Life After Layoff
They Owned It
My last article entitled Own It! addressed what it means to take ownership of your life. Today I bring you perspective from two clients¹ who have both landed on their feet after layoffs and who are extraordinary examples of taking ownership. I’ll use what I identified as the three components of ownership —feelings, energy, and power— as the framework for sharing their experience.
Own Your Feelings
When Gwen’s company was acquired by another, the culture change caused her to feel extremely scrutinized and that everything she did wasn’t good enough. “The hardest part was feeling the way I felt every day.” Gwen described this as “on edge” and self-conscious, even when sending simple emails. Her pivotal moment came when she decided to stop trying to fit in and instead, to find an environment where she could be herself and apply her natural strengths. It also became an important part of her criteria to work with people who treated her well.
Unlike Gwen who had been through layoffs twice before, Jackie had enjoyed a long corporate career with the same company. Through a series of organizational restructures and over a period of eight months, she sensed a layoff was imminent. Despite having anticipated it, Jackie says that when the day actually came she felt shocked and humiliated. “It was unnerving for a Type A who was always in control of things. I didn’t feel like I was controlling my destiny. It was a continuum of feelings and different stages: from shock to settling in, to realizing what had to be next, to knowing that I had to take back control of my destiny, to using it as a learning experience.”
Own Your Energy
As Gwen began to look outside the company, part of her coping strategy while she remained “in hell” was to focus on being responsive vs. reactive. At work each day, she used the following three questions to guide her actions: What is taking care of myself today? Is this worth my time and energy? What serves me best?
Jackie’s situation differed from Gwen’s in that she would have preferred to remain with the same company in the role in which she had excelled. The way Jackie managed her energy during her 10-month job search was to divide her “layoff life” into four segments: spiritual, physical, family, and friends. She picked one thing to implement in each area and also allowed herself four months of preparation during which she took outplacement classes, updated her resume, and surveyed her network. “I had to mentally prepare myself to get in front of people.” By consciously investing her energy in those four non-work-related segments, Jackie was able to gain back control and make a difference — in her own life, that is. Reflecting on what has become part of her life, including a new level of physical activity and fitness, Jackie now looks back on those months with gratitude.
Own Your Power
Though Gwen felt vulnerable in the weeks leading up to her layoff, underneath it all was the knowledge that she’d be okay. She referenced the many times in her life when she had been a source of strength for others and for herself as well. Her purpose emerged: Be a strong and positive influencer. Losing her job was ultimately a relief. Within just a month, an old boss who now worked for a staffing firm called to say he had a position for which she’d be perfect. It turned out to be a natural fit. For Gwen, owning her power meant being herself, identifying the right environment and tapping into the power of her network. Now two months into her new job, she is very satisfied with the company, the culture, and the people.
After 10 months (four months of preparation and six months of actively searching), Jackie experienced a low and wondered where it was all leading. Then, within 10 days —from a Monday of one week to a Wednesday of the next— three firm job offers came in. The decision was clear. Rather than opt for positions in the same industry with salaries comparable to her prior role, Jackie chose to enter a new field. Though the role came with a lower salary, it provides more work-life balance as well as the opportunity to impact other people’s lives — a priority high on Jackie’s list. Now seven months into her new position, Jackie says, “I’ve successfully repurposed the best of my skills.” For Jackie, owning her power meant stepping outside her comfort zone, becoming “kind of fearless,” and being open to unknown possibilities.
For more insights from Gwen and Jackie, including their advice for anyone going through a layoff, read their full interviews by following these links:
I feel my feelings. I let the energy flow. I own my power.
Here's to you,