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Surviving a Layoff

Woman carrying box of stationery
Photograph by Getty Images/Image Source

I recently lost my job. My steady, full-time, pays-the-bills and supports-my-family job.

My manager broke the news during our regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting. What should've tipped me off was that our HR person, whom I had only met once before in my five-plus years with the company, was there too.

I took my seat next to her. Then, reciting a scripted speech, my manager explained that my position was being eliminated as a cost-cutting measure. The HR person then took over, handing me a packet with my name on it, gently providing a thorough overview of its contents.

I wanted to stand up and shout, “You can’t do this to me!”

I heard little of what she said. I was stunned. A series of questions began zooming through my mind. Why me? Do you know I’m the breadwinner in my family? That I have five kids—two of whom are in college with another soon to follow, one of whom is still in braces and another who will be in a year?

I wanted to stand up and shout, “You can’t do this to me!”

But instead, I told them I understood. I knew I wasn’t the only employee affected that day. In fact, I had been in my manager’s shoes before.

Speaking from experience, laying off employees is, hands down, the worst thing about being in management. I knew better than to take it personally, and I believed them when they said they’d do everything they possibly could to help me secure a new position elsewhere.

Still, I drove home in a daze and fell into the comforting embrace of my husband on arrival. My rock, he’s the one that counters every single one of my doubts with a steady, well-practiced “Everything will be fine.”

He suggested not telling the kids. Not yet. Not until after the holidays.

“Who knows?” he cajoled, “By then, there might not be any bad news to share. You could get another job by then. Or you could pick up lots more freelance work. And then there’s that agent who’s still waiting for the first three chapters of your novel.”

Damn, he’s good.

My close friends, on the other hand, prescribed heavy doses of chocolate and red wine. My mom went with her old standby, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

So instead of indulging in my vices, I’m opting to go on an aggressive hunt for that window. And I’m not talking about a little double-hung. I want a big, expansive, non-breakable picture window.

First, I updated my resume and notified my network of former colleagues and recruiters. It had been a long while since I was last in the market for a full-time job and needed to reconnect.

Second, I set up a schedule that would allow me to job hunt while still taking on freelance work, blogging and hawking my novel.

Granted, it’s only been a week since I got the news. It’s been easy to maintain a positive front with the holidays to look forward to. Still, I know this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Time will tell whether I end up in a cubicle or on a bestseller list. Either way, I’ll celebrate with lots of chocolate and red wine.

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