I’ve Been Laid Off 3 Times! How to Deal with Being Laid Off

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You Never Forget Your First Time Getting Laid… Off

I was working at Google in 2018 when I experienced my first layoff, and I didn’t know how to deal with being laid off at that time. I was actually on my first day of vacation in Trinidad and Tobago when I received the news. I had managed to avoid getting laid off during the 2008-2009 financial crisis when I was working at J.P. Morgan so this was a first for me.

I had decided to check my work email one last time while waiting for my friends to arrive before signing off so I could enjoy my vacation time off stress-free. Well, I saw an email from my senior director announcing some restructuring changes he wanted to make to the teams in his org and people should be aware that some of their co-workers may be going through some difficult times.

🔔 Alarm bells went off in my head, and an uneasy feeling formed in the pit of my stomach. But I remember thinking, “Nah… my team’s one of the top revenue-generating teams so we shouldn’t be impacted.” I texted my friend on my team about the email and asked if there were any changes to our team. My friend cryptically responded, “You should talk to [our manager]”…

Now the alarm bells were ringing even louder. I knew I needed to know whatever “this” was as soon as possible rather than wait until I got back home from vacation. So I contacted my manager and she told me that our entire team was being made redundant so I was being laid off.

After hearing the official news, I was in such a state of shock that everything felt numb. After the surprise wore off, then came the anger. I had busted my ass during the 4 years I worked at Google – chasing promotions, working during nights and sometimes weekends, checking email while on vacation… I worked so hard just to feel like I was doing enough but clearly it wasn’t enough, at least that’s how it felt at the time.

What was I supposed to do next? I had ticked all the boxes of what you’re supposed to do in life: get good grades, go to a good school, get a good job… Where do you go if you’ve just been laid off from one of the best companies to work at just because you happened to be working on a team that was deemed no longer necessary?

You never forget your first layoff… all the emotions, tears, pain, fear, and uncertainty running through your head. But I got through it… only to be laid off again at the beginning of COVID in 2020… and then again as part of the widespread layoffs happening across the Tech industry last year in 2023, which are still ongoing in 2024, even now halfway through the year.

Layoffs Aren’t Over Yet

Yes, that’s right! I’ve been laid off 3 times so far in my corporate career, and I’m definitely not the only one to experience layoffs. 2024 is gearing up to be another year of layoffs with no signs of slowing time. By the end of May 2024, US-based companies have announced almost 386,000 job cuts according to the latest report released by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. It is the third-highest January-to-May total since 2009 with the highest in 2020. Hiring plans announced by US employers have been at its lowest since 2014.

And as seen in the news about Google, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, and more, employees in tech companies are one of the hardest hit as tracked by Layoffs.fyi where over 262,000 employees were laid off in 2023 and so far, almost 91,000 employees have been laid off in 2024 to date.

So how do you deal with being laid off when it happens to you?

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Getting laid off is like going through a breakup, except the relationship is with an employer rather than a romantic partner. That infamous breakup line “It’s not you, it’s me” sounds a lot like “You’re not getting laid off because of your performance but we no longer need your role as we refocus our efforts elsewhere…”

Yes, there’s the obvious loss of income, stability, security, and structure. But there’s all the emotional trauma too – a loss of identity, status, purpose, and confidence. Who are you even without this job? Even if you’re quiet quitting, you’ll still feel some of this to a certain extent because it’s never fun to be the one to get dumped, especially when you least expect it.

With the current tough job market conditions, the uncertainty about what to do next can be even more exacerbated. So here are the lessons I learned from surviving my 3 layoffs for how to deal with being laid off.

Feel the Feels

Acknowledge your feelings.

Don’t bottle up your feelings about getting laid off. Find an outlet. It’s ok to feel all the emotions: shock, anxiety, hurt, anger, frustration, guilt, and maybe even relief too because there may be a small part of you that knew it was time for a change anyway. I personally found journaling to be very cathartic.

It’s ok to grieve.

You may even go through some or all stages of the grief process and not necessarily in order either: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. You are grieving the end of a serious relationship with your employer. You spent at least 40 hours / week (a least 1/3 of your weekday) with your mind on work so it’s not an insignificant amount of time.

Don’t take the layoff personally.

Layoffs are a standard part of economic cycles and companies just doing business. So don’t blame yourself and don’t waste time thinking about things you could have or should have done. As a high-achiever and recovering perfectionist and people-pleaser, I had to remember to be kind to myself. Don’t beat yourself up since it’s not your fault.

