see beyond the minutiae of your own life. I guess it also helped that there was no connectivity for me to check on my applications’ status or receive calls from recruiters!
Plan a short trip or getaway that is close to where you stay, so you are not burning a hole in your pocket while unemployed & can get back to interviewing soon enough. Go solo or choose your company wisely — this will make or break your trip.
Connect with new people, who can help you see what you may be missing.
On this trip, I was lucky to get free photography lessons from a photography enthusiast. While photography is something I enjoy doing for aesthetic reasons, I had never deeply applied techniques or rules that could further improve my game.
Stage 5- Accepting that things usually fall into place, even if you had little to do with it
You’ve done your bit now, and forces beyond your control move in your favor — sooner or later. You finally crack the offer you deserve and are pumped about joining. You do the due diligence — connect with current employees of the company to learn about its growth, culture, opportunities and vision.
You take the leap and sign the dotted line.
You realize that your career is just 1/8th of your entire life, you also know what value you bring to the table and where you stand in the market, so to speak.
You learn that force can only get you so far. Focus and technique matter equally.
But the most important lesson by far, is your acceptance of the fact that what you desire will reach you effortlessly, with little intervention from your end, and when you least expect it.
No situation is permanent. Non-action or letting things take their natural course, is action too! I’d like to leave you with this little video on the Taoist philosophy of Wu-wei or ‘non-action’.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. If you would like to connect with me, drop me a message or email me at email@example.com.