Laid Off, Now What?

Disclaimer: If your work life is going great and you’re secure with yourself, then you can skip this article and use the time you would have spent reading and having fun instead. Have a fancy tea or coffee with all the custom add-ons. You’ve earned it friend! If you’re worried about your job and lifestyle, however, then this is the article for you. You won’t get fancy tools or links to solutions here. What you will get is an unapologetic reframe of how losses and fears can make you powerful. Censorship will be minimal and honesty ample. Let’s get to it.

Losing f**king sucks. There’s no way to make it feel good at the moment when you first realize it’s happened. One by one the old cliches swim around our heads like a sad/angry mix tape being played by an undesirable person we now hate holding a boombox above their head right outside our bedroom windows. Best of all, the top hits that just make us feel like sh*t are blasting at full volume. Classics such as — ‘I don’t deserve this.’, ‘Why me!’, Haven’t I suffered enough already?’ and my personal favorite, ‘How dare you!’.

Fairness is the lie we tell ourselves to try and face a world that just isn’t capable of making things go our way all the time. Sometimes things work out, but just as often they don’t and our working lives are no different.

The reality of how replicable we are in the workforce has not struck so hard since the collapse of the North American market system in 1929. If you know your history, that decade saw a spike in third-world style poverty in a once thriving post-WW1 economy, a sharp spike in suicides in fine suits, families faced prolonged starvation with the average household only being able to provide 1,000 calories per day per family member, homelessness spiked and layoffs were merciless. Today, like the sad mixtape, many millions are facing these same challenges that as a society we foolishly believed we’d overcome forever — reminding us of the stark reality that nothing, no matter how long it takes, lasts forever.

If you’re reading this then you’re either worried for your livelihood or you’ve just lost your source of income due to factors you couldn’t have predicted. You have every right to be upset and scared, but let’s face it — when was the last time negative emotions and panic led to a good outcome for you? I’d be willing to bet it’s been a while and that list is pretty short.

We’re replicable. That’s the bottom line. We can be negative about it, or we can see it as the reality that can set us free from being a slave to everything we don’t need. In this case, we’re slaves to all the items we buy that we don’t use. We’re a slave to the suit we bought for work that has that tight ‘chokey’ feeling around the collar that constantly reminds us we’re uncomfortable wearing it. It’s the big house that’s downing us in debt that forces us to earn a living doing things we hate for a place we basically just eat, sleep, and sh*t in. We visit our homes and live at our jobs while we lie to ourselves about how valuable we are there.

Am I the only one who thinks that we’re living an ass-backward lie for no other reason than to be a ‘success’ in the eyes of people who wouldn’t come to our funeral after we’ve given them our best years?

Like I said in the disclaimer, if you’re happy then don’t keep reading. You’re not the audience for this. I’m not putting this article out to discount or judge people on how they live. Happiness is what matters above anything else and everybody has a different version of what that means. But if this resonates, then let’s keep going.

If some of the above sound like you, then what do you do now that mass layoffs are on the maps of even the biggest companies that have dominated employment markets for decades?

According to data findings published by Investopedia, between 2020 and 2022 alone, massive corporations that once had the concept of job security all but resolved like Meta, Snap, Amazon, and huge investment firms like JPMorgan have all had one or several rounds of layoffs that ranged from 1% to an alarming 35%+. Bear in mind that layoffs tend to happen in the lower ranks of these types of companies. There are acceptions, but most of the time the newest and youngest employees are the first on the chopping blocks. The once ‘secure forever job’ dream is now a waking nightmare as hundreds of thousands of young adults, many with crippling student loans and new mortgages and car debts to pay now struggle to make ends meet and skip meals to hold onto the nice stuff they ‘own’ that was bought on credit with interest attached.

How can something so unheard of happen you might as? Easy. It’s not unheard of. Just like in the time of the great depression less than 100 years ago, we’re seeing the results of bad education, unrealistic expectations, and a complete misalignment of values play itself out like the mixtape at your window.

