By Chandra Chakravarthi
A few weeks ago, I received the dreaded words that no one wants to hear when you come into work and receive a call from an executive who never interacts directly with you. “We have to let you go.” I was working at a newly formed technology company that came about due to acquiring several companies at once, one of those companies was my previous employer. During this merger, life at work was chaotic and each day was stressful to the point that I found myself crying at the end of many of my work days. It was my first time working in this type of situation, and I truly hated it. Since I was miserable, I had already been looking for another job, but it still sucked to not be leaving on my own terms.
If you have ever gone through the experience of being laid off particularly as a result of a merger, then you can probably understand the number of emotions that you’re feeling as you receive the news. The one emotion that surprised me most of all as I was being told the news was a relief. I felt as if a weight had been lifted off me knowing that I would not have to come into the office and deal with all the daily struggles that came with my position. Since this was my first experience with this, I learned how to move forward from that news and not take it personally, particularly since I was unhappy there.
Here’s what I learned from being unexpectedly laid off from a job that I disliked.
You will feel a whirlwind of emotions – one of which is anger.
I think I processed the lay off news a little differently than some of my team members who were let go the same day. When the news was being delivered to me, I didn’t feel anger or sadness during that moment. Instead, I was weirdly calm, and I felt as if a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. It was a strange blessing in disguise that I’m able to see now.
The anger came the next day though. When I woke up the following day and had time to process the reasoning behind the decision, I couldn’t help feeling resentful knowing that it was the executives who should have been held accountable for the state of my department, not the people in the department who were doing the best that they could given how crazy things were. Thankfully, I moved past the anger quickly because that same day I had a job interview, but I found it odd that I felt livid knowing that I was also relieved I no longer would have to deal with the messiness and people in that company. Just know when you do get laid off it’s normal to feel several different emotions simultaneously and that every person processes this sort of thing differently.
It’s not worth being upset for more than a day.
When something like this happens, you have every right to be pissed off, sad, worried, stressed, and any other emotion that you might be feeling. But the one thing I had to remind myself was that I was laid off, not fired so yes, while the situation sucked it wasn’t due to my job performance or inability to the job. The decision to let people go was so the organization could consolidate my department to one location. That is something I had no control over, and it’s important to remember that when you find yourself feeling cynical during the job search.The reality is that most people will probably experience being laid off at some point in their life, and sadly it’s more normal than you might realize. So go ahead, feel disappointment and process it however you need to. Need to have a good cry and eat and drink your emotions in some high calorie foods and booze? Go for it. Need to have a curse-filled rant to your friends and family about how much you hate the company and the people who work there? That’s okay, let it out. But once you’ve done all that, then you can have to pick yourself up, hold your head high, and tell yourself that you’re going to find a great job that you’ll be even happier in. Whatever you need to do to cope with the news just do it for a day and then move on. Remember it’s only a job. It’s not worth more than a day’s worth of tears.
Don’t become a hermit.
When you get laid off and don’t have a job immediately lined up, it can be scary not knowing where your income will be coming from to pay your bills. With that being said, don’t suddenly become a hermit because you’re worried that you’ll suddenly deplete what’s in your checking and/or savings account. Instead, reassess your budget and see where you can pull back on something. Maybe cut back on your trips to your favorite coffee shop or eat in instead of grabbing something outside. Spend time doing activities that you enjoy. However, don’t deprive yourself of going out and spending time doing things that you enjoy. That was something my family had to remind me of because when I’d Facetime with them, they would ask me what I had been up to and I’d say something along the lines of “Nnothing just staying in.” It’s unhealthy not to see people particularly when you’re in a funk, so don’t do that to yourself. One of the worst things you can do to yourself when you’re let go from a job is to isolate yourself from the people you care about.
Take breaks from applying for jobs.
Applying for the first job following your lay off can be difficult because 1) you’re still reeling from the news so it’s difficult to focus on applying for jobs or 2) you’re applying for any and all the jobs because it feels like a scary situation being unemployed. It’s easy to start applying for anything and everything because you want something to happen, so it’s good to take periodic breaks. Apply for jobs during the week, but take a break on the weekends and do other things that make you happy.
Ask yourself what you really want in your next job.
Being let go from a position forces you to be more introspective. It’s a great opportunity to determine what you want in your next role and what you value in a company. For me, I was leaving a toxic work environment that was the result of an acquisition. Not receiving direction and a lack of communication across teams is the stuff of nightmares in a job. It was also hard to know who you could really trust from the company that acquired you. All the red flags I saw in this job were the opposite of what I wanted in my next job.
Stay positive and know the right job will come your way.
Job hunting is a time-consuming and exhausting process and you’ll feel a roller coaster of emotions as you’re applying, interviewing, and waiting. Always know your worth and believe that an awesome job opportunity will come your way when the timing is right. The thing is that you can do everything right…write an eye-catching cover letter, have an impressive resume, kick-ass at all the interviews, but if the job doesn’t work out, then it’s not meant to be. Just keep applying and don’t dwell on the rejection for too long. It’s hard to put into practice because it does affect your self-esteem, but stay focused on the end goal and think positive.
With the career path I’ve chosen, I’m aware there’s a real possibility I could find myself being in the midst of another acquisition. And with a merger brings the stresses of potentially being laid off. I try not to think about it because it’s a normal occurrence. As terrible as it was, I’ve learned what I value most in a company and position, and I can now identify red flags at a company so I can decide if I need to move on or not. Those are lessons that I would never have learned working in a positive work environment and weirdly I’m grateful that I had this experience.
Chandra is southern born, hailing from the underrated city that is Birmingham, Alabama. Now she’s calling Chicago her new home to explore. She might be guilty of using the word “y’all” too often and appreciates the awesomeness that is grits. She likes to work out, but only because it allows her to eat pizza and chocolate guilt-free. She is always willing to marathon the Harry Potter movies or watch a classic film and hopes to travel more in the future so she can continue to add to her postcard collection.