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  • Kristina McDougall

The Comeback: A Layoff is Your Chance to Get Intentional About Your Career

You are not alone. Most great execs have at one time found themselves without a job, as a result of a re-org, an acquisition, or a failure to see eye to eye with other leaders. I’ve been there too!

Whatever the reason, you get to wear your comfy pants on a Monday (oh wait, maybe you were already doing that!) and that big piece of your identity that is wrapped around your role as a leader, a professional and a co-worker is hanging neatly in the closet.

You are insulted, angry, a little scared, uncertain, shocked, embarrassed, betrayed, and sad. You haven’t interviewed for a job since you were a junior and you’re a little freaked out. Totally normal, but what should you do first?

Do you:

  1. Wallow in self-pity and seek out people who will sympathize, feed your anger, and help you down the path to depression,

  2. Immediately jump onto job boards and LinkedIn, and blast your resume out to everyone in your network, or

  3. Stop and breathe. Give yourself time to rest and reflect for a little while and then look towards the future with positivity.

As someone smart once said, everyone spends a little time in misery, the trick is to not buy real estate. And though there seems to be good logic in picking yourself up and getting busy with your job search, you are almost certainly not ready yet. So please, just stop for a moment, get through your moment of grief and then invest time in dreaming about the possibilities.

Trust me, there IS a bright side!

I make no apologies for my optimism because I have the data to support this view. From my experience, the best execs look back at the time they were fired, laid off or terminated, and say “that was THE BEST thing that could have ever happened”. Every great beginning is preceded by an ending, sometimes a painful one. But being liberated from a job or a company where you aren’t able to make a wonderful contribution, for whatever reason, is a good thing – even if it stings.

Here are some tips to help get past the shock and denial, and prepare for the next awesome thing:

1.Make a list of reasons why this change is a positive thing

Take some time with this. Find somewhere quiet and don’t be afraid to get excited at the possibilities. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • I can finally take a vacation with my family where I can be truly unplugged from work.

  • In my next role, I can focus on my passion for writing, mentoring, and building partnerships (you fill in the blanks)

  • I’m going to find a new team that is positive and supportive.

  • I’ll be part of a company that is growing and solving exciting problems.

You get the idea, and while you may think that this is all wishful thinking, it is important. You will be focused on the great things that you are moving towards, rather than what you’ve left behind – so you’re likely to find them.

2. Think about your favourite job experiences from the past

What were you doing when you felt excited and energized, like you were giving 100% and it felt great? Remember the days when you were having so much fun you forgot to eat lunch? This is your personal sweet spot, the zone where you can be fully engaged.

3. Get ready to tell your story

Before you polish your resume or get out to network, think about how you describe yourself and the next perfect role. Find the happy medium between sheepish and cocky, that is both humble and confident.

There are lots of resources and specific advice around prepping for the job search, but my point here is to approach it all with strength. You are the ideal catch for that right opportunity, so craft a message that is clear and confident.

4. Bring your message and your new positive attitude out in public

Now get out there and start talking to people. Connect with the great people you know, and seek out others who can help. Avoid complaining or commiserating with anyone outside your inner circle or your therapist’s office. No one should feel sorry for you because you are neither lost nor hopeless. In fact, people will go out of their way to help you, and when you come face-to-face with that right next opportunity, you’ll be in exactly the right frame of mind to recognize it and make a terrific impression.


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