Being laid off is never fun, in fact, it’s the farthest thing from it. No matter how creatively the people around you give you encouragement, being laid off is a painful experience that can really hurt your confidence.
And sometimes, like all difficult things in life, you need time to yourself to process what has happened. There will come a time when pints of ice cream and a Netflix account won’t be able to drown out your sorrows — you’ll eventually have to get back in the game. Once you do, jumping back into the job search quickly becomes a full-time job in itself.
Despite that, there are some benefits to having been laid off in terms of your career trajectory.
When I was laid off, it felt like a punch to the gut. I felt hurt, lost, and confused. I felt like I had failed, that I had nothing to offer an employer. By taking small steps every day, I gradually learned that the opposite was true.
Here is what I learned based off my own experience of being laid off:
1. Being Laid Off Shows You What You Don’t Want
Being let go from a job gives you the chance to reflect on the experience. The truth is, we all need a little reflection for us to get clear on what we really want in our careers, and being laid off gives you the opportunity to do that.
I like to keep a running pro/con list to narrow down what was a good fit for me and what wasn’t.
Did dealing with customers during rush hour make you want to punch a wall? Was the work environment too slow for you? Did you hate feeling like you had to do ten things at once? Put that in the cons section of your next pros and cons list.
A pros and cons list is a great visual reminder of what you want and don’t want in a job.
You might not get a lead or your ideal position on your first go (unfortunately, you most likely won’t), but being clear about what you don’t want in a career allows you to actively seek out positions that you may like and avoid those that require you to do things that you may not like or want to do as much as possible.
Regardless of whether or not the position teaches you life skills or whether or not you thrive in a fast-paced environment, knowing what you don’t want is a step closer to finding your dream job.
2. Being Laid Off Allows You To Network
The ability to articulate your career goals to others as you network puts you on their radar.
If you say, “I want to work in [insert dream city here] as a [insert dream position here] doing [insert dream job description here],” people will be able to rack their brains for people they know who live in the city you want to work in or someone who has a similar job or someone who might be able to help you.
Sometimes the opportunities that come your way aren’t your dream job. But sometimes those opportunities bring better things.
You could be introduced to an entire network of contacts in your dream city. You could get your foot in the door of an industry you never thought you’d end up liking. You could be introduced to someone who has your dream job and land a great informational interview. That’s pretty awesome, right?
We live in a society where we get irritated if the Internet takes five minutes to load instead of five seconds. We want results NOW.
But taking it slowly and building a foundation before you leap is a good, necessary thing.
Put your dreams out there. Tell people what you want to do. I’m betting you’ll find that people will want to help you succeed.
3. Being Laid Off Leaves You Open To New Opportunities
Have you been eyeing a dream internship? You can take it now. That business you’ve been wanting to start? You can start laying the groundwork for it. You can also use this time to build new skills from places like X, Y, and Z.
You never know what sorts of opportunities will come your way. And without a job, you have a lot more time to take them.
Volunteering, for example, gives you the opportunity to devote your time to an organization or cause you care about. It also gives you access to an entirely new network of people. Each individual in that network has their own network. Within those networks may be someone who can help you. Volunteering gives you time to learn new skills or enhance the skills you already have. That sounds like an effective use of your time when you’re unemployed, doesn’t it?
When I was first laid off, I searched for a while before stumbling upon a local nonprofit organization that worked to promote cross-cultural communication in my area. The ad they posted indicated a need for someone who could write copy for their social media accounts. That sounded like something I could do, so I started volunteering in the next week and a half.
Through my volunteer experience, I met an entirely new network of people, but more importantly, I learned a very important thing about what I didn’t want in a career, which has been instrumental in helping me direct my career choices since then.
Being laid off is jarring for anyone’s self-confidence. But you can spend that time actively working toward your career goals even if you don’t have the financial security of a paycheck.
The time you spend away from work can teach you so much about who you are as a person and what sort of career you may thrive in. Taking that time to learn about yourself so that you make more calculated career moves in the future is never a bad idea.