Lessons from Being Laid Off

During the great recession of 2007-2009, I was laid off from my job. I was 29 years old, living in Los Angeles, unhappily married, immersed in my first yoga teacher training, and working full time as a program coordinator for a literacy non-profit. At that time, I saw being laid off as a gift. Here’s why, and some invaluable lessons I learned along the way.

For the most part, I loved my job, but the organization had recently experienced a power shuffle, and the new leadership was leaving such a bad taste in mouth that the week prior to receiving the axe, I had decided to start looking for a new position. It felt like divine timing to be let go from something I was ready to leave and be able to collect unemployment while I searched for my next gig. Deciding to start 2009 with a complete life reinvention, I also pulled the plug on my marriage at the exact time that I lost my job.

The times were both exciting and extraordinarily stressful. My income was minuscule in comparison to the cost of living in LA. All around me, my friends were being laid off. That’s not an exaggeration. In the first half of 2009 it was far more rare to be employed than unemployed. The beloved small local businesses in my neighborhood were dropping like flies, and what was once a main street felt more like a ghost town. It was depressing and scary to witness, and to be a part of. 

Fast forward to 2020 and it’s feeling strongly like deja vu. The uncertainty. The fear of economic collapse. The normalcy of job loss and the expectation of business closure. The pervasive sense of lack of control. 

All of this has me reflecting on my life in 2009 and my life now. I’m extremely grateful to report that 11 years later, I find myself in a much changed position and far better equipped to handle what’s befalling us. I work in the tech industry, from home. I live in Florida (far more affordable than California) with my adorable sweet doggie companion. I have a savings account, a 401k, and health insurance. I’m in a healthy and loving relationship. 

The journey from then to now was not without significant hardship, monumental mistakes, and invaluable lessons. Losing your job, for better or for worse, is a life-altering experience, and it can quite honestly take years to feel like you’re back on track (it took me almost 10). 

It’s impossible to capture everything I learned since the last recession. However, I feel compelled to share some of my most valuable takeaways that might be of benefit to you if you currently find yourself in a similar position due to the pandemic. I invite you to take what you like and leave the rest. 

Lesson 1: Be bold in your vision and practical in your life choices.

Being let go from your job can spark inspiration to pursue something completely new or plunge head first into that business you’ve been dying to launch. That’s wonderful! The best possible scenario is to find opportunity in loss rather than be bogged down by fear. Sometimes being forced out of your comfort zone is exactly what emboldens big life changes. 

I say go for it! With a massive caveat: know where your income is coming from first. Use your dreams as inspiration, and be sure you’re able to support yourself until your dreams are able to support you. 

When I was laid off, I wanted to be a yoga teacher. Thankfully I had the sense to know this wouldn’t pay the bills, at least not initially. Knowing I needed a solid income to cover my bases, I tapped into my teaching degree and got a great gig as a homeschool teacher. This allowed me to comfortably cover my living expenses while building my yoga teaching roster on the side. 

Where I failed after that was not saving nearly enough money and taking big plunges expecting my dreams to catch me every time. They didn’t, and I experienced extreme financial hardship as  a result. 

When I made the practical choice again to find a supportive income stream, I landed my current incredible gig. I still pursue my broader vision and passions diligently every week and will support my dreams until they are fully ready to support me.

Lesson 2: Take notice of the industries that are thriving. 

While some industries are shutting down, others are overcome with demand. For example, my brother is a nurse and expects to be working 6-day weeks for the foreseeable future. I work in tech support for a web development company, and judging from the influx of support requests, it’s clear that everyone is at home working on their websites!

I’m not saying to completely abandon your industry, but if you find yourself without employment, or underemployed, pay close attention to who’s thriving. Perhaps a new career path awaits? Or perhaps there’s a way to do what you already do, differently? Where’s the need? Where’s the demand? That’s where you’ll find the gold. 

Lesson 3: Be patient. Keep nurturing your vision. Have faith that it’s all happening in your favor. 

The featured image of this post is an orchid plant that’s been sitting naked in my apartment for about a year. Though some had suggested its hour of glory had passed, each week I watered it like all my other thriving plants, expecting that at some point in the future, it just might bloom again. Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, I saw the buds, and now it’s flaunting this beauty with more soon to follow. 

When times feel desperate, don’t skip the small acts of devotion that eventually bare fruit. 

While you’re being practical, while you’re taking care of your immediate needs, keep planting seeds for your grander vision. If you’re out of work and have no idea what to do next, do something every single day that could lead to your next opportunity. Spend an hour each day reaching out to people on LinkedIn. Apply to a new position daily. Enroll in a distance learning course for a new career path. Deposit $5 in your savings account every week. As hard as it may feel, be patient and trust that your actions are moving the needle.

While I was teaching yoga, I was a devoted servant to my blog. I taught myself how to use WordPress software to create a website. Though writing was not an income stream, I loved it, and committed to it. 

Little did I know, that passion would result in a dream job with Automattic, the very company behind WordPress! As I continue to nurture my love of wellness and writing, I’ve been published on one of the company’s websites, That Distributed Life featured in a recent blog post, and I’ve taught several wellness workshops for my colleagues.

Keep the faith. Nurture the seeds. The flowers will bloom again.


P.S. How has your job, vision, or career path been affected by the current pandemic? Let me know in the comments below.



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