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Unexpected Change Can Be Good: Benefiting From Your Layoff

By Susan P. Joyce

Even Involuntary Change Can Be Good: Benefit From Your LayoffDisasters can be good, in the long run (assuming you survive them). I was reminded of this recently.

Because of a broken sprinkler head in the office next door, our offices were flooded, and, after 2 weeks of everything-in-boxes, we moved back in to a much-better-organized office.

Compared with a layoff, being flooded out of your office is not a big deal. 

I have been laid off twice, and, like the flooded office, the layoff ended up being a "good thing." My layoff sent my career off in a new, very positive direction that would not have otherwise happened.

From Layoff Recovery to a Better Career

In 1994, I was laid off by my employer, 12 years short of my mythical 25-years-with-the-company gold watch ceremony. It was a common occurrence here as my employer, one of the area’s largest employers, was in the process of disappearing.

We didn't realize was the company was rapidly going from number 2 in the computer industry (and number 38 in the FORTUNE 500) to out-of-business.  Evaporating! By 1999, that $13 billion dollar company which had employed over 100,000 people was gone -- eaten up by 2 smaller competitors.

Three Recoveries

These are just three of the tens of thousands of stories from our layoff, and each of us went in a different direction.

⏩ Bud

  The Situation:  

One of the guys who was laid off at the same time I was (we will call him “Bud”) had really hated his job, for several years. I sympathized with him for a while, but after several months, I wondered why he stayed FOR YEARS in a job he hated.

  The Result:  

Being laid off was the kick in the pants Bud needed. In his late 40's when he was laid off, the layoff booted him out of his uncomfortable “comfort zone” where he was so unhappy and barely successful. He changed career direction from high tech to nonprofit, following his passion and making a bigger contribution to society.

He’s also much more successful and happier than if he’d stayed in his old job. He had to find other things to talk about, but I bet he lives longer.

⏩ Betty

  The Situation:  

Betty was also in her forties and good at her job, but not excited by it. It paid her bills, so she stayed as long as she could. But Betty wasn't really enjoying her job or learning anything new, and she didn't see much future growth for her in the company, even if it hadn't gone out of business.

  The Result:  

After Betty was laid off, she struggled for a while, and then, at the funeral of another former co-worker, she connected with another laid off employee we will call Ted . (Networking works, even at a funeral!)

Ted was a newly hired manager working for a young technology company that was growing and expanding, and he knew the high quality of Betty's work first hand.

So, Ted hired Betty, and she became a key contributor in this young company, eventually being promoted to a senior manager position and finally became an executive in the company. She loved her job and had a great time working there until she retired recently.

⏩ Jane

  The Situation:  

Jane was in her mid-50's and had been working for the company for over 20 years in an international manufacturing management role. She enjoyed her job and was very sorry to lose it. When she was laid off, she moved back to her home (100 miles away) and reconnected with old friends.

  The Result:  

Jane had enjoyed giving talks to educate other members of the corporation on how to work successfully with the manufacturing organization. So, in addition to changing her location, she changed her occupation.

Jane focused on connecting with the local business community, assisted by her old friends, and she launched a career as a corporate trainer and consultant. She established a long-term relationship with local consulting firms which specialize in helping organizations make major IT and organizational changes. She teaches the employees of the consulting firms' clients how to adapt to the new systems and procedures.

She also speaks to local business organizations and even teaches classes in a local college. The work is not full time, but that's exactly what Jane wants.

Most of the people laid off with me, or at least from the same company, have thrived. The Internet was just launching into our culture in 1994, and many seized the opportunity it presented to move into great careers and greater success. Some, of course, did not.

Read Don't Be a Layoff Survivor article for my most important lesson from being laid off.

For more information on career options, read Job-Hunt's Guide to Career Change and Guide to Lifestyle-Friendly Careers” column for good solid advice.

The Bottom Line

It’s not you – you’re not “broken.” Your career just took an unexpected turn, and this will work out for you – perhaps, like Bud, Betty, Jane, and me, you will be much happier as a result. What is next for you could be a whole lot better that what you’ve left behind.

Don’t let the anger or hurt feelings sabotage your future. Often, joining a job search support group will be a big help: ideas -- NETWORKING, even just the knowledge that you’re not alone and that very smart and capable people are also unemployed right now is comforting.

Try to view the layoff as an opportunity to decide what job would really make you happy. Read the classic “What Color Is Your Parachute” book to help you understand yourself better.

So, live long and prosper, as Spock would say on Star Trek, in your NEXT job!

More About Surviving Layoffs


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.


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