Ever notice how resources for managing layoff anxiety often sound like they're coming from the terminators, not the terminat-ees? Or worse, they sound entirely AI-generated (and not in a good way).
Here at Trusted Referral Network, we tell it like a friend, not like a robot. So, as your living, breathing, internet friend who's recovered (not once, not twice, but three times) from abrupt termination of breadwinning employment, Jo Soria is uniquely qualified to tell you: you can get through this.
Life with Layoff Anxiety
Don't Panic. - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Google. Boeing. Salesforce. Disney. LinkedIn has a page dedicated to tracking industry layoffs in real-time, including—in a dark, meta moment—their own.
I get it. It's looking scary out there, especially now that mass layoffs are shocking in a tech world we once thought was bubble-wrapped against the economic turmoil that haunts the rest of us.
But there's a specific backhanded expertise that develops from not once, not twice, but thrice surviving what many consider the worst-case workforce scenario: ending the day with only a cardboard box of Kleenex and desk snacks where a full-time, benefitted job used to be. And I intend to use this strange expertise to shed some light on what it means to live with and ultimately move on from layoff anxiety.
So whether you've been laid off or are worried it's coming, here are some of my go-to tactics and notes to self. Trust me; I'm an expert.
1. Learn the Art of the Pivot
(and don't skip this part just because you don't get the Friends reference)
The trick here is to stay light on your feet and learn to sniff out where money is going. Even if the money is leaving your particular industry or type of role right now, it has to be going somewhere.
Here's where you begin to separate the negotiables from the non-negotiables as you plot your next move. Let's say you work in tech as a software developer. Do you have some cash saved so you can take your time finding your next role? Or are you working against the clock to get something else lined up, even if you compromise on the industry sector or work in an office instead of remotely for a while?
Some pivot points I work through when I'm plotting:
Can I swing to another vine on the same branch?
Are there related industry sectors I could pursue that are thriving right now? In the case of our previously mentioned software developer, for instance, AgeTech and HealthTech are booming and could offer more secure options.
Is bigger always better?
Sure, the big companies have status and perks, but the small businesses are growing and hiring amidst the doom-and-gloom news of Big Business slumps. What opportunities may be out there in small to mid-sized companies?
Can I go out on my own to float through a rough patch… and maybe beyond?
In my case, some independent research and a (FREE!) consultation with my local Small Business Development Center were instrumental in helping me get my ducks in a row and ultimately leap into starting my own business.
2. Explore the World of Networking
(and don't tune this part out just because you're an introvert)
Networking often gets a bad rap as a slick business card swap between Wolf of Wall Street types, but trust me, networking can open doors you didn't previously know existed.
In fact, let's not even call it networking; let's call it relationship-building because that's really what it's all about. The good news is that whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, there are plenty of options for boosting your in-person or digital visibility.
One of the mistakes I made in my early career was quietly working away at my desk and just hoping someone would notice it. Spoiler alert: no one did!
While you don't necessarily have to toot your own horn to find success, you may need to branch out from your daily duties in some way so you can begin to develop visibility and backup plans. Within one year of my focused networking efforts, I was receiving job offers for roles I didn't even know about before.
If you're feeling insecure in your current job, the temptation can be to withdraw further from the outside world. Resist that temptation! Give yourself a chance to be seen through the eyes of someone other than the people at your work, many of whom may be stressing you out lately anyway.
Low-pressure ways to dip your toe into the networking pool include:
Volunteering for a cause where your skills are needed (or you can go to pet shelter puppies, which is pretty great, too)
Joining social media groups that focus on your professional or personal interests
Attending some professional development training through a local business group or chamber of commerce
Dusting off your resume and asking a mentor (outside of your employer) for feedback on it
3. Take Care of Yourself
(and don't ignore me on this one just because you think you haven't "earned" it)
Comfort foods, comfort shows, and comfort habits are all allowed, really. After a layoff, I used to think I hadn't earned the right to relax again until I was re-employed, but that was a counterproductive mistake that probably cost me a few job offers in the long run. I specifically remember some shaky, sleep-deprived interviews due to ignoring my need for rest.
Nowadays, when it comes to snagging some rest between massive writing sprees, Dawson's Creek is my go-to comfort show. It's okay to take time for self-care and brain breaks.
Rule of thumb: if you've watched Dawson and Joey get together, break up, and get back together again, all in the same watch session, that might've been too long of a brain break. (Not that I'm speaking from personal experience). Just not too many breaks and treats.
4. Never Underestimate the Power of a Hype Crew
(and don't tune this one out just because you don't want to "burden" your friends)
"For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack."
- The Jungle Book
As a marketing and communications professional, I work in a field that's often seen as dispensable and is usually first in line for layoffs when times get tough. Because of this, marketing types often band together into scrappy little support groups to hype each other up when we need it.
5. Never, Ever, Ever Believe That Your Entire Worth is Tied to Your Employment
(don't skip this one just because you don't want a "pep talk"
Even if you love your job, there's still more to you than your job. Even when your boss talks down to you, or your co-worker steals the credit from you, even if the shadow of joblessness looms over you and puts that Monday morning pit in your stomach, you're more than that job.
Security doesn't come from any employer; it comes from you: your skills, your preparation, your ability to adapt and be proactive, your resourcefulness, and your resilience. Take it from me—a working professional who lived through a Groundhog Day-style scenario of job loss—the decision to protect your self-worth in the face of uncertainty is life-changing.
Life After Layoff
One day, if you leave the office without that job, take a deep breath and let go of any notion that this is a negative reflection on you. Leave the branded promotional items, grab the goodies from your snack drawer, and ride into the sunset.
From now on, you're on a mission to find other human beings who believe in long-term relationships, integrity, and trust. It might take a little time, but don't worry; your people are out there. It doesn't matter what kind of situation you came from: there's life beyond the layoff.
We're out here.