Try to avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms.

I’m not gonna lie… I definitely drowned my sorrows when my friends finally arrived in Trinidad as we toasted my goodbye to employment that first night. Just don’t let it get out of hand and be your only way for how to deal with being laid off.

Avoid the Fast Rebound

Take your time.

Some people jump straight into interview prepping and job searching right away. But not everyone can do this. And that’s ok. Like relationships, you may still be thinking about your ex-employer and rehashing certain moments of your relationship. It’s ok to take the time you need to heal before moving on.

Hopefully, the severance package offers you enough time to recover and reset. After I left Google, I actually took a yearlong sabbatical to recover from the burnout even though at the time, everyone told me I shouldn’t have a gap on my resume. I traveled and pursued personal passion projects like learning Spanish, starting a travel blog, completing yoga teacher training, and getting Reiki certified. So it’s ok to take a break!

Don’t burn yourself out looking for a new job.

Everyone operates on a different timeline so don’t feel guilty that you’re not doing enough or that you’re falling behind. Consider what works for you and what you need. During my sabbatical and each subsequent layoff, I took the time to really reflect on what I wanted to do next in terms of my values, priorities, dealbreakers, passions, strengths, purpose, and impact.

And with that, don’t take the first offer out of desperation.

You should never rush into a rebound relationship. Same goes for your next job. For my next role after Google, I made some concessions and took the first offer I got out of desperation because I was down to the last $5K in my bank account right before asking family for some financial help as a last resort. I regret not doing the extra due diligence because I was blinded by the eagerness to get my foot in the door in an industry I was passionate about. I ended up taking a big pay cut in a role that was too junior for me which I was overqualified for. But looking back now, it was a learning experience.

Moving On

When you feel ready, you can start to think about moving forward with your next career move. It should not just be any career move but one that takes you one step closer toward the ideal dream life and career you want.

Adopt a new mindset.

Train your brain to focus on the possibilities. Remember you will get through this layoff and you will survive. It’s not the end of the world. You will find another job. It is only a matter of time. Your confidence may have taken a hit so focus on your accomplishments, your natural strengths, and where you can do what you do best. Shift your perspective and be open to new experiences and growth since you have an opportunity for reinvention. I’ve used each layoff to do a career pivot and switch industries and roles to try something new.

Consider your purpose.

Reflect on what you want and who you are. What brings you meaning and fulfillment? What lights you up inside and motivates you? What impact do you want to have? Where can you shine and do what you do best? These questions can point you in the direction of where you can go next. You’re more likely to feel satisfied, happier, and excited when you’re in a role that gives you purpose.

Don’t compromise on your values.

Make sure your next role aligns with your core values, priorities, and dealbreakers. Otherwise, you’ll quickly realize you won’t last long there. Alignment can sometimes be the one thing we overlook or brush off easily. Trust your gut instinct and if you have a doubt or concern, pay extra attention to it. Download my FREE Career Check-Up Guide to assess what your career core values are.

Become resilient.

Now that you’ve lived through it once, you’ll know how to deal with being laid off again in the future. Since layoffs are not new to the world of business, they may happen again in the future whether a year or ten years from now. My second and third layoffs didn’t hurt quite as much as the first. For each subsequent one, I’ve been able to overcome and deal with being laid off more quickly and easily.

Seek Help

It’s ok to ask for help.

You might consider working with a therapist to manage your emotions and deal with the grief and trauma. Navigating any career transition and the uncertainty about what to do next can be tricky and make anyone feel overwhelmed, lost, stuck, and like they’re falling behind. So it can be helpful to work with a neutral third person like a career coach to guide you through the brain fog and declutter your thoughts to help you find the clarity you need for your next step forward.

I worked with a coach myself when I was feeling lost, stuck, and unsure what to do next with my life and career. I felt like I was at a crossroads and she helped me figure out my path forward. This was right before I got laid off last year so I felt much more prepared to deal with being laid off the third time around.

From all my experiences, I learned more about myself and refined what I wanted from my career to work towards the excitement and freedom I desired for the fulfilling and holistic life I wanted. I took each layoff as an opportunity to pivot and try something new. I learned that mindset, purpose, and alignment are critical areas to identify and master in order to determine what your next step should be so that you can move forward. So if you’re looking for a career coach to help you figure out your next career move during this career transition, I can work with you to guide you from uncertainty to clarity.

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