Finding Your Footing After Being Laid Off

March 27, 2023

Image: Laid off workers with boxes leaving a buildingLast week, your job was solid. You were “in the zone,” feeling confident in what you were accomplishing, feeling valued as an employee, and receiving accolades on your work.

This week, you are no longer with that company because of a reduction in force. You've been laid off!

What happened? You were told that you were doing a great job and now you are no longer with the company.

This experience can spin anyone’s head around.

Unfortunately, this scenario happens all the time. Employers are forced to let go of talented people like you. It is never about your performance. You didn’t do anything wrong! You are simply one of many people affected by a business decision.

In this situation, it’s important to get clear about: (1) how to think about the layoff, and (2) how to talk about it.

First, let's look at how to think about being laid off.

In the chaos of getting laid off, these are important points that I want you to remember.

Getting laid off is not about you.

Employees who are laid off often interpret the layoff personally, as though the company targeted them to leave the company.

It’s vital that you remember: The company made a business decision about the role that you were in, not about you as a person.

This can be a difficult distinction to make, especially because you were emotionally tied to your position. Your identity may have been tied to that role and when that role was taken away, it can feel like your identity went with it.

Remember: You are a multi-dimensional person who has many other roles in life. You are a friend, sibling, wife, husband, colleague, coach, volunteer, a musician, a crafter, a teacher, as well as your professional title. Your professional title is only one aspect of you.

And also… you are a conglomeration of a multitude of skills and knowledge. That job was just one configuration of all of your abilities. When you leave the job, those abilities go with you, and you will reconfigure them into your next role. Your abilities are part of what make you who you are. Your last job is just one configuration.

I agree that your position at a company is an important part of who you are because you are compensated for your role and contributions. At the same time, WHO YOU ARE is more than what you do and where you do it.

When people lose their jobs, they tend to forget what they accomplished. They lose their confidence in their ability to do the work they have been successfully doing for many. You have many accomplishments to feel proud of! You added value to your team, you served the company, and you were respected and admired by your peers and leadership. These facts are still true! Make a point of remembering those things because it will help you maintain your confidence throughout your job search.

Second, let’s look at how to talk about your being laid off.

When my clients are laid off, I help them with their “Public Statement” about why they are no longer with the company. I make sure they aren’t saying, “I was fired,” because they weren’t! I also don’t want them to say, “I was laid off,” or “I was let go,” without adding the business’ reason for the separation.

For example, you could say:

“My position was eliminated because of [insert business reason here]." Maybe there was a merger or acquisition. Perhaps they decided to outsource or took the company in a different direction. Go back to the reason why the reduction happened and keep in mind that the decision was made about the position being eliminated, not you.

Next, say something like: “I was proud of the work I accomplished for the company and my goal is to add value to the next company as well.” You may wish to name your most recent accomplishment or you can keep it general. Either way works.

Why this all matters

Remember when you succeeded at that job before you were laid off?

YOU did that, and no one can take it away from you. The accomplishments belong to you not the company, so take those accomplishments with you when you leave.  

Your skills, qualifications, experience, and attributes that make up who you are have not changed. You just aren’t using them any longer at your former company. Your next company will benefit from what you have to offer.

And lastly, I invite you to think of your career as a journey. There are still adventures to be had! You won’t always know what’s down the road, but you will have a say about your options and choices. Use what you know and what you’ve learned along the way to design the life and career you want for yourself. You’ve got this!

What if you could find out about job openings before they were posted?

Download the guide, The Secret to Getting to the Front of the Line, and learn how to access the hidden job market.

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