There’s nothing quite like being asked to join your new boss in a meeting room, sitting down, and being told 12 days into the role: “I’m going to have to let you go.”
The new role had all the perks I could have dreamed of: autonomy, great pay, positive development, nice colleagues. Then they vanished in an instant, my sudden redundancy blamed on the loss of a critical account. My boss said they couldn’t afford to keep me on, and I packed up my desk right after that meeting.
Even now, three years later, thinking about it makes my insides wobbly. The plummeting feeling of suddenly finding yourself unemployed is awful, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. That being said, it does happen — and though I was devastated at the time, I’ve since learned 12 very valuable lessons.
1. The worst can (and does!) happen.
There’s not a person in the world who is exempt from bad news. Whether it’s a call from the hospital or an awful meeting with an employer, sometimes the worst shows up in our lives — unannounced, and deeply unwelcome.
As an eternal optimist, I believe firmly in the power of positivity. But since that redundancy, I’ve also added the power of preparation to my bright-side arsenal. Take the time to think about how you’d handle a worst-case scenario. Rose-tinted glasses won’t serve you here. Whether it’s considering how you’d get a new job and survive in the interim, or how you and your spouse will work together if one of you gets really sick, work out what your game plan is for the times when things go horribly awry. If nothing else, you can face each day with confidence, knowing that you’ve got your own back.
2. Don’t take anything for granted.
In today’s modern culture, we may take a lot of things for granted. Free speech, clean water, speedy WiFi… But seriously, how often do we arrive at the office, feeling relatively secure in the knowledge that we’ll be able to come back, day after day, as long as we keep striving for our best work? Sometimes, your best work isn’t enough. In our hustle-obsessed culture, we’re often wrapped around the idea that if you just work harder, you’ll make it eventually. And as a self-identified control freak, being made redundant was so far beyond my purview that it never occurred to me that I might not always be employed.
It didn’t matter how hard I worked in that role. After 12 days, I was out, and there was nothing on the horizon. I’d taken my continued employment as a given — so the shock of being let go was twice as bad. Moral of the story? Count your blessings — and don’t be afraid to keep your options open, even after you’ve signed the contract.
3. It’s okay to be mad about it…but only for five minutes!
Crappy things happen. Someone spilled coffee on your silk shirt before the meeting, someone nabbed your parking space, the subway broke down and made you late. There’s a lot we could (and do, and are allowed to) complain about.
I felt so sorry for myself after being laid off that I promptly went to my favorite bar after packing up my desk, ordered a large glass of red wine, and cried into it. I repeated that for the next few days until I realized my wine fund would run out fast if I kept it up.
Self-indulgence won’t get you anywhere in the end. Try employing Hal Elrod’s rule: Set a timer on your phone for exactly five minutes, and then vent your spleen! Be as miserable as you like for those 300 seconds — and then let it go. You can’t change what happened, but you can sure as hell take charge going forward.
4. Find a healthy way to move on.
It can be easy to go to one of two extremes when it comes to dealing with a nasty curveball. The first might be to clam up out of fear or shame and struggle through your low feelings all by yourself. The other might be to hit up all your friends and rehash the problem over and over and over again.
Whether you work your way through the issue by hustling all day to find a new role or spend that time talking to all your pals, try and find a balance in the middle. We’re all familiar with the therapeutic properties of a long chat with your support network — but don’t let that stop you from getting back in the saddle. Likewise, don’t just jump back in the saddle at 100 miles per hour, pushing yourself to breaking point. Slow down, speak with a loved one, and be gentle with yourself. Set realistic goals for landing your next job, and practice smart self-care with regular breaks, walks outside, and a healthy sleep schedule.
5. When savings save the day.
If you’re employed right now, and you’re not saving, for goodness’ sake — get started. Small steps lead to huge results. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, slow down and evaluate your spending habits. Get inspired with a no-spend month, let your friends know what’s going on, and remind yourself that this situation is temporary. Until you do get that new role (unless you have multiple income streams), you’ll need to be spending-savvy for a while.
An emergency fund ensures you can pay your rent, living expenses and buy food: keeping your head above water for a short spell. Use the fear of running out of money to light a fire under you to get your savings on track.
6. Here’s a silver lining: at least your resume is up to date!
Real talk — does anyone actually enjoy updating their resume? I’m sure there are a few folks who do, but for the majority (myself included), it’s a slog. It’s tiresome, it’s dull, and if you’re one of the 70% that suffer from Impostor Syndrome, it can be pretty emotionally taxing. Luckily, to land my 12-day job, I had to send in an up-to-date CV, so I had it readily available as a resource to share with prospective employers when that role ended. If you haven’t updated your CV in a while, block out a couple of hours in your planner — get a nice coffee, go to a sunny spot, and refine it. Make the task as pleasant as possible, and bask in the smug satisfaction of getting a tedious job done.
