The first time I was laid off was 2001. You read that right. I’ve been laid off twice in my career. And, with some distance, I’ve come to appreciate how both of those instances have made me a better human being and a better coach. But, let me not get ahead of myself. In the moment, both experiences were disorienting in their own way.
In 2001, we had a six-month-old child. Tony had just resigned his position to be a full-time, stay-at-home dad. And, we had just put our home on the market to move closer to my work. To say that my being let go came as a surprise would be an understatement.
As someone who is very driven and dedicated to their career, this layoff really knocked me for a loop. My identity had become so enmeshed with my title that when the rug was pulled out from under me, I felt a bit rudderless. If I wasn’t my job, if I wasn’t the primary breadwinner, then who was I? What was my value to my family?
It took me a bit of time, introspection, and support from my family and friends to realize that I was much more than my title or the paycheck. Even so, I will tell you that this experience shook my confidence and colored my job search at the time. I looked for jobs that offered stability and security. I ended up in a large, longstanding, highly reputable organization where I was able to rebuild my self-confidence.
Interestingly, as my confidence grew, I found myself once again pushing the envelope, testing the limits of what the culture would bear. So, when I received a call from a headhunter about an opportunity to, once again, be the number two helping to shape the direction of a growing company, I took it.
It was a great run and we did a lot of amazing things. And then, in 2008 the economy took a nosedive. The company went from a high growth mode to a ‘shrink to survive’ mode. It was heartwrenching for the organization which had such a strong employee-centered culture. In 2009, after having conducted numerous lay-off conversations for the company, it was my turn.
The difference this time was two-fold. First, of course, I saw it coming. Second, though, is that I had a much stronger sense of self. I understood my strengths. I knew what was important to me. And, I knew that I would survive. All of these were lessons hard learned at the knee of the first lay-off.
The biggest difference, though, was that this time, rather than cocooning inward and privately licking my wounds, I immediately began reaching out. I recognized the importance of surrounding myself with people who would be able to help me see myself and the situation more objectively, people who could help me put things in perspective and help me continue moving forward. In other words, it was important for me to remember that, while I’d been laid off, I didn’t need to go it alone.