Surviving Getting Laid Off

Once upon a time I had a job that I loved. I had great teammates, and I was doing good work. I looked forward to getting to work every day. One day it came to an abrupt end.

I was laid off.

What I want to talk about is what came next. I felt like I did a lot of things to help deal with the trauma of losing a job that could help others.

This won’t be about landing a new job, it is more about what you can do in your life in general so that you deal with getting laid off in the healthiest way possible.

Get to a place of acceptance

When I was laid off, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. The company already had one round of layoffs, and there wasn’t an abundance of my kind of work in the pipeline.

So when the time did come, my then-employers stressed that it was not performance related, but was a necessary business decision.

By and large, a layoff is a business decision. You need to really internalize that and accept it. It is not a reflection of you, and your worth.

A layoff can be a traumatic event, and this acceptance can be the hardest thing to achieve. The rest of the activities listed in this post helped me get to this place of acceptance and stay there.

Focus on a project

Right after I got told I was being let go, I called my wife. Her initial response was this:

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“Hey! That means you can put down the mulch in our yard!”

It was invaluable.

As quickly as is possible try to identify some kind of project that you can throw yourself into. Do you have any “honey-do” tasks that have been waiting for some time? Is there a volunteer project that appeals to you?

My project meant several days of menial labor in our yard. It gave me something to focus on, and I got a feeling of accomplishment from it.

Smell the roses you’ve been meaning to stop for

I kept my kids home from school one day and took them to the zoo. We had a great time, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do it.

When was the last time you went to the zoo? An art museum? Gone for a day hike? This is the time to do those things.

Think back over the last couple years to all those moments when you said, “If I had a bit of time, I’d love to [do activity x]”. You have my permission now to do all of them.

When you do land a new job, you won’t look back in regret at the things you should’ve taken the opportunity to do.

Learn something new

This will stray a bit into professional development, but now is also the time to learn something new. Try some online classes on a subject that you’ve been meaning to get around to learning, but just haven’t had the chance.

Browse your library’s shelves for something that grabs your attention. Do a search on YouTube for a particular skill.

If you’re a front end developer like me, you’ll have no shortage of methodologies, frameworks, and technologies to try and learn. What about skills that are tangential to your work – Excel, anyone?

I took advantage of a free trial at a video instruction site, and learned a lot of next-level JavaScript that I wouldn’t have had the chance to learn about otherwise.

Maintain your routine as much as possible

It’s important to try to maintain your daily routine, even if you no longer are going to an office. This is not the time to start lounging around in your pajamas all day. Get up when you usually get up. Eat meals when you usually eat meals.

This isn’t to say there won’t be any change — of course there will be. Be sure it’s a deliberate and conscious decision based on your new reality.

With kids in daycare, there really wasn’t much of a chance to change my routine, but keeping a similar cadence to when I was employed helped my frame of mind.

Get more physically fit

In the web industry, there usually isn’t a great emphasis placed on physical health. This is a chance for you to take up some form of physical activity to get in better shape.

Something that really, really helped me was that I became a regular runner while I was unemployed. I usually ran at least every other day, and because I had more time, I was able to have longer runs than I was used to having.

This helped because I was able to get a feeling of accomplishment while also helping me physically feel better. This is both because of generally feeling in good cardio vascular shape but also the endorphins that come from exercising.

Because of this I was able to avoid slipping into self pity and doubt. If you feel physically good, it’s a lot harder to feel mentally bad about yourself.

You will get through this

When looking back at my period of unemployment, the thing that strikes me most is how busy I ended up being. That’s the feeling you need to strive for in order to deal with the situation — keep yourself occupied, and avoid periods of self pity.

If you try doing some of the suggested activities above — all the while trying to find a new job — you should have no problem staying busy.

I’m going to write a follow-up post about the job search process, too, and some tips that helped me.