Change is unavoidable. Small changes happen around us at any given time whether through forces in our control or forces out of our control. Change is like a vengeful Adele song. It knocks on your door, says “Hello, it’s me”. Instead of trying to right her wrongs she decides to throw you out of your house and lock the door behind you.
I’ve rarely told anyone this but about two years ago I was laid off for the first time in my career.
How could this happen to me? What did I do wrong?
I’m a failure…
At the time, I was working for an amazing startup and completely happy with my life. I knew I was not great at my role, but I knew I had to put in the work to make the best of the situation. I was working with amazing people, friends, and mentors and I was shocked. I owe so much of my career to this period of time and it suddenly ended.
After graduating University, I decided I wanted to be a Product Manager. It was the sole focus of where I saw myself going as every decision I made was in pursuit of this grand plan.
In some capacity, it was my professional identity. And for that to be taken away from you crushes your heart and soul.
During this period, two of the biggest influences, mentors and coworkers in my life really helped me see past that plan I had placed in my life (I won’t name names, but I hope they know who they are).
One set me up with likeminded people who had been either influential in the Toronto startup community or had been laid off. Through these meetings I understood patience, acceptance of change and grief.
Patience — Knowing that you can’t fix everything right now and in some cases you can’t fix anything in the future either.
Acceptance of Change — This is the situation you are in and you can’t really change it. You can fight for it, but is that really the best thing to do? Accept the situation you are in and try to go through the next phase.
Grief — Feel all the emotions you need to feel. Yell, cry, get angry, feel loss, be vulerable, shut down and open up to people around you. These are all feelings you NEED to feel in order to move on. During this period I did all of these things in private because at that time I was struggling. You feel the need to put on a brave face to the world and show that you can handle this on your own (which is not healthy at all). It may take days, it may take months but it’s during this stage that you set yourself up for your future. You start your pursuit of happiness.
Another mentor asked me a question that changed my life. We were in a small cafe having our usual 1:1 and he asked me:
If you could take the best parts of your past jobs and could create a new one, what would it be?
I’m pretty sure most people in that cafe thought I was having a medical emergency as I just sat there taking in what that question really meant. After this, I re-evaluated my career and my “plan” for the next month or so after being let go. Through this exercise I focused on a framework of creating my perfect job and what that would exactly look like. The funniest thing happened next:
I found my dream job working for a company I love.
As I write this post, forces of change out of my control are here again. It’s rough, it hasn’t been pretty and I’m not out of the woods yet (T-Swift Pun Count: 1), but I know this is a process. It’s a process that won’t end tonight, tomorrow, or a month from now, but I’ll shake it off (T-Swift Pun Count: 2) and get through the other side.
After all, this won’t be the last time change knocks on my door and says “Hello, its me”.