I Was Laid Off in 2013 – and I Overcame It

LaidOff This is a hard post to write.

Not because I'm ashamed or scared to share the news that I received on November 1, 2013, but I simply wish that I had shared this experience with our readers sooner. Because these things happen to working women everywhere, and it's important that they're discussed openly.

Work had been oddly slow that week. And then I got the news. I was a strange mix of relieved, confused and worried – I wasn't upset at the time. I truly enjoyed my wonderful coworkers, and I knew that I would miss my office's relaxed, friendly atmosphere. However, my mind immediately went to my bank account – how would I continue paying rent, utilities and my student loans? Most importantly, where would I go next? I left work for the last time that afternoon, and refused to cry the entire drive home. 

It didn't really hit me until the following Monday, when the rest of the world woke up, made their morning coffee and settled into their desks.

I was the girl who graduated at the top of her class; who was handpicked to present a speech to her entire class. I was the one who had worked her way up to the top of the student newspaper and carried that responsibility and notoriety for an entire year. I was the one who landed an amazing PR internship for the summer; the one who everyone came to for career advice and counsel. I was one of the lucky few to land a full-time job right out of college. And now my career had, seemingly, been pulled out from under me. This wasn't "supposed" to happen to people like me, but it did. And it was humbling.

I began looking at applying to jobs as my full-time gig, sitting in my local Starbucks for 4-5 hours at a time personalizing cover letters and sending out resumes. I also dedicated a large amount of my time to updating That Working Girl, as well as launching my personal website. I even found time to restock and update That Working Girl's Printshop, too.

I began getting called in for interviews – and lots of them. I visited agencies large and small, near and far. I had to say no to some offers, and many agencies had to say no to me. I would be lying if I said this was a happy time for me – the two months of job searching and interviewing were nearly unbearable at times. However, the prospect of landing an interview kept me going, and eventually, I found the new agency that I will call home.

Earlier this week I received an official offer with a worldwide advertising agency with an office based in Atlanta. Saying "I accept" were the most relieving words I've felt coming out of my mouth in months. When I look back, this was meant to happen and I'm grateful that it happened sooner than later. I'm walking into a large agency with ample opportunities for career growth and advancement – had it not been for the lay-off, this wouldn't have been a reality for me.

So, my parting words of advice?

• Realize that it isn't you – a lay-off is strictly a business decision made by a company. Typically, it has nothing to do with your performance. In your exit interview, ask questions for clarification. I did, and the answers helped me better understand why this happened, and how it was simply beyond any of our control.

• Save up now for a rainy day –  one thing I'm very grateful for is the fact that my parents raised me to always be frugal and save up for unforeseen circumstances. While working, I saved up, so during this time I didn't have to ask my parents for a loan. Having that kind of financial freedom is invigorating.

• Don't accept an offer for the sake of having a job – this is a tough one, but it's true. I was tempted to accept the first offer that came my way, but my intuition told me to stick to my guns and pursue what I truly wanted – a large company with robust employee benefits and opportunities for advancement. At first I felt crazy for turning down a "sure thing," but it was completely worth the wait.

• Don't badmouth your former employer in interviews – absolutely never talk your former employer down while gunning for a new job. Not only will this leave a bad taste in your interviewer's mouth, but it's very unprofessional. Rather, talk up all of the amazing things that you learned in your last position, and how you would like to contribute those things to your new job.

• Get up and go – after applying to a large number of jobs, it's tempting to sit around and wait by the phone. Don't do this – you'll go crazy. After a particularly challenging week, I up and left for Colorado to see my boyfriend, and it was the best decision. I was able to work remotely and conduct a few phone interviews, but I was also in a place where I was happy and able to take a vacation.

Be productive – setting my alarm and getting up at a decent time each morning was the best thing I could've done for myself during this two-month break. Sticking to a routine made it easier to be productive during the day, rather than sleep in until noon everyday. When I begin working in January, my 6 a.m. wake up time won't look so ugly.

• Keep an up-to-date resume – being prepared for a lay-off is key. I'm not saying that you should always be on-edge, fearing for your job, but keeping an up-to-date resume on file doesn't hurt. You never know when you may need to use it.

Looking back, I'm blessed that I faced this trial at the time that I did. Not only did it open my eyes to how strong and resilient I am, but it also led me to a big, game-changing career move. You will face setbacks in your career, but you have to remember that they don't define you or your worth.