As bad as this all seems, don’t lose hope. There’s a chance of redemption for yourself here if you’re willing to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself a question you should have asked a long time ago but have been conditioned away from. 

That question is — ‘Who am I, really?’

From the time we enter pre-school to our high school graduation, we’re told how to act, what to think, what we need to be happy, and who we need to be to get the most out of the world as it has shaped itself. This could not be a worse way of teaching youth about what it means to have a fulfilling life. 

Year after year we’re asked WHAT we want to be when we grow up instead of WHO we want to be.

This may not seem like a driving factor in the mass layoffs and disparity in our youth and aging workforce alike, but trust me. It is.

Allow me to give an example of what I mean.

If you ask a ten-year-old WHAT they want to be when they grow up, they’ll have vastly imaginative answers. Some will say a vet, others an artist, others would say professional diver, others would say astronaut. These are easy and common answers that don’t do justice to a child’s imagination but you get the point. If you’re a parent you can easily replicate this with children of all ages who haven’t yet graduated high school. The interesting thing about the answers children give to this question isn’t the profession or aspiration itself, but that it reflects a deeper part of who they are as people. The child says the vet has a strong love of animals. The one who says the artist has a strong love of being creative and wants to share that part of themselves with others. The one who says a professional diver has a love for adventure and the seas. The one who said astronaut is an expansive dreamer who can’t help but dream about the chance to explore the world and discover things beyond what they can imagine.

If you paid close attention, all of these have a common theme. Each tells the story of WHO this child, this person, is rather than WHAT they want to be. It’s rare that when asked the question of career path any child would answer with things like; marketing expert, lawyer, copywriter, influencer, real estate agent, or tech support. Don’t get me wrong, these are important jobs that need to be done and some people do enjoy them. I myself have done several of these over the years. That being said, I didn’t get these ideas into my head until the eleventh grade when I was told how I should look to make a living. 

And that’s the root of the layoff issue. Nobody thinks of it that way, but it is.

How many adolescents are given the same advice on what career they should go for? A few dozen? A few hundred? No. Millions of them. They’re given the same handful of answers that lack any real original thought or consideration for who this unique individual is or what they may want to aspire to. Worse still, the schools we currently have aren’t equipped to handle the demands of the job markets that will be facing youth upon graduation. The systems are outdated and more often than not there is a lag of up to a decade or more in the validity of the current curriculum vs the expectations in the jobs as they exist today.

A great example of this hitting big on the podcast circuit recently is ChatGPT — the writing software that is putting thousands of writers out of work as I write this. I don’t need to repeat the stats on this for you to understand it so I won’t bother. What college or university writing program that can cost a small fortune depending on the institution could have possibly designed or adapted its curriculum to prepare its students for a world that will no longer need most of them upon graduation thanks to automation?

ChatGPT isn’t bad. It’s a tool just like any other. Cashiers are becoming less common thanks to self-checkout and that has benefits because it makes more people able to go down different paths. The argument could be made that what other line of work is there, and the answer would be — every other. The same is now true for marketing and content writers. The difference is that writers are still writers and can still write whatever they want if that’s what they love to do. It’s all in how you see something, not the thing itself. But schools can’t teach what they don’t know is coming and that’s the reality we live in.

With the narrow band of careers, our culture presents our youth, it’s no wonder so many of them end up training en mass in all the same avenues of employment that then become oversaturated to the degree that makes mass layoffs in economic downturns are not just a possibility, but an avoidable fact.

The past three to four years have been nothing more than the acceleration of the out-of-control freight train that had already left the station decades ago but has now simply blown out its brakes.

As a youth or an aging veteran of the workforce that has now decided it doesn’t need you or may do so soon, how could you possibly deal with this problem of both the changing demand in the workforce and the helplessness of feeling like you have nothing else you can do for work?

The answer is to finally look in the mirror and get back in touch with the child you once were and ask the question you should have been asked all those years ago in your most formidable neuro—plastic years with a slight twist; ‘WHO do I want to be now that I am grown up?’

