Dealing with Being Laid Off

Posted by on in Life Transitions

Dealing with being laid off is one of the most difficult experiences to go through in life. The mechanics of dealing with a layoff are well documented. Update your resume and LinkedIn page, spread the word, scope out potential companies, etc. But there is one aspect that doesn’t get a lot of attention and that’s a mistake.

The mental part of being laid off is perhaps the most difficult hurdle to clear. It’s also the hub around which everything else in your job search revolves. Simply put, you may not be able to perform at the peak levels needed to secure interviews and come across well if you feel depressed because you don’t have a job.

Who Are You?

“The number one thing that everyone should recognize is that losing your job for many people is losing their identity,” says Tim Dugger, Career Coach and owner of Career Café in Indianapolis, IN. That’s especially the case if you’ve been in a certain position for a long time. It may also be more true for men than it is for women.

“Women have so many identities,” says Dugger. “… but the number one role for men traditionally is breadwinner.”

This was absolutely the case for me when I lost my job, only I didn’t realize it UNTIL I lost my job. After much soul searching I realized that I identified myself by my job first, husband second and father third. My job was the foundation everything else was built on and when it went away, the other parts of my “identity” seemed in doubt.

Do the Research

It took some work, but dealing with being laid off meant realizing that my job, as well as being a husband and a father were not identities, but roles. They were also roles in which I served other people. They had nothing to do with who I was. That was scary because it meant I really had no idea who I was.

How many times have you met someone and one of the first questions either of you ask is, “What do you do?” We don’t ask each other about values, beliefs, or organizations we belong to. We ask about occupations. They are a quick way to categorize and often to decide how much clout someone might have until we learn more about them. Dealing with being laid off means you suddenly don’t have a “good” answer to that question.

One thing Dugger recommends is testing. “Go find someone who does personality or vocational testing and identify who you are. It can be a career coach, therapist or a counselor. The test is designed to let people know what their strengths and motivators are.”

The tests also let you know who you are naturally instead of what you evolved into or adapted to. For me, it revealed things I didn’t know about myself and some of the results were quite surprising. One of my major natural stressors was a daily part of my work life.

Ask for Help

Another great way to find out who you are is to ask other people. “Your friends know you better than you,” says Dugger. “Meet with your friends and ask them to tell you about you, what they admire about you, and what kind of role they think you would be good at.”

This takes some courage, but it could also be incredibly valuable. You will undoubtedly have someone tell you you’re good at something that you think you’re terrible at. You may not be as good at something as you want to be, but that doesn’t mean you’re not good at it.

Dugger also recommends contacting people you have worked for in the past and ask them to write you a letter of recommendation. There are two reasons for this.

First, receiving the letters helps boost an ego that has just taken a major hit by being laid off. “You’re getting positive feedback, people are saying nice things about you,” he says.

The second reason they’re good to have is that many companies will accept letters instead of calling the person. If a recruiter or an HR person asks one of your references a question in a certain way, you may not like the answer they give. Dugger says, “Anybody who is good at [interviewing] professional references can [get details you may not want them to know]. Letters of reference don’t change.”


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