7. Leverage your network.
Uncomfortable with networking? This is a golden opportunity to get better acquainted with it. There are a few key principles when it comes to networking well.
Do your research.
Check out Eventbrite, Creative Mornings, and other professional networking groups such as the AllBright Collective for events in your area that you can attend. Reach out to people who are doing work you admire online, and let them know why you love what they do. Who knows what it will lead to further down the line?
Build rapport and relationship before asking for favors.
It’s hard to turn down a human appeal for help, so take the time to have a coffee and chat before you do so, and your chances of success will increase. No one likes cold callers for a reason. And focus on what you can do for your connections, not the other way around. Demonstrate the value you add, and be genuinely interested in someone else’s needs — which means listening more than you speak.
8. Don’t let pride or embarrassment stop you from seeking help.
As a self-confessed perfectionist and “succeedophile,” I was mortified that I’d been let go — even though it happened for reasons beyond my control. I’d turned down another offer from a recruiter in favor of the 12-day job. They had been disappointed and told me I was making a mistake.
My shame at being made redundant meant that I didn’t tell the recruiter what had happened until six weeks later — when I found myself still unemployed. Contrary to my fears, the recruiter didn’t ridicule or deride me for going against their advice. Instead, condolences were offered, and they put me forward for an interview with a magazine that turned out to be the beginning of my media career. Moral of the story? Don’t let shame, pride, or embarrassment cause you to suffer in silence. Ask for help from those that can give it.
9. Do your homework on the company you’re considering.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all had crystal balls that helped up predict our best career moves? Even if I could have predicted I’d lose my job in less than three weeks, I still wouldn’t change a thing — it was an invaluable experience. That being said, if I’d done my research properly, I might have realized that a company with only a handful of key accounts might not be the safest business to join, financially speaking.
Go beyond researching a company’s culture and outputs by asking hard questions, and get under the skin of a brand. It’ll help you hone your instincts, and if nothing else, you’ll have a wealth of new knowledge about that industry that might serve you well in future.
10. Get better, not bitter!
Job hunting is draining — there’s no two ways about it. It’d be very easy to let yourself grow bitter and resentful as you fire applications into The Void. But please don’t fall into that trap. While no one is here to shame the victim, if you believe that you have no agency over your situation, you remain stuck in a situation of your own making. Terrible things happen without rhyme or reason, but your response in dealing with them is one of the things that defines you as a human being.
Use situations like this as an opportunity to become vulnerable and empathetic, as well as an agent for your own success. When you do get that next job (and you will), you’ll know that it was because of your perseverance and resilience, in addition to your top-notch employability.
11. Every rejection brings you closer to a “yes.”
This article on pursuing rejection is a game-changer: “Striving for rejection has rewired my brain. The perfectionist in me used to think that a rejection meant a hard pass, probably forever.”
I sent out a good 50 applications before I landed the role that let me go. Theoretically, that means that I’d be hired once for every 50 I sent. Now, that’s a low number, but it helped me understand just how many applications I’d need to send to stand a chance of success. It saved me from the illusion that I’d land every job I applied to and helped me persevere. Work out your own application-to-job ratio, and set a “rejection goal” to help you navigate fear of failure. Charge forward in the knowledge that every “no” brings you closer to a “yes.”
12. Remember that this, too, will pass.
When everything is dark, wretched and horrible, please hold onto this thought: The time itself will pass anyway — as long as you’re taking steps to forward after being made redundant, you’ll find yourself back in the sunshine sooner or later. And when you do get that next job, make sure you budget for something special as a reward for making it through a tough time.
Once I’d portioned out my savings, rent, food, and travel money from the salary that landed in my bank account, my mother and I went out and revitalized my work wardrobe with a few gorgeous key pieces that were regularly complimented in the office. Nothing, however, was as positively remarked upon as my new air of confidence and self-possession — and that, friends, can’t be bought.
A linguist, writer, and coffee-compulsive, Eloise is navigating Canada living as a nearly thirty Scottish native. Interested in living happier, copy that sounds like a human wrote it, and the perfect Margarita, Eloise founded Olim, a communications business that’s rooted in academic practice and a healthy sense of humor. Based in Toronto, she’s not yet made friends with a moose, but that’s not stopped her trying.
Image via Unsplash