Earning an income today has never been more flexible yet we’re still stuck in industrial-age thinking because that’s what the education system is designed to teach.

Don’t get me wrong, asking yourself who you want to be after a lifetime of conditioning and all your obligations is no small undertaking. Many of us, including me, have gone down paths laid out for us that don’t match the wants and needs of the wide-eyed children we once were. It will be a painful process of further losses, tears, self-reflection, learning, pain, and harsh judgments both from yourself and the people around you. I wish I could tell you there was an easier path. But if you made it this far reading this article then you deserve the truth.

Although the road will be long, there are a few helpful points I can make that could prove useful.

There are nearly limitless options for you to consider. Remember that you’re reframing your whole framework of work/life balance here so be ambitious in your goals and expectations!

Start A Structured Journaling Practice

One of the most useful tools for such a difficult undertaking is tracking your thoughts in real-time as they come up. Not only is this useful for working out complex emotions and thoughts, but over time you start to create a more complete record of who you are and what you want. At my lowest point, I wrote 1 journal entry roughly every two to three days for almost two years. Over that period, I got to know myself on a much deeper level by going back on past entries and re-reading old notes. You’ll see positives and negatives in this process and that’s ok. The most negative thing is usually rooted if failing to consider problems, and not identifying them. This practice taught me how to be honest with myself, especially about my ideas of work and life direction having to be fulfilling and authentic rather than habitual — a mistake far too many of us never become aware of.

Stop Caring About What People Think Of You — Especially People Who Care Too Much About Material Goods

We have too much stuff and we’re told we need more constantly to affirm our confidence and success. This is a mental illness of society, period. It has no basis in practicality, the natural order, or factor into how much people love us. If it does, get those people out of your life immediately. They want to look good beside you and that’s about where it ends when the chips are really down. If you don’t believe me, you can make people take a sh*t test simply by changing your lifestyle slowly over time based on how you feel and what you want. Once you come into your own, fake people tend to fall away pretty quickly because you’re showing confidence in the area they’re the weakest in — aware and honest self-image.

Be Ready To Lose Now So You Can Gain More oF Yourself Later

Career transitions are rough for a while. That’s why most people don’t try. You need to forget everything you know and maybe even take a huge pay cut to start at the bottom of an entirely new field and work your way back up for months or even years. This is a normal part of the undertaking so I’d say don’t let it get you down. If anything you should be proud of yourself for every day you show up because you’ll know you’re suffering and confused right now to be more of your true self in the near future. There are no shortcuts, only deep cuts.

Look Into Cross New Industries And Cross Reference With Current Lifestyle Goals

Money matters. There’s no way to avoid it. We need a place to live, we need to eat, we need clothes, amenities, time out with friends, and hobbies. Money is necessary for most of it so for this transition it’s best to still prioritize income potential to match the lifestyle you want. That said be careful about using old thinking with this new undertaking. The thinking that creates an oversaturated workforce is still a part of you and always will be. Make sure to be critical about the order of approach. I mentioned money first to highlight the importance of the basics of life, but for this shift in thinking, you should start with what you like to do for work and how your ideal lifestyle works around it all.

Quick Sidebar: My Personal Industry Migration Story

My personal vision of this leads me to work in landscaping and stonework construction as my primary work. That probably just blew some of your minds who expected that a blog writer would be mostly blogging? I love writing, it’s my passion. But for my main work, I decided to leave it behind. I found myself aging rapidly spending all my time at a desk when I worked as a marketing blog writer. My back ached, my belly grew, my mind weakened, and my mood declined daily being locked inside and pumping out product articles. At this stage of my life, I was thirty years old and COVID-19 was ramping up fast with lockdowns and businesses closing all around me. Eventually, I lost my contract too, and without warning or savings or knowing what the hell I was going to do. By the time I was laid off, I had created hundreds of individual publications and drafts — (some that never saw daylight online) and worked myself into severe depression and physical dismay. I decided writing needed to stay my passion rather than my curse. I took a look in the mirror, displeased with what I saw, and decided I’d go back to the industry I’d remembered enjoying much more than office life in my early 20s — building stone patios and working in gardens outside.

