Spring has long been the season for mainstream new beginnings. But for those of us who reject the mainstream, fall is the real life-changing season. I know. This is an incredibly earth-shattering concept. But let it sink it. For me, most new fall beginnings were less-than voluntary. It’s historically been the time of year when I get laid off the most. The only time of year I get laid off. But it did happen twice. So I’m pretty much the expert on getting laid off. And that it always happens in the fall.
That means I have all the wisdom you need to get you through your own forced season of change. All condensed into five easy steps.
Step 1: Lick Your Wounds
I know we’ve been taught crying is a weakness. We can’t let the bastards get us down. We must dust ourselves off and plow ahead. But doing all that without allowing yourself a moment or two to be sad is a recipe for a nervous breakdown down the road. A layoff is a loss. Allow yourself adequate time to grieve and regroup. That may mean having a good cry while watching the graduation episode of Gilmore Girls for the 189th time, heading to your childhood home with your tail between your legs so your mom can tell you you’re still special, or questioning all your life decision as your cat looks on confused. Or try some combination of all of the above.
Whatever your wallowing poison, indulge in it for long enough to reset. You aren’t going to do yourself any favors by diving headlong into the job search without processing all your feels.
Step 2: Take it Just the Right Amount of Personally
The “it’s just a job, you shouldn’t take it personally” refrain is a lie. It’s your career. It’s an aspect of who you are. It’s natural to feel like losing your job is a rejection. The key is to allow yourself to take it just personally enough that it fuels your ambition to prove them all they were wrong about you. But not so personally that you feel like a failure. It’s not an easy line to walk and you’ll likely slip into the feeling of failure from time to time, but don’t dwell there too long. Make a list of all your talents and attributes (with help from a friend who knows you best) and keep it around as a reminder that one setback doesn’t define your existence.
Step 3: Take Stock and Pivot
Getting laid off often means you weren’t in the right position. Maybe the company culture wasn’t the right fit. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe you needed room to grow. To learn from the mismatch, you need to take the time to assess what wasn’t working and find a way to pivot. Revisit your long-term goals and look at the layoff as an opportunity to adjust those goals or find new ways to reach them. Both of the layoffs I went through turned out to be opportunities to learn something about myself. Lessons that would allow me to shift my career toward a path that was better suited for me in the long run.
Step 4: Practice Self-Care
You’ll never have more unfilled free time in your life than the weeks or months between jobs. Take advantage of it. Start each day with a run, weightlifting, yoga practice, your regimen of choice. Read the books collecting dust on your shelf. Visit friends who don’t work the nine to five. Volunteer at a non-profit you’re passionate about (also a good way to network). Check all the things off your growing to-do list that late nights and weekends at the office got in the way of. It’s the perfect chance to clean the slate, so you can start your new gig with a clear mind.
Step 5: Enjoy the Ride
Your initial mode is going to be one of panic. Fight through it. The biggest regret I have from each layoff is that I didn’t relish the freedom. I went heads down and hunted relentlessly. Before I knew it I had a new gig and had barely taken a moment to breathe in the interim. The experts tell you to treat the job hunt like it’s a full-time job in and of itself, but the reality is, that’s nearly impossible. There’s only so much networking, resumé tweaking and interviewing you can do in a day before your brain turns to mush. Allow yourself some time to have a little fun before you have to go back to work.
Step 6: Let It Go
While there’s power in taking a layoff a little bit personally, there comes a point when you have to let it go. Just like any other setback in life, you have to take what you can from it and move on. Be grateful for the opportunity it gave you for a new beginning and enjoy the next chapter.
/written by Eliza Green
/photo by Carol M. Highsmith