Recently we did an awesome panel interview about surviving layoffs. We addressed the employee let go, the leader who had to do it, the survivors left behind, and the recruiter shopping for new talent. This was the employee circle of life ladies and gentlemen, and you can watch it here.
A tip that resurfaced from multiple angles was to “Know Your Story.” but what the leaders meant wasn’t “What Happened?” it’s more “Where are you going?” In the examples they shared so eloquently, my story is 10% where I was (ABC company in 123 role), 50% my strengths and gifts and abilities, and 40% where I’m going – with some pretty specific examples of exactly where I want to land. I loved this. Total reframe.
It’s really tempting after a layoff to tell the story of “why me” or “why it happened” and the panel universally agreed this would sound defensive. If asked, “what happened,” simply say “a layoff” and let them ask questions to learn more. Then, stay positive and let your answer slide easily into the REST of your story’s present and future.
Think of your story as another way of answering “Who am I?”
And if this question doesn’t scare the pants off you just a little,
Honey, you’re doing it wrong.
Let me share a fun example. Recently I invited 10 #GirlsClub Thought Leaders to my home for the weekend. These are CXO’s, Entrepreneurs, Authors, Speakers and all-around badass females. And although we all had the #GirlsClub connection, nobody personally knew more than 1-2 other people. So night one (I served salmon, pasta, and that incredible cilantro-lime hummus from Pita Jungle in case you wondered), I gave an assignment:
In 300 words or less, tell us all who you are. Also, bring one of your favorite things to share that costs under $10 for all the other attendees.
What an incredible night!
So imagine yourself at my table, please. It’s your turn. What do you say?
It’s easy to go right to labels, isn’t it? My title and my role maybe? Perhaps my multiple titles and roles?
I’m a company President, a mom, a wife, and a friend.
That seemed like a cop-out.
It’s not all of who I am. Especially in the spirit of #GirlsClub authenticity. And let me tell you, these women embraced it! We were nervous! Many had notes. Shawn had a mini-novel and we all threw things at her it was so good. I knew I loved these women for a reason. So I try again. . .
I’m a work in progress, a lover of animals, an above-average yogi and a below-average singer.
Blech. Try again. Feels like a BS Facebook post.
I’m someone powerful who is sometimes afraid of her power. I have an enormous heart I keep tucked away behind my even-bigger brain. I’m an overachiever and a recovering perfectionist. I’ve been to over 50 countries and have 50 more on my list. I crave connection with both nature and other humans through deep conversations. I think strategically and categorically, and get easily impatient by details, lines, and traffic. I am an encourager. I have a chronic illness and often feel I’m living a half-life. I’m afraid of heights, but mostly that I’ll never really be known and loved.
And now we’re firmly in a scary over-share zone, right? Although all of these are true, it’s so much easier to type than to tell a group of people. I think I got about half of this out before rambling and tearing up a bit (like at least half of us did). Being seen is something we crave. . .and also something we fear.
So if it’s this hard for me who did it just a few weeks ago with a table of peers, I get that it ain’t easy by any definition. Sounds like a good challenge. I invite you to right now open an email to yourself. Spend 2 minutes telling your story. Tell it for yourself. Tell it to yourself. Because knowing ourselves and our story is the most critical thing we can do (whether we’re job searching or not) to begin our journey of self-confidence and self-discovery.
Knowing myself helps me make better decisions. It helps me show up more authentically at home and be a better leader at work. Most importantly, it reminds me that it’s a story still being written, and I get as many do overs as I get.