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What to Do When You Get Laid Off Besides Watch Kitten Videos

You may have noticed that the relaunch of the website occurred and then…  nothing. Radio silence. That’s partly due to the fact that just as 2016 hasn’t been a great year for the world, it’s also been like a rabid badger biting at my ankles on a personal level, too. The level of ankle-biting badgeriness has been increased by a multitude of different personal and professional reasons but it culminated in me losing my job two weeks ago.

After two and a half years working for a digital media start-up, I was laid off with three other people. I had already been interviewing and searching for another job for the last six months anyway but suddenly, I was in a position where I had to get a new job. Nothing lights a fire under your butt quite like gathering your things from your place of employment, going into the elevator of a building you will never use again after this final trip down to the lobby floor, and saying, “OH SHIT” to your reflection in the elevator when it finally sinks in that you, my friend, are no longer gainfully employed. You need to get a blazer and go to town on LinkedIn and didn’t John’s brother say his company was looking to hire?

I’m not complaining about what happened. If anything, being laid off has forced me to question what I actually want from my life and job instead of half-heartedly dog paddling through the lazy river of life. I was at a point in my writing career where I felt stagnant – I didn’t want to write, I felt incredibly unmotivated to write well and I certainly didn’t want to spend any extra time writing for my side site (SORRY, SKIRT COLLECTIVE) because it felt like an obligation instead of an outlet. Like a book report you have to do before summer is over.

Writing and being creative comes in fits and bursts for me – I don’t always feel confident in my writing. I don’t always have smart, articulate things to say that hasn’t already been said a million times, and more concisely. But now, two weeks into my period of unemployment, I realize that writing is still intrinsic to my identity and how I need and want to express myself. Even if I feel lazy or unmotivated, I need to keep doing it. In my opinion, writing is best done when it’s honest, to-the-point, and connects with readers. My favorite pieces of work from others have always been the ones where I’m nodding along, feeling connected – and that’s always been my goal, too. Writing can connect people in surprisingly intimate ways.

All of this fluff is to say that getting laid off set me free in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.

I realize that it’s not that way for everyone. I got lucky. I got severance for two weeks, I have savings I can fall back on, and I have a significant other who was able to pick up the slack in terms of finances. Regardless, I still have some advice if you’re newly laid off, like myself:

Step 1: Coming to terms with getting let go.

Being laid off is not the greatest feeling in the world – even though I felt a certain sense of relief, there’s also a little bit of failure sutured in there and it sucks. I would have wanted to leave the job on my own terms. But it happens. Your job and the company you work for isn’t something you control. You can do your best and sometimes that isn’t good enough or doesn’t matter.

Step 2: Re-evaluate what you want from life and  your next place of employment.

Getting laid off is a reset button, a brief interlude during which you can sit down and think about what you want. For me, it was realizing that maybe I didn’t want to go back to a desk job right away. I wanted to work with people, directly instead of being a weird internet person. (No offense to weird internet people.)

I had always pressured myself from the time I was a child and through adulthood to do something where my education wasn’t “wasted”. It’s too bad that art history degrees aren’t in high demand otherwise I’d be super employed right now. But the point is, I always wanted to have a plan: Get an entry level job where I’m writing (check). Write my little heart out (check). Move on to a bigger company and write some more (ooohh… empty, unchecked box here).

That didn’t work out so well for me. Life slapped me in the face with a reality check, you can’t go through life cozily checking off boxes while laughing and eating salad – which is what I imagine all career women do. Nobody goes through a series of professional to-do lists in order to get their dream job – and so many people are employed at jobs that are nowhere near their dream job.

Success is like a game of hopscotch, sometimes you’re going backward, sometimes sideways, but at the end of the day, in SOME aspect of your life, you’re going forward. (Question: is that how hopscotch works because it’s been a while…) It doesn’t matter if you’re going forward professionally. Personal growth may not count as much in terms of the size of your paycheck but it’s been the most rewarding process of realizing things are going to be okay, even with my lack of  a job right now.

