In 1999 I was laid off.
In all my blogs, interviews and speeches I’ve never actually talked about it. It’s because I’m ashamed. I hated being singled out of a group of fellow sales managers to wear the badge of “Not good enough.”They told me it was because I was new, I didn’t have the street cred, it’s not me it’s them. . .but we’ve all been broken up with before, and we all know the score. And in the end, they still passed me the badge. And I wore it.
I left the office at 10 am on a Tuesday in my little maroon Mitsubishi and pulled into the garage of my little starter house. I can still smell the morning air of the summer day mixed with garage smells. I’d never left the office at 10 am before and never pulled into my garage before lunch on a workday. It felt like playing hooky. There was a very weird and surreal understanding that I was glimpsing part of everyday life that I wasn’t supposed to see – like Truman surprising the actors by going off script. I’d never seen life outside the office on a weekday morning, and now I was part of the outside.
I had to tell my husband what happened and it was awful. I wasn’t ready to console him; I was still in shock. For the next few hours, every noise I heard felt like an assault and I had a very real feeling (OK, maybe hoped) that it was all just a dream.
Losing a job is so much more than losing a paycheck because so much of our self-worth is tied up in what we do, isn’t it? So much of how we show up in the world and identify with ourselves is based on how we show up at work. I lost part of my identity, and by the way, I lost my work family. I lost my local corner hangout and my favorite lunch spot. I lost my pack of girlfriends and my secret work crush. I lost my status. I lost my confidence.
These feelings are all raw and real and valid. They’re so very fresh as I type this. Twenty years later, I know that the man who delivered this news probably has a similar story. Last year at our RiseUp Summit one of our speakers and a dear friend of mine had to release half of her team. She was physically ill most of the day. She has stories of people’s faces and reactions. She lost her work family, too.
Businesses make tough decisions using numbers. But people deliver and receive the news. People do the hard things. If you find yourself in the middle of a hard thing, please know that you aren’t alone and that you still own many very real and very valid badges and none of them are, “Not good enough.”
That exit led me down the exact right path for me. I wouldn’t have found my passion for training, I wouldn’t have traveled the world, I wouldn’t have met my mentor Bruce nor my NEW work crush Ryan (OMG is that the real name!?)
Your story will turn out this way as well. In the meantime, here are some hints and tips we’ve sourced to help you put one foot in front of the other.
- Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. Feel all the things – mad, sad, hurt, ready for revenge – but don’t show it. You never know if the person you are ranting to (or within earshot of) is your next employer or a possible reference. And, depending on what you’re saying, they may wonder if it was the company or if it was you.
- Flip the script. Instead of thinking you weren’t good enough, find a more positive reason for being let go. Your skills aren’t aligned with the new leadership or go-to-market strategy (their loss). You were so good, you were at the top of the pay chain – it’s just an effective way to cut costs, right? Maybe this is the push you needed to refresh your skills and expand your horizons. Hone your self-talk and realize how badass you are at what you do.
- Know what you want. When we know exactly what we want, we can tell the world. We can describe in detail our dream job and instantly get better referrals. Go deeper than title and income: What industry? What kind of customers do you want to work with? What product or service would you be proud to work with? What type of culture are you looking for? What do you want from a boss? Get detailed, get what you want.
- Brag. – A LOT. Show off. Let your resume show how awesome you are by packing it with your results and career achievements. Sales Leaders LOVE numbers. Show them how you have made them better at your previous companies. Quotas? Note how often you – and/or your team – have blown them out of the water. Don’t forget how you’ve helped customers and moved deals across the finish line.
Lead with numbers and close with some voice of the customer. Companies will be lining up to meet you!
- Work your network. Layoff talk in the air? Now is the time to work your network – don’t wait until you have been handed the pink slip. Trust me, a call from an employed friend just wanting to touch base, catch up, check in, asking how they can help will go a lot further later than a call from someone newly unemployed ready to discuss their unjust departure.Basically – get your favors in now, so it’s easy to call one in when needed. Start your re-frame marketing campaign about where you’re headed and your desire to leave to move up or move on! Then find out how you can help THEM and do it. Reciprocity is real (and everyone will like you better.)
If you want a little more insight on how to navigate a layoff, then you definitely do not want to miss #GirlClubs’ live webinar – Tips For Navigating (& Surviving) A Layoff.
Whether you were recently laid off, are trying to lead your team through a potential recession, or you’re feeling uncertain of what’s to come in your future, join me and a great panel on Tuesday, May 23rd at 1 pm EST for this timely, 1-hour, informative session. REGISTER HERE
Hope to see you there.