Everyone has heard the cliché, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Well, there's one dangerous assumption within that statement - that I actually have access to water and a pitcher.
I experienced my first layoff at the tender age of 19. After having worked at Castle Rock Entertainment part-time for four years, about 100 of us were laid off when Ted Turner's company bought us out. I landed my next job at NBC within weeks, without even interviewing for it. Talk about amazing grace!
My second layoff was a bit more traditional, and I spent about 3 months pounding the pavement before I landed at E! Entertainment. Still young & full of energy, I handled it all in stride. That was in my mid-20s. I was still relatively debt free, aside from student loans, and living with parents.
But this last layoff. Oh, this last one. This last layoff found me as a 30-something single woman, juggling a full-time job and several part-time ones to maintain my overhead, which included a mortgage, car note, tuition for an MBA program I was one year into, and basic living expenses. Needless to say, the third time was not the charm. This layoff completely devastated my beliefs, priorities, and sense-of-self. I experienced a gut wrenching sense of despair as I watched all that I had worked for over 15 years vanish. Not only was I grappling with the material losses, but also with the spiritual ones, most noticeably, the dent to my once fearless drive and resilience. I was crushed. I recall telling close friends, in-between crying sessions, that this would be the breaking of me.
But life's challenges have a way of showing you what you're made of. About a month and a half after the layoff, I found myself 6,000 miles away from all I knew, teaching English in South Korea. I had never lived outside of California, but here I was in Suwon, South Korea, walking to work, living rent-free, smiling at strangers, and picking up basic Korean phrases. A few months after working in Korea, I re-gained the confidence I once knew, applied to graduate school, and started a different Masters program (still ashamed that I had abandoned the MBA so abruptly). It was in Korea that I regained the confidence that comes with completing an honest day's work, feeling like a contributor to society and having enough money to live comfortably.
My post-layoff transition wasn't easy. I happened to be single and child-free, so I was able to drop everything and move. Not everyone can do that. But there are things laid-off workers can do to keep their sanity until their next big break happens (see http://yhoo.it/10postlayoff for ideas.) Fast forward 26 months: I am refreshed, re-energized, and re-committed to pursuing my passions. I'm back in sunny southern California, spending my days volunteering, swimming, taking Zumba, re-writing resumes for frustrated job seekers (no charge), and sourcing talent for a few of my previous clients until I land my next 9 to 5 (which in recruiting can sometimes be an 8 to 8).
To close with another cliché, hindsight is 20/20. I am grateful for the layoffs. Without them, I may not have been pushed to grow, professionally and personally. I was mistaken when I told my friends that my latest (and hopefully last) layoff was the breaking of me. It was, in fact, the making of me. My third layoff taught me that life's lemons not only can make lemonade, but also one heck of a lemon pie. Tasty!
Here are some stories from Americans who are working through/have overcome their layoffs:
Maisha Cannon is a Senior Recruiter and Researcher committed to introducing employers to talent that will enhance and grow their businesses. Over the span of her 15 year career in Human Resources, Maisha has filled over 1,000 positions, and has coached hundreds of candidates on resume writing, interviewing skills, and career planning. She spends her free time blogging, engrossed in social media, and singing along to the thousands of songs in her iPod.