Thoughts on work, life, and layoffs

Layoffs are in the news and on everyone’s mind these days. Techcrunch’s tracking the numbers, Robert Scoble’s tweeting about it, Jeremiah Owyang’s blogging  about it, so I was inspired to chronicle my thoughts on the current downturn and layoffs, in general:

#1 It’s not you, it’s the company: Remember that layoffs are a business decision and do NOT let your company’s dismal performance undermine your confidence. A senior manager I admire greatly once said, “If your work is not appreciated by the company, do you still want to continue doing it?’ If you’ve been laid off, think of it as a opportunity to do work that’s meaningful and more importantly, appreciated. Nothing is more demotivating and demoralizing than  working on projects that get killed or never see light of day.

I disagree with folks who think being laid off has some sort of stigma attached to it. How can anyone believe that millions of laid off workers are all somehow incompetent? I know someone who got laid off within 4wks of being hired, as part of a major restructuring at a tech company. I also know folks who got rehired at other companies within weeks of getting laid off and some got rehired at the same company in a different group.

I know plenty of talented people who went to their management asking for a package to leave because it was too depressing to stay, but they didn’t get the deal so consider yourself lucky. Companies don’t always know what they’re doing and will have to do a lot of work to build morale  and foster loyalty in the aftermath of these massive layoffs. 

#2 Get over it and get out there: That’s nothing more tacky than badmouthing your old employer, it makes you look immature and disgruntled. Life’s not fair, get over it! Don’t sit around griping and complaining to everyone who’ll listen. Don’t over-analyze and don’t waste your time trying to figure out ‘Why me?’ Firstly, it’s unproductive and secondly, it doesn’t matter any more. It’s over, the deed is done, focus your energy in finding that next opportunity.  

The most important thing you can do once you’ve been laid off is to get out there and network. Yes, it is difficult and you probably cringe every time anyone asks you what you do. You don’t have to shout it out from rooftops that you’ve been laid-off, but make sure you have a compelling story to explain your ‘job transition’. Use networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to show off your expertise and knowledge. Answer questions, offer to help folks with their business problem, start a blog or set up a website where you can refer folks who want to know more about you.

# 3 Keep your chin up:Don’t let the news of massive layoffs get you down. Remember this – there’s still work to be done and companies need good people. Make sure you’re expanding your search beyond full-time jobs. Contracting is a great way to get your foot in the door and while you’re exploring different options, why not start your own company? Saying you’re self-employed is so much more positive than saying you’re unemployed.

I had lunch with a friend whose company recently got funded and now they have enough cashflow to keep them afloat through the downturn. There are plenty of qualified people out there who are looking to change the world and who knows, they might actually succeed. Check out my Twitter feed 0f opportunities from a Bay Area Girl Geeks dinner, going to these small  events is very energizing and you find many pockets of opportunities once you’re out there.

#4 What doesn’t kill you…: I remember a good friend of mine who went through a messy divorce, got laid off, was facing bankruptcy and the last straw was when his car broke down on way to a job interview. He completely lost it that day but piece by piece, he managed to put his life together again. We all have it in us and we’re more resilient than we think, but it often takes a catastrophe or adversity to bring out the best in us. You may look back on this some day and think that perhaps this was the best thing to ever happen to you.

Use this downtime to upgrade your skills and position yourself for that next great opportunity. I loved hearing from an ex-colleague Roderick Jefferson, a consummate go-getter who is using this transition time as an opportunity to help other folks as a career coach and he also started his own training/consulting company. If you or your company are looking for a great sales/product marketing/technical training firm, you can get in touch with Roderick at www.premierbusinessstrategies.com.

#5 There’s more to life than work: I loathe those cheesy commercials where they’re trying to convince you that losing your job is a good thing. I am not going to sugarcoat this – it sucks to lose your job especially when you’re doing a great job and you don’t have a say in the decision. But you have  to admit the downtime gives you plenty of time to reflect on whats most important in your life ie. your health, your family, your sanity. 

Going through a bad patch kills bad relationships and makes strong relationships stronger. You’ll find out who your real  friends are and who were just along for the ride. The stress from a bad job would have killed you sooner rather than later, but now you’ll probably live longer and enjoy time with people who really care about you and whom you care about.

Lastly, once you get that job or opportunity you’re looking for, make a note to yourself that you’ll NEVER forget what you went through. If you’ve been laid off once, it may happen again. You have to keep your skills fresh and don’t assume that just because you have a job, you can get complacent. Someone once told me, ‘The day you find a job, start looking for your next one.’  That may sound harsh but on the day you get the news, you’ll wish you had taken this advice more seriously.

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8 responses to “Thoughts on work, life, and layoffs

  1. There’s a lot of truth in the your “The day you find a job, start looking for your next one” advise. Few companies have feel any loyalty towards their employees, so it’s foolish to be loyal toward them. If an opportunity presents itself, take it and don’t look back.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Jobseeker! It’s going to be challenging for companies to foster loyalty and retain talent. Even those who didn’t get laid off are probably thinking that it could be them next.

  2. Great post Mia!! You are such a brilliant writer. I totally agree with all of your points, last time I got laid off I started blogging, and now I am really enjoying the experience. Keep up the good work.

    • Hi Layla!! Thanks for the kind words. I am glad you liked the post. I am glad you started blogging, I am really enjoying your writing, keep up the great work!
      Cheers,
      Mia

  3. i have to agree with jobseeker. ‘The day you find a job, start looking for your next one.’ — this is very good advice. Reflecting on it has given me new perspective. thanks!

    • Hi Oweynge,
      Thanks for your comment. I have to admit that it’s kind of sad. For our parent’s generation, it was the norm to work for the same company for most of your life, but times have changed and one has to evolve along with it.
      Mia

  4. Mia – thanks for focusing people on getting to the good stuff – for those *displaced* by the new economic situation (God that really stink as a term) finding a job where YOUR talent and passion can come through is never an easy road. However it will be a better place once you get there. Make the journey as good as possible. Use the time to learn and redefine yourself in the terms you want. Engage your friends, seek out roles on twitter and other places that match your interest. Network – both online AND offline. For all of us, it is time to understand the *brand* we make of ourselves. Good luck, Godspeed. -c-

    • Hi Christine,
      Thanks for the great insights! You’re so right, it’s the journey that makes all the difference. This is definitely the time to get out there and let your talent shine.
      Take care,
      Mia

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