You don’t HAVE to do anything. You don’t HAVE to have to get a job related to your degree. As soon as you take the pressure off yourself to follow a perfect guide to being a Super Successful Lady, life opens up. And that’s what happened to me. I’m realizing that my professional success needs to be redefined completely. “Started from the bottom ..now we’re a little sideways but also kinda up” – that doesn’t make for a catchy Drake song but it’s more true to life.

Step 3: Oh baby, it’s time to network the heck out of everything.

Now is the time to get your resume critiqued and update your LinkedIn profile. I recommend asking for outside advice and being ready to accept criticism as well. For me, it was my father who helped me edit out the weirdness that sometimes finds its way into my cover letters.

Try out the job app, Jobr which follows the app trend of ignoring vowels for the sake of “coolness” but is also a genuinely useful tool to check out local, open positions. It works like Tinder where you swipe left on jobs who say they’re “nice guys” and right on jobs with a solid beard and a dog/cat in their profile photo.

Okay, so cover letters and resumes are the worst – I absolutely hate writing them. But they serve a great purpose, especially cover letters. A good cover letter should summarize your professional achievements, explain why you’re interested in the job, and state why you’d be a great addition to the company. I will also begrudgingly admit that cover letters are crucial for letting your personality shine through because resumes, on the whole, tend to be pretty cut and dry.

Hiring managers probably read awful cover letters and resumes all the time, do yourself and them a favor and spend some real effort going HAM on them. However, be wary of templates and make sure both the resume and cover letter speak to your personality and professional strengths. Don’t include pictures of corgis drinking beer – this is apparently considered “unprofessional”.

Step 4: Reach out to your friends and family.

I think I can understand why some people may not want to share the news that they got let go from a job. Who wants to talk about failure in the era of carefully curated social media? Well, I recommend doing it anyway. The amount of people who sent me snail mail, who gave me pep talks both in person and online, and just reached out saying they were there for me and believed in me gave me the boost I needed to see my potential.

It really, really helps to reach out. You’re not alone.

Step 5: Prepare for your job interviews.

Print out a copy of your resume. Research the company. I personally didn’t find rehearsing helpful but maybe at least come up with 2-3 solid reasons you want the job you’re interviewing for besides saying, “I have no job so uh, yeah I kind of need this.”

Whatever you do, don’t show yourself in a negative light – don’t put yourself down. Even in a self-deprecating way, it looks bad to employers if you’re not confident and you think you can’t handle the job.

Own it. You’re here, you’re smart. You can do this. Plus, if you’ve gotten to the interview point of the process then you’re already being actively considered. Just make sure you do your homework.

Step 6: Be careful with your coping mechanisms.

Before I knew it, I started to drink every day once I was unemployed – which is an usual habit for me although, I do like a good dry cider with meals. I realized what was happening before it got to the point where it could be considered a “problem”. I don’t even think that it’s bad to drink frequently if it’s a reasonable amount – I just know for myself, I sleep better and feel better if I drink less. So, I nipped that one in the bud and now I’m more aware of how much I’m drinking, when, and why.

It’s normal to want to be sad – you lost your job! But alcohol isn’t the answer. Kitten videos are the answer.

Step 7: Keep a schedule and be productive.

Going to bed at 2am multiple nights in a row doesn’t exactly make me feel ready to jump back into the job world. In fact, one could say it leads to sluggishness and laziness the next day. I have tried to schedule out my days to make time for friends and family, to read, to clean, and to apply to jobs. I’ve also set time aside to exercise and go on challenging bike rides. It all helps keep me in a headspace where I feel like I’m not being a total unemployed degenerate.

So, if you find yourself unemployed, don’t despair. It’s not the end of the world, life goes on. This, too, shall pass. Keep your head up. Paint yo’ nails. And get out there.

Michelle Wilson

Michelle Wilson

Feminist made from equal parts internet cats and soy lattes. Preferred habitat: on a bike. Follow her on Instagram for unnecessary selfies and nonsensical hashtags: m.e.wilson

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