Laid Off? A Little Hustle Makes it a Good Thing

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Being laid off can feel like you just got pushed out of a plane. You’re in free fall and hoping that you can find a parachute before you crash into the Earth. But if you’re already falling, you might as well treat it like you chose to skydive out of that plane.

How do I know? For the last few weeks, I’ve witnessed an acquaintance handle being laid off like a boss.

There are so many things I like about how she moved forward that go far beyond the typical advice you’ll find around the web. Sure, you need to assess your finances, update your resume, and take some time to sort through your feelings. Do all those things! They’re important.

But if you want to do more than just survive being laid off, if you want to make the most of being laid off, follow these steps.

Step 1: Pick Up The Phone

I first met Lacie (my recently laid off acquaintance) when she attended one of my DIY PR Workshops back in September.

Something I always emphasize in my workshops is to follow up with a phone call. Professionals today get a lot of emails, and while this is the media’s preferred way of communicating, picking up the phone establishes a more human connection that cuts through the noise.

She must have understood why calling is effective because only a few days after she was laid off, she gave me a call. Her general message was “Hi, how are you? Just so you know, I was laid off. You know the quality of my work, so if you have any writing work to send my way, I’m for hire.” (I hired her.)

Most people are nervous to admit having been laid off, let alone to call someone on the phone to do so. It’s easier to hide behind a keyboard and edit your conversation. But, you shouldn’t be afraid to call up your professional acquaintances and tell them that you’ve been laid off. There’s no shame in being laid off—it’s not your fault! And most people are generally happy to be the one to connect you to your next opportunity.

Lacie and I had only worked together on a small project mostly over email, so it wasn’t like she was calling a close friend for comfort—she took a chance!

Step 2: Do What You Need and Want To Do

When you are fully employed, your hobbies, side hustles, and personal tasks are often pushed aside. It’s hard enough to manage working 40+ hours a week, take care of yourself and maintain important relationships. Finding time to devote to the “extra” things can be a challenge.

But when you’ve been laid off, you suddenly have a lot of time to fill. This is your chance to check off your to-do list and spend time on your passion projects.

After thinking deeply about what she really wanted to do, Lacie set specific goals to structure her time and effort. She decided to only apply for jobs that truly interested her and to try to apply to one new job every day. She dedicated herself to keep up with a more intense workout regimen than she had time for before. She checked off her to-do list of things like registering to vote, renewing her passport, and filing her taxes. And she committed herself to fearlessly and seriously consider doing what she had always wanted to do in the first place: start her own business.

If you have nothing else to do, why not pursue your passion? If you Google “laid off to entrepreneur,” you find lots of stories about people who used unemployment to double down on what they really wanted to do.

Step 3: Be Social

Call all the friends and family that you haven’t caught up with in a while. Meet your neighbors and connect with your community. Go to professional networking events. Remember the people you called in step one? Ask to meet them in person.

Rarely will you have such a flexible schedule. This is a gift and you should use it to your advantage. Strengthen your personal network and scope out the market at the same time.

Beyond the personal aspect of deepening her personal and professional relationships, Lacie discovered that her business idea had enough demand to sustain her and potentially thrive. This information didn’t come from applying to job after job, hiding behind a keyboard. It came from interacting with the people who would soon become her clients.

Being laid off seems like it should be a tragedy. It feels personal and jeopardizes your financial situation. HOWEVER, with a little hustle, being laid off can be the catalyst to a more fulfilling career and life.

Career TipsRebekah Epstein