That's a sentence that none of us ever want to hear. I know that I didn't. But that's exactly the news that I was given at the end of last year. Which, now that I think about it, was just the cherry on top for a pretty...WILD year.
I had never been laid off, downsized, or in any other way let go from a job before. I was always the one doing the leaving. But, since the pandemic struck over 23 million people lost their jobs. So, I know it wasn't me alone that was going through these waves of emotions.
My immediate reaction was to push the whole incident deep down, recover and find employment as quickly as possible, and sort of pretend the whole thing never happened. But, after a few months, I feel ready to share my experience since, as the statistics indicate, many of us may be going through the same thing.
So, today, I want to talk about the impact of losing your job, especially in a pandemic, and how I navigated the emotions as well as took practical steps to recover.
Getting the News and Denial
To say that a retail food company would be facing layoffs during a pandemic isn't exactly reading a crystal ball. In fact, by the time I was laid off, this was the second, or maybe third time an announcement was made (the details are all a bit fuzzy).
But, I worked in Food Safety and Quality Assurance, and our team was relatively small, so I felt "safe." Also, I was the first member of my team hired at my level, so if 'first in, last out' held any weight, I should be mostly fine.
That wasn't to be, however, and a few weeks before Christmas hit an announcement came out, I immediately messaged my manager to understand my status and I got the news that I was "impacted." I kind of felt like the wind got knocked out of me.
Fear and embarrassment were the pervasive emotions that came in waves. At that point, it was hard for me to feel validated as a capable professional and reconcile the fact that I was about to lose my paycheck and health benefits.
Just Wait and See, You'll Be Sorry
As the days and weeks dragged on, I caught myself oscillating between replaying all my accomplishments and how much I'd given to the company, and every shortcoming I ever experienced.
On one hand, I felt extremely confident that they'd soon miss my expertise and leadership, but on the other hand, I felt extremely insecure about any less-than-stellar moments. Not to mention, there was a nagging feeling of 'what might I have done differently?'
That's why I wasn't surprised when I found out that, the longer you experience unemployment in the United States, the more likely you are to report symptoms of psychological unease, according to a 2014 Gallup poll.
That is, it was normal that I was going a bit stir-crazy, and re-living every piece of work I completed was never going to yield productive results. I had always actively sought out feedback and I needed to lean into those learnings, not overanalyze every detail now.
One Day at a Time
Despite my head swirling with future probabilities of how my life would inevitably fall apart. Ending with me wife-less and living back at my parent's house in Jamaica, I received a lot of support from my immediate family and friends.
The thing is when you lose your job, your gut reaction is to tell no one because then everyone will know you're a failure. It's making what's happening to you all too real. And remember, the goal is to keep things under wraps until you get a new job, then you can tell people.
But that's now how real life works, I knew immediately that I was going to need support and while it was challenging, I made sure to seek it from my close friends and family. I didn't tell everyone, and it sure wasn't a pity party. But, I am thankful that I was comforted and encouraged.
Hope for Better Days to Come
Another area where I was very fortunate was the job market. My previous job was kind enough to make some introductions and one of them was turning out positively. I also got some callbacks pretty quickly after applying on LinkedIn, which was fantastic.
I found callbacks and even preliminary interviews to be massively empowering. Having my capabilities recognized and validated, while not necessary, was impactful. It reiterated that I had much to offer and what I believed about myself inside was also recognized externally.
Next, what I found was that my network had my back. I began reaching out to different colleagues from different points in my career and those short conversations alone opened up a whole world of opportunities.
While my days started to feel repetitive - applications, networking calls, interviews, repeat - I felt accomplished going through the motions. I felt like I was having an active part in contributing to the next stage of my life instead of just waiting for something to happen.
In the end, while the change is still fresh and there has been a lot of change, I happy with the outcome of this transitionary period for my family. Sometimes, a job loss can feel like the worse thing that could ever have happened, but other times, it can be the spark for meaningful change.
Throughout the rest of the month, I want to do a deeper dive into my journey through job loss and coming out pretty intact on the next side. I've had a lot of learnings and strategies that helped me to remain whole and productive and I hope you'll be able to benefit from them. Stay tuned.