When I did my journaling practice I saw themes of enjoying working with my hands and doing puzzles come back over and over again. As an autistic, I get slightly obsessed with playing around with shapes and making things with them. Journaling helped me see how much I loved puzzles and playing outside in the sun. Not only that but days spent doing the heavy lifting and walking up to 15km to total space around properties would quickly, albeit painfully, bring my body back to the condition I preferred (and did it ever).

After a steep year of learning and having been fired once along the way, I got myself skilled enough to outearn what I used to make as a marketing writer a year earlier. My body has returned to health, I’m no longer suffering chronic mental fatigue and I’ve become a valued member of a large community of my employer’s customers who love my work and go above and beyond to make sure I know I’m appreciated for the work I do creating a space for them to enjoy their homes.

I wouldn’t have the freedom, the better quality of life, or the excitement to go to work in the morning if I hadn’t done the work in finding myself and dropping external expectations. There were challenges and not every day is without incident or even injury but I’m proud of what I do because I chose something that checked off more than one box on my list of job criteria. Most people look at money and timeline for what they can buy and when, or how long they can keep their sanity before retirement. I’ll gladly take looking like a f**king for a year or 2 while I learn my new skills over forty-plus years of only thinking about the money any day. No sane person should ever settle for less for a paycheck and nice stuff. We’ve seen what that’s done to the Boomers. Let’s avoid that, shall we?

Branch Out, Fail Forward — Putting It All Together

Building on our last few points, let’s put them all together. Following an extended period of journaling and getting in touch with yourself, you’ll have a complete idea of who you are and options on how you want to show up to the world from now on. Keep in mind that whatever ends up in your journals is likely your most authentic reflection. Don’t shy away from this once you enter the implementation phase. Some things you’ll like, some you won’t. That’s the point.

Keep in mind that coming into your own and having authenticity in who you are and how you want to make a living will cause two main reactions in everyone you know — some will cheer you on others will try to sabotage you. This distribution can be predicted with some level of accuracy, but sometimes people who you didn’t think would have your back will, and ones you thought would actually won’t and that’s ok. Other people aren’t living your life, you are. Spend time with the supporters and either manage the non-supporters or tell them to f**k off. How you deal with it is up to you, but remember that it’s your life, not theirs.

Consider what matters to you.

  • What do your health, lifestyle, objective, family, and long-term goals look like and what kind of work checks off as many of those boxes as possible?
  •  What have you always wanted to try doing? 
  • Do you need to go back to school? 
  • Is there an entry-level position that can train you to do a new kind of job that doesn’t require education but can build your skills to earn a great wage? 

These are some but not all of the questions to consider when going down a new road in terms of employment or even entrepreneurship. 

REMINDER — There are nearly limitless options for you to consider. Remember that you’re reframing your whole framework of work/life balance here so be ambitious in your goals and expectations!

Finally, Be Brave. This Might Hurt A Little

Going into the unknown is challenging if not downright terrifying. Your job interviews will be awkward when the question of experience comes up. When it does, take the opportunity, to be honest with the interviewer about where you’re at right now and what you’re trying to do. When it comes to jobs or ventures of any kind, character trumps skill. If an employer sees that you’re honest, willing to learn, and above all doing it for more than just money, your odds of landing the job go up exponentially. Employers are people, and they’ll be spending a lot of time with you. Knowing a bit about who you are and your situation will always be seen as a positive, even if you don’t get the job or work with the person you want to work with right away, the fact that they saw you’re honest and willing to learn could earn you work or collaboration down the line. It’s not easy to do and make sure you’re respecting your own boundaries with how much you reveal, but give enough of an idea and you’ll stand out thanks to it.

Good luck out there my friend. I encourage open discussion about this issue millions are currently facing. Use the comments section to share advice and help each other out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s