I Hope You Get Laid Off

Laid off
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Does the title strike you as mean? It’s not meant to be. I only want the best for you.

Ideally it will happen early in your career. And like a booster shot, it wouldn’t hurt to have it happen one or two other times during your career.

Let me give you three reasons for why this is a good thing.

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Wakes you up

After some time on the job, you master the requirements. Soon you are the experienced old hand. There are no more surprises. You’ve been there and have done it. There’s nothing left to learn. Complacency sets in. You engage the autopilot.

You know that sales are down a bit. You hear rumors of cost cutting on the horizon, but you ignore these signs because you’re the senior person on the team. No one’s going to mess with you…until they do.

When you lose your job, you finally wake up. It forces you to come face-to-face with important questions:

  • Was I still giving it my best effort?
  • Was I working hard to build strong working relationships inside and outside my workplace?
  • Was I paying attention to market forces that would have been clues that it was time to turn off the autopilot?
  • Was I continuing to grow my skills and find new ways to add value?
  • Was I living within my means and saving for a rainy day?

I’m not saying being laid off is your fault. There is a possibility, though, that you made it easier for someone to pick you.

The experience of losing your job will hopefully keep you from falling into the same old patterns again—at least for a while.

Change in direction

Over the years I’ve run into lots of people who tell me they don’t like their jobs. That doesn’t get my attention.

What does surprise me is the number of years they have felt that way. It’s not uncommon to hear they haven’t liked their jobs for more than five years.

In the nicest way possible, I gently ask, “Why haven’t you switched jobs?” Their response is usually  “I don’t have a choice.”

I’m sorry. I don’t buy it. Of course you have a choice. Any of the following excuses would be more believable:

  • “I’ve gotten lucky and am probably being paid more than I could get if I make a switch, and I don’t want to take a pay cut.”
  • “I’m not sure what else I can or want to do.”
  • “I don’t feel comfortable looking for work.”

Being laid off finally cuts through all your excuses.

About 22 years ago I had the idea that it would be cool to start my own consulting business. I developed the business plan, and then tucked it away in a file cabinet and forgot about it. I couldn’t image telling people I quit a good job for the uncertain entrepreneurial life.

Then one day it happened. I was laid off.

At that moment my excuse disappeared. I wasn’t going to need to quit my job. It quit me. And before me was the opportunity to pursue my dream. I grabbed it.

Do you have a dream you’d like to pursue?

Find your courage

As I work with clients, I’m dismayed about the levels of risk-aversion I see.

Once I was leading a workshop and trying to generate some discussion. They were a tight-lipped bunch.

So I uncorked a few super-safe preference questions. They were the equivalent of “What’s your favorite color?” More silence.

At the break, one of the participants let me in on a secret. He said, “Nobody wants to talk because the supervisors are in the room.”

I remember thinking, Well it’s not like I asked the group to share examples of their supervisors’ most serious short-comings. What a bunch of wimps.

Maybe I’ve always erred on the side of saying too much, so I lack empathy for another perspective. If I had to guess the thought process, it goes something like this:

  1. If I speak up, I will get in trouble.
  2. If I get in trouble, my boss will no longer like me.
  3. If my boss doesn’t like me, he will eventually find a way to fire me or lay me off.
  4. If I lose my job, my life is over.

I say, bring it on. Your worst fears aren’t likely to play out. And even if you do get laid off, you discover you are just fine. Sure, there’s some discomfort and possibly financial hardship, but eventually you get back on your feet and life continues.

You were looking for work when you found the job you had. You can do it again.

The fear of a lay-off is often much worse than the lay-off itself. The problem is that you don’t know it until it happens to you.

Grab the benefits without the disruption

A lay-off offers the benefits I’ve outlined above. Still, it does create some temporary pain.

If you want to avoid the setback, then live your life as if you’ve already been laid off.

  1. Pay attention to what’s going on in your company and in your industry.
  2. Keep your skills fresh and push yourself to continually add value.
  3. Look out for new opportunities and go for it when one interests you.
  4. Show some courage at work. You can play to win or play not to lose. In my experience when lay-offs happen, people pursuing the second strategy are more likely to be on the list.
  5. Put yourself in a financial position that will keep your life from imploding if you are laid off.

You can’t control whether you are laid off. That choice is made by someone else. You can control your career. Take charge of it.

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce helps companies change by creating stronger teams, more effective leaders, and better processes. To discuss a challenge you're facing, use this link to schedule a free discovery call.