I recently shared that it was the 5 year anniversary of when I got laid off from my dream job as a product designer at Target. For me, my job wasn’t just a job. It was something that me and the people around me had worked so hard for. I was a straight A, all of the honor clubs and sports, deans list while juggling jobs and internships type of person. I had done everything to earn my job, and did everything right while there, but still was one of the unlucky people who got let go that day.
It shattered me.
I don’t think people realized how much it really affected me. I kept a brave face and hit the ground running trying to once again do all of the right things. But it was really hard. I realized that doing all of the right things doesn’t always change the outcome. During the 9 months after being laid off, I started and quit 2 jobs that were not right for me. It made me question if I had actually done anything right.
In the end, I wound up being rehired to my job the next year. If only I would have known! I’ve had a few friends facing life setbacks recently– whether its relationships, careers, or just feeling stuck, and I’ve been sharing my story to help them have perspective. Here is what I learned during my big setback:
Its okay to be mad. Give yourself time to be upset. It isn’t fair. Some people are awful. And it sucks when things don’t go as planned. Pretending everything is okay is just bottling it up inside, and your support system can’t help you if they don’t know how you really feel.
Assess your goals. When you find yourself at a crossroad, its time to assess what YOU really want. Is it a career in that field? Is it a relationship? These setbacks don’t always happen at the best time, but sometimes its a wakeup call to think about what you really want out of your life. Perhaps, its even the wakeup call you needed.
Find an outlet. When I got laid off, I decided to take up running. I mostly hated it, but there were a lot of days when I had nothing else to do, other than go for a run. It gave me structure and got me out of the house. It also gave me a sense of accomplishment to see my body get stronger. I ended up losing 30 pounds and have run over 5,000 miles and 3 marathons since.
Move on. I just said it was okay to be mad, but at a certain point, you have to let go of the anger in order to invest your energy in the future. This wasn’t easy for me, but it’s something I tried to work at little by little. Your identity isn’t your old job, your ex, or any other failure, so you don’t have to keep thinking of yourself that way!
Invest in you. In order to move on from where you were, you have to move towards something else. Maybe that’s education. Maybe that’s working on your resume. Maybe that’s taking the vacation that you’ve always wanted because you deserve it. Its okay to be selfish and take care of you!
Rely on your network. The turning point of my layoff was reaching out to an old boss and telling her just how bad it was going. She was shocked because I had made it seem like I was happy when I was not. You don’t have to be a downer, but be honest with your support network of what your needs are. Maybe you just need a listening ear. Maybe you want them to keep their ears open for opportunities. Maybe you need a girls night out to get out of your funk. Don’t be shy about relying on your people for what you need!
Remember the lessons. Eventually, the setback will be over and you’ll move on. Hopefully you will be in a better place than where you were. But, its important to remember the lessons of what happened during the hard times. I now have a sense of gratitude for my job, even when its a crappy day. I also learned that my job isn’t my identity and that its important to keep balance in my life. I also try to always be there for people who may be having a setback of their own– because I know just how hard and isolating it can be.