So You Just Got Laid Off
It’s not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to reflect.
Those are not the words you want to hear when your boss recently warned the company of possible layoffs. I knew immediately what was happening that day in late October, 2016. I went to the meeting room, and sat with my boss as he explained that, after fighting tooth and nail to keep me on board, they simply couldn’t afford it due to a very slow year of business in 2016.
If you’ve been laid off recently, or you fear your job is in jeopardy, I hope reading this provides you with some comfort and perspective. This is how I made it through unemployment. Hopefully, it can be somewhat of a guide to help you, too.
Beware of the Rabbit Holes
As designers, we pour our personality into the work we create. Our aesthetic is a collection of experiences, opinions, and tastes. It’s easy to think that being laid off was a result of your work or your abilities. You shouldn’t take being laid off personally. This is a rabbit hole you do not want to go down. I know this seems like common sense, but when you’re applying to jobs and finding an empty inbox everyday, your mind starts to wander. A company, studio, or agency wouldn’t have hired you if you didn’t have good design chops. Remember that.
How do you feel about the company that laid you off? If you’re feeling bitter, that’s another rabbit hole you should avoid. Here’s why: if your feelings toward them after being laid off are bitter, they did you a favor. You needed to get out of there.
I missed the people just as much as I missed the work when I was laid off. If you don’t get along with your coworkers or the work is draining your soul, they did you a favor of letting you go. So either be happy they freed you from your personal hell, or be grateful you worked on inspiring things with lovely people (which was my case). Win win, right?
The Opportunity to Reflect
Now that we have the bad stuff out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff. Losing my job made me realize just how much I’ve gained in my life. There are much worse things you can lose in life than a job.
I have a healthy body and mind. I have a loving and caring wife. I have a family who loves and supports me. I have friends who encourage me, and want to help me any way they can. I have a home and food to stuff my face with.
I can find another job (and I did). Nothing in the paragraph above can be replaced. I realize these things may differ for you, but these things put my situation into perspective. There is far more value in relationships and health than there is in a job. Keep that in mind.
Are you doing what you love? If you look back on your past job, and you don’t feel passionate about the work you did, then you need to take this opportunity to find a job that lines up with your passions. I remember after 3 years at a large marketing/advertising agency, I honestly couldn’t say there was anything in my book that I was proud of. That’s a red flag. Take a risk and put yourself out there. The right place will listen to you, and see you for who you are and what your passions are.
Obviously, being sentimental isn’t going to pay the bills. So let’s get practical. With my mind in the right place, I started to think about what I was going to do to find my next opportunity.
First, reach out to friends and past co workers. Swallow any pride that makes you want to appear successful and amazing to the outside world on social media, and keep you from connecting to the right people. The design community is made up of some pretty incredible people. Friends, and even friends of friends (thanks again, Christian) will be more than happy to grab coffee and give you tips on your book, or connect you with someone who’s hiring.
Second, apply apply apply apply. DO IT! Even if the company isn’t hiring, shoot them an email and say hello. Give yourself as many opportunities as possible. Don’t be shy about telling them you were laid off, and definitely don’t try to hide it. It’s not some scarlet letter like being fired for being an ass. Layoffs happen. They’ll understand.
Third and final, don’t stop creating. You’re a creative! You don’t need a job or a client to be creative. Design a new portfolio site. Work on that idea for an app you’ve had in your back pocket for years. Learn something new like hand lettering or animation. Keep flexing those design muscles. It’ll keep you confident, and give you something to look forward to every day.
To Sum it Up
I know how it feels to wake up and check an empty inbox every day for what feels like forever, but try to stay positive. Reflect on what you have in life instead of what you’ve lost. There’s no reason to panic. Don’t be afraid to lean on your fellow designer, and take advantage of the free time to design something awesome.
You’ll be alright. I promise. :)