Thursday, March 26, 2020

How To Deal With Job Loss (From Someone Who Lost Their Job)

As I mentioned in my last post and on Instagram, Chris and I were both laid off from our jobs recently. This isn't the first time this has happened, but it is the first time we've faced job loss at the same time (we worked for the same company) – and with so much uncertainty. And we're not the only ones. While we may have been ahead of the trend when it came to losing our jobs, the days that followed proved we weren't alone. I now know more unemployed people than people with jobs – friends, family, neighbors – we're all going through it. And damn, job loss is tough even without a global pandemic threatening our health and safety. Whether you're laid off or fired – or a freelancer facing dropped jobs – job loss can be incredibly traumatic. The only thing I can compare it to is a bad breakup – one that leaves you feeling confused, abandoned, and unsure of what lies ahead.

When I began my professional career around 2007, the thought of losing my job for any reason was unimaginable – I saw it as a failure of myself. But having been laid off a couple of times since then, and having had to file for unemployment, I now know this is just a part of life. If there's anything these past few weeks and months have taught us, it's that there's no way to know what the future holds. I saw myself staying at the job I lost for the foreseeable future – I enjoyed my coworkers, I was learning, I liked what I did, I worked in a beautiful place – and I aligned with the company, but really, how long I stayed wasn't my choice to make. There's only so much we can control. Am I a pro at job loss? Ha, no. Thank goodness. But I've been through it, so I thought I'd share a bit of what I've learned (and am continuing to learn), in case you're going through this too. You're not alone in this:

Unfollow. Continuing to follow a former workplace – and at times, former co-workers too – on social media after a layoff or firing can be akin to following an ex after they've left you. Their posts popup in your feed, you see them looking all happy and moving on without you (maybe even hiring, to add insult to injury) – it hurts, it's stressful, and it doesn't help you move on. Continuing to follow them can add unnecessary pain to an already extremely painful and at times confusing experience. So I say it again: unfollow them on social media, at least for a time, and allow yourself some distance to heal.

Take time to grieve. Yes, grieve. Job loss is traumatic, and not recognizing it as such and attempting to move on before you're ready can make things worse. I know this firsthand: When I was laid off from my job at Etsy in 2017, I didn't allow myself ample time to process and grieve. That job meant the world to me – I felt like I'd finally gotten my shit together, only to have the rug pulled out from under me. And by jumping right back into frantically looking for work with a hastily pulled-together resume, I set myself up for a really rocky experience during my job search and at the job where I eventually landed afterward – and didn't last long at. In fact, I'm still talking about that experience with my therapist – partially due to the fact that I never allowed myself that time I needed. So, give yourself a little grace, space, and time to really process the experience, so that when you do jump into your job search, you can do so with clarity and confidence. It may be helpful to talk it out with a therapist – many therapists are offering video sessions, and there are several options when it comes to online therapy that could offer more affordable options.

It may be helpful during this time to count what you're thankful for. As much as I loved my Etsy job, losing it ultimately lead to us moving back to Maine – a dream that we thought was out of reach. It meant I no longer needed to hop a 5:45 am train to Brooklyn. Losing my most recent job means I'll no longer have to drive 120 miles round trip to get to my work site. It means Chris and I are able to spend more time with each other than we have in the past year. It means I could potentially take steps for a total career change – or just take some classes. As much as I'd rather be employed, it helps to find the silver linings. And more often than not, there are silver linings if you look for them.

Get your "house" in order. First and foremost, you'll need to see if you qualify for unemployment benefits. If you were laid off from a larger employer, you most likely do – and if so, you'll want to file for benefits immediately. Don't wait to do this, in fact, do it before anything else. I think for a lot of younger people, the thought of filing for unemployment could seem like a failure, but listen to me when I say this: It's your right, it's meant as a way to keep the economy afloat (kind of a laughable concept right now, but still...), and it can help get you through so that hopefully you won't have to touch your savings. Then make sure you've signed any separation agreements and forms from your former employer, and if you need help deciphering them, consider checking in with an attorney.

After you've done the immediate tasks, you might want to consider taking a little time (see above) before you jump right into the job search. When I lost my job in 2017, I hopped on immediately, searching for jobs that most resembled what I was previously doing – without considering that maybe I'd want to do something else. By rushing things, I don't believe I gave myself the time I needed to really refine my resume and hone in my search to the positions that most excited me. This time around I'm trying to do things differently and take my time. For me, this looked like a solid week and a half of no-schedule-floundering, and then today, getting myself back to something that looked a little more like a normal schedule: waking up early, getting some (socially distanced) exercise, and doing some work.

That said, I won't be devoting every day of the week to my job search and freelance work, but focusing three (sometimes four) dedicated days to it. Why? Because I have stuff I want to do! Just because I got laid off doesn't mean I have to pay penance and not enjoy this time. While Chris and I are spending most of our time at home, there's plenty here that we want to accomplish, and I'm looking forward to having the time to do it. We've been cleaning, organizing, and I'm looking forward to finally getting a new Squarespace template installed so I can update my portfolio and this blog.

Call on your network. We need each other now more than ever. In the past, I felt so ashamed about getting laid off – worried what people would think, what they would assume – that I didn't ask for help when I needed it. Not so this time. And because I put it out there, I've received a few opportunities from friends for small jobs. When I'm eventually ready to begin applying, I'll also be reaching out and letting my network know I'm looking and available for work - freelance and otherwise. I'm not saying to ask your friends and network for free services – but this is a time when you could potentially lift each other up. Do you have something to offer that you can help them with? Do they have a project you could assist on (remotely of course)? Now is the time to call upon your networks to see how you could lift each other up.

I also believe strongly in leaving a job on the best possible terms. It's not easy, especially when you're being let go, but the connections you made at that job could help you land your next position – and you may need to call on your former employer for a recommendation. I'm not saying not to vent, but I recommend doing it off social media.

Losing a job isn't easy, especially right now, and to be honest, there's really no "right" way to go about dealing with the loss, but I hope this is helpful. If you want to talk more – please feel free to reach out on Instagram.

We will get through this. We will be ok.