Last week I was laid off from my job. If you have ever lost a job, you will be familiar with the panic, stress, anger, and sense of failure that comes with it. That was certainly true the first time I had ever lost a job.
What’s interesting in this case is that my reaction was a combination of confusion and relief. I was confused because I had worked so hard and expected to be rewarded for that work. I was relieved because I realized I wouldn’t have to make the commute the next day. I hear that the strangest things will run through your minds during a time of stress. That was certainly true in this case.
Of course, I am worried about what this will do to our finances and how this will impact our future. But, the relief was overwhelming. I found myself comforting former colleagues instead of feeling sorry for myself. I found myself thinking about how many times I dreaded that 60+ mile one way commute.
It occurred to me that this might not be so bad. I was already considering quitting my job and possibly going freelance. The practical side of me wouldn’t allow me to seriously contemplate such a risky choice, at least not until I felt we had made more headway on our debt (only one student loan left to pay off) and I could seriously work on upping our retirement fund. But, the layoff happened and I had to move on.
Everything crystallized for me after the initial shock wore off. There are tons of upsides to my current situation. I just had to really examine them in order to understand it. So, here is what I found:
My commute sucked! I now have the opportunity to focus on my search. Only now, I can also focus on all of those household things that I kept putting off because I was road weary and still needed to get a bit more work done before calling it a day. In other words, no more excuses when it comes to the life part of the “work/life balance” equation.
I’m extremely versatile. When I had to sit down and look at my work experience, skill set, and history, I realized just how many different things I know how to do. Some of the things I can do don’t exactly mesh with the things that I want to do for a living. But, it’s good to have options. I know what my worst case scenario is and can do everything I can to avoid that last resort.
There is a difference between “work buddies” and friends. The first time I was let go from a job, I was humiliated. I felt that I had made friends and now that I was no longer working there, they would think less of me. That was the first time I found out many of the friends I made at work were actually my friends and not just my work buddies. This time was no different. I was so overwhelmed by the support I received that I didn’t know how to respond. It’s probably why I ended up consoling colleagues rather than feeling sorry for myself.
I can focus on what I want to do. I have spent the majority of my life working. My parents always told me that you cannot get anywhere if you aren’t willing to work for it. There was also the reward that came from working. I have to tell you that in this small window of time, when I have a severance cushion and lots of irons in the fire, I can actually see what I want. Now I have to make it happen. The funny thing is that I have found leads based solely on what I enjoy and what suits me best.
My work there was done. If my employer ever thought of me as a person, they also considered my position, skill set, work ethic, and overall knowledge. If, after considering all of that, they still chose to separate from me all I can do is rejoice in the fact that I am no longer there.
Don’t get me wrong! Losing a job is awful! No matter how many times you try to look for the silver lining, you find the thing that tells you how awful it is. Personally, I think that people hold on to jobs long after they should have moved on out of fear. It’s completely reasonable, and I’ve done it many a time. A miserable person will at least find security in their misery. The unknown always seems so much scarier than a bad current situation.
But, losing a job can also be liberating. You know who your real friends are, and you have a better idea about what you want from your next job. Trying to distill what you want from your next job into a perfect fit for you, is the real challenge. But, it is a worthy challenge and one that is well worth the initial panic and stress.
I don’t wish unemployment on anyone. But, I think that everyone who has lost a job can understand that it’s that minute when you have to decide between what you need to do and what want to do that will make all of the difference. Hopefully, the two will fit together perfectly, but if it doesn’t, what you want to do will become a major goal as you do what you have to do.
This is the second time in my more than 20 years of employment that I was let go from a job. In both cases, I realized I hadn’t done anything wrong. I did everything I could. I was loyal, I was hard working, and I was the biggest team player that any company could ever ask for. And that has to be consolation enough.
I can only count myself lucky that my consolation comes with a severance and endless opportunity.
Have you ever been laid off or otherwise terminated from a position? What was your initial reaction? How did you move forward? I would love to learn from you, so please feel free to share your insights in the comments, or share your experience with me on Twitter!