I ran into a friend of mine in the Old Navy parking lot a few weeks ago. When I mentioned my recent lay-off, he replied, “well, it’s the season for it, isn’t it?” Truly, I have several friends who are recently unemployed or about to be.
This is my first lay-off in about 12 years. And where I ‘celebrated’ the last one with a tremendous amount of day-drinking, late-night hell-raising, bad daytime television, and unhealthy doses of self-loathing and self-pity, this one felt more like a gift.
Sure, I’m sad that I lost my job – I really liked many of the people I worked with, respected the company, and was proud of my success there. But I wasn’t really going to get my name in lights. And selfishly, secretly, I still really want that.
The best thing about being laid-off is that you don’t have to make a secret about your job hunt.
If you, like me, had a highly connected boss who is well-liked around your industry YOU ARE SCREWED if you look around while still employed. It is just uber-awkward for all involved. Lay-offs solve that problem. Not only can you look openly but you can hit her up for a reference when the process gets real.
So what about the dirty details of life for the newly unemployed?
Well, there is always this.
And of course day-drinking.
But if your mortgage, dependents, or liver prevent you from getting pruny in a pity-pool, here are my suggestions for surviving a lay-off.
First, apply the 30-30-40 rule.
Spend 30% of your time looking for a job. Not more and not less. If you focus and act quickly, 30% is enough time.
I concentrated on 3 things and I started the same day I was laid-off:
- I rewrote my resume – a half-dozen times – with feedback from people who were not afraid to tell me the truth.
- I called/emailed/wrote everyone who loves me in my industry to tell them I’m looking and that I need their help.
(People like to feel useful but usually only take action if you ask them directly.)
- I set up interviews with every job that was even remotely interesting.
- You will freshen up your knowledge of what is hot and what is not.
- You will sharpen your conversational skills/ interviewing skills. e.g. I learned that it is probably not in your best hiring interest to casually mention that you didn’t see any female executives on the company’s website.
- You will meet some cool people in positions of influence along the way.
I had 23 interviews in my first 3 weeks of unemployment. That felt AWESOME. Most of them were not going to go anywhere but I was active, and engaged and it didn’t leave much room for the whole “nobody wants me” narrative that likes to creep in when you are dismissed from a job. Jobs and relationships only work when there is a mutual match. If one of the parties changes his direction, the relationship is doomed. No blood, no foul. Part as friends and get back into the fray!
The second 30% of my time I focused on giving to others. I am not the greatest at volunteering my time. I do make pretty decent donations throughout the year to causes I care about but have idealized the notion of donating talent as even more valuable. My talent seems to be creativity. I’ve had a few random connections with people who’ve found my Linked In profile and asked for help with theirs. I HATE resumes. They are painful and sterile and austere. Linked In summaries should ‘show some leg.’ While not actually sexy, the narrative of your career should also showcase a bit of your style and personality. Make something that people will actually want to read and they will. People interview for skills but they hire for personality. (I sound like I really know my sh*t, right? I am 83% certain I’m right.)
While unemployed, I rewrote some Linked In profiles, made some recommendations on Linked In, shopped for and crafted some decor and activities for a 5 year old’s birthday party, and did some small business marketing consulting for free. Every single minute of it was fun. It wasn’t the gratitude that made me feel so happy; it was that I did something that actually benefitted these friends. I might not have had time to do these things while working full-time. But I did while unemployed and I was able to show both new and old friends how much I value them by giving up my time to do something that came easily for me but caused them headaches.
Finally, I spent 40% of my time taking care of me and my family. I have spent so much time with my daughters – playing, learning, adventuring, etc. My 4 year old has said multiple times “Mommy, this is the best day of my life.” My response? ME TOO. And it has been. I will never get another chance to be unemployed when my girls are 4 and 1. I soaked up every second of their filthy, silly, annoying, whining, giggling, wrestling, dancing, singing, mess-making, crafting, writing, reading, snuggling, cuddling, and general awesomeness. I am so full and yet I have room for more everyday. It is a gift that keeps on giving.
To a lesser extent, I also doted on my husband. No, I didn’t suddenly become a sexpot runway model who fed him bonbons while shaking mine. Although that would have been nice… I did, however, chip in a great deal more on housework – which usually falls on his shoulders as a SAHD. I continued to cook even though I felt like ordering fatty, starchy badness. Since the hub is on the Ironman training regiment, I also cooked mostly healthy, flavorful goodies to support the goal he is working toward. We even managed to sneak in a couple of date nights where we cashed in some gift certificates to offset expenses we weren’t sure we could afford.
And for myself? I did two things: I worked out regularly and I tackled my “Icky List.” The work-outs shouldn’t need explanation. I feel good about myself when I’m fit. I have made peace with not being a string bean. I actually like being big and strong. Dressing a big and strong body without looking like a hoochie? Another post for another time. But for my heart, my longevity, my waistline, and my confidence – there is no better money or time spent than in the gym, pool or yoga studio. And I didn’t give that up over this break.
The “Icky List” is comprised of the things that I don’t want to do but that need to be done, at varying degrees of urgency, that tiptoe into my consciousness on nights when I really need to sleep. They start off like stealthy reminders – using ballet feet to sweep across my otherwise calm, dark mind just before sleep comes. But only one of them needs to be a code orange to jar me out of calm and into “Oh crap!” mode. Once that happens, the Icky List becomes a heard of elephants trampling any remaining hope of rest while cackling witches swoop around my cranium mocking my incompetence. It isn’t pretty.
I reorganized two rooms of my house to make better use of space and hide/remove clutter. I donated 147 books from my introduction to hoarding stash to allow for toy bins, stationary boxes and less unsightly clutter. I regrouted my kitchen counter. I organized pictures. I purchased a new external harddrive and back up external harddrive. I saved my pictures and music on both. I organized the basement storage and DVDs and closets.
The list is not completed. It probably never will be. But I look around this house in which I have spent so much more of my time lately and I am proud of what I’ve accomplished. I enjoy the home we’ve made here. I have no nagging anxiety about devolving into a messy, clutter-loving nightmare. I am not tied to my things. I am tied to my people. And that’s a pretty good tie in my book.
The best part is?
I’ve been sleeping pretty well.
Finding my dream job certainly helps.