I’m just 25, but I’ve already been laid off from a job. To be fair, it was a newspaper job, which means I’m in really good company—newspapers are dying and all that. But, for me, it was a “dream” job, a career, a place where I’d scored a no-pay internship that morphed into a freelance gig that turned into a full-time job offer. It was my first “big girl” job and I was totally and completely smitten.
And, then I got the axe. It wasn’t something I had emotionally prepared for, mostly because I figured if anyone was going to be cut, it wouldn’t be me—the one who was undoubtedly paid the least but was teaching everyone in the newsroom how to use this new-fangled thing called “technology.”
It happened quick, which I’m thankful for. One minute I was writing an article; the next moment I was in HR being told it was over and no, I couldn’t go get my purse before I left, and yes, I would be escorted out by security. They said it wasn’t because of my work and it was nothing personal, but God, it sure felt that way.
We were breaking up, the newspaper and me. I’d been skipping along happily, buying us dinners and getting his name tattooed on my shoulder and looking at him lovingly, adoringly, thinking we’d totally be together forever. But the newspaper was secretly plotting ways to dump me.
I was as blindsided as if it had been a real break-up. I could do nothing but bow my head, try to make a gracious exit (difficult when your nose is all red and your makeup is trailing down your face and you feel like melting into a puddle of nonexistence), and move on. Only, moving on wasn’t exactly something I could fathom, at least, not at that moment in time. I was a mess, I was sad, I was depressed. I felt useless. I felt like a failure.
Those feelings didn’t dissipate for a long time. Sometimes, when I think really hard about it, it still stings just a little. But I survived. I’m onto job number two post-break-up with Newspaper, I’m freelancing, I’m volunteering, and things are good.
But lord knows it took me a really long time to get there.
So if you’ve ever been laid off, if you may be laid off in your future, or if you’re currently laid off now (all of which I hope are not true), here are a few things to know.
1. It’s not you, it’s them. Usually, anyway. With how abysmal the economy is these days — with budget cuts and failing businesses and a long, uphill battle to success — most companies simply can’t afford to keep people on payroll. That was the case for me. I was given the boot alongside 30 or so others, many of whom had been working at the company for decades, and who were among the most dedicated, hard-working individuals I’d ever seen. They weren’t let go because they were bad at their job or because they were failures; they were let go because the business world is vicious.
2. You’re not alone. It hardly helps, I know, but you aren’t the only one who is or has been laid off. Take comfort in that fact. It’s not personal, my love. It just is what it is.
3. There’s no shame in signing up for unemployment benefits right away. Don’t waste a moment. Unemployment benefits exist for precisely for situations like this. Take advantage. And, when you’re feeling up to it, look into some of your state’s resources. Many will have advice about breaking back into the workplace. Until then…
4. You are not a failure. It feels like you are, but you’re not. Ever.
5. It’s okay to mourn. There is this feeling of loss, of restlessness, of hopelessness. It may feel dark. You will probably be very sad. That’s all okay.
6. It will feel surreal. For a while, anyway. I got let go on a Thursday. After hours of sobbing, suddenly I just went about my regular Thursday evening routine. I prepared dinner for my boyfriend and me. We watched our evening shows. We relaxed. We went to bed by 11. The next morning, I woke up, ready to tackle Friday—only to realize I had nowhere to go.
7. It may feel embarrassing. It did for me. I could hardly believe it when I had lunch with a former co-worker and she asked what I was doing that day. I could barely utter the answer, which was “nothing.”
8. People will say the wrong thing. They won’t mean to, but they will. Try not to let it get to you.
9. Give yourself time to cope. If that means you spend two weeks lying in bed eating ice cream, so be it.
10. Have an “end date” for your mourning. Then, do the best you can to get back to some semblance of normalcy.
11. The sadness ebbs and flows. You may have a few really great days, and then one day that feels just as awful as Day One, post-lay-off. It’s normal.
12. Do things that make you feel good. Anything that takes your mind off of what’s happened. Kudos if it also benefits you professionally.
13. And, speaking of professionalism, think about what comes next. The sooner you start to think about the next step, the better.
14. A job probably won’t just fall in your lap. So, be on the look-out. Talk to people. Network. Sign up for every online job alert imaginable.
15. Spruce up your resume. Be sure to sell yourself. You deserve a job that is as wonderful as you are.
16. Practice your skills. That means your interview skills, but also whatever it is your career involves. I blogged. It helped.
17. No job is too big. Apply to them all, even if it’s a long shot. You don’t know who will get back to you.
18. Re-evaluate what you want to do. Sure, starting over from scratch isn’t always an option, but perhaps a shift in your career’s direction will help. Think about the things you want. Do what you can to work toward it.
19. Don’t give up. I was out of work for nearly a year—and every moment without a call back, without an interview, without so much as an email response, left me feeling hopeless. But, I didn’t give up. You can’t either.
20. It gets better. As someone who has been there, as someone who struggled to rise out of the darkness, as someone who hated every waking moment of unemployment, I pinky promise you, it does. You’ll be okay.