All The Feels
Whether due to an economic downturn, an acquisition, or company reorganization, I’ve found myself in an unexpected career transition six times over the past 20 years. Even having gone through several layoffs, it’s still an emotional experience each and every time. Here is the bad and the ugly of the feelings I’ve personally gone through.
The phone call from HR, the perp walk through the office to the dreaded conference room, the last minute ominous meeting invite, or the oddly timed tap on the shoulder all seem to come out of nowhere. There is something surreal about being pulled into a virtual or in-person room and having someone look you dead in the eye and tell you that you were going to go through a big life change starting, well, now.
Even if there were layoff rumors, or news about leadership changes, or low sales report for the quarter, it’s always a surprise on the date and time when layoffs go down. It’s the feeling of the ground being pulled out from under. It’s the gap between expecting a full day of meetings and finding yourself in you car mid-morning with a white box.
Even in cases where I was actively looking for a new role, there’s a certain amount of anger that goes along with a layoff. I was angry learning about the people who didn’t get laid off (like that guy whose messes I’ve been cleaning up for the last year) and comparing my perceived value to theirs. I’ve been angry at the timing (right after vacation, right before a holiday) and how that makes finding something new a longer process. I’ve been mad that yesterday’s mission critical work-all-night project has now become irrelevant. Mostly, I’ve been mad that someone else decided when I didn’t get to do that job anymore instead of me getting to choose when it was time for me to move on. Feeling that lack of control if often the hardest part.
Leaving a job abruptly leaves a big hole in your life starting with the 9+ hours per workday being replaced with dead air and uncertainty. People who earlier that day were coworkers, casual work friendships, or confidents now may be nothing at all now that you no longer share an employer. The consistency of a morning routine, daily commute, and regularly scheduled meetings are replaced with a period of uncertainty that may last a week or a year. Sometimes it’s easy to be hopeful about the future, and other times it’s hard not to be mired in sadness about all the things you can’t control.
There is plenty to be afraid of. The idea of not having a paycheck is horrifying. Not knowing how long your final payout or severance check has to last is unnerving. Now knowing how long unemployment will last and what job you’ll end up with—is, at times, unbearable. I fear being unemployed endlessly and not being able to support myself. I worry about panicking and taking the first job offered to me. I worry about holding out for something closer to the “perfect” job that may never come. I worry that I will never get a job as good as the one I had. On the worst days, when fear has given way to full-on catastrophizing, I worry that I will lose my house, my car, my professional reputation, and everyone I’ve ever loved.
The Good News
While all of these feelings are difficult and unpleasant, it’s important to acknowledge what is happening. It’s helpful to focus on the possibilities the future holds while also grieving the loss of your previous job. After addressing the sadness for the loss of the future you thought you would have, then you can decide what you want your next career step to look like and take steps to get to that even better future.
What Do You Think?
Have you been through a layoff? What feelings have you experienced? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Brenda is an adaptable learning & development leader, innovative instructional designer, and job search coach.