“Thank you for your interest in the open position at our company. Unfortunately, we will not be moving forward with your application, but we appreciate your time and interest in our business”.
So, it’s less than a month until Christmas and guess what?! You’re on the job market. A year ago, there were seven jobs for every ONE applicant. Companies were in bidding wars over people who may not even have experience because they were desperate for help… ANY help. “The great resignation” resulted in a mass exodus and reshuffling of jobs. This also created the requirement for very inflated salaries. I know all of this because I was in the “hiring manager” seat while all of this was happening.
Now, we are starting to see layoffs, and guess what “sorry, babe, you are one of them”!
The Logical Mind vs. the Emotional Mind After Being Laid Off
“It’s just a job… everyone is healthy and happy; it probably wasn’t meant to be anyways”. You can recite that to yourself over and over, but you still have this pit in your stomach because you see the bills… and you see the budget… and you know you have about a month to find a job. Really, less than a month because it’s Christmas time!
This is like having insomnia. You look at the clock and say, “Okay, if I fall asleep RIGHT NOW, I’ll get 5 hours of sleep”. Then, an hour later, it’s “okay, if I fall asleep RIGHT NOW, I’ll get 4 hours of sleep.”
The principle is the same. “If I get a job offer and start in two weeks, my savings will last.” But… “if I get a job offer and start in four weeks, I will be short two weeks of pay until I get my first paycheck.”
The Perils of Being the “Cautious” or “Picky” Job Hunter
None of this considers the “cautious” job hunter who actually wants the RIGHT job at the RIGHT company because, at this point in your career… you have no interest in “job hopping.” Stability and work you can be proud of while still keeping the lights on and food on the table… that’s what you really want to find!
I am THAT job hunter, and I really don’t see myself wavering on that because of a layoff. My accountant cringes (well, that would be something I could say if I actually had an accountant). The truth is though, that I am one of the lucky few that doesn’t provide a huge amount of our household income. I say “Lucky”, really it just means that with three college degrees and 20-years of experience, my husband still makes four times my salary. This means that I get to be “picky” to some degree. I still need a job and an income, but I have more flexibility. If he lost his job, I would never be able to carry our bills with any amount of money that jobs I am qualified for would bring in!
Making Sure Your Rockstar Status Doesn't Switch to "One-Hit Wonder"
Somehow, in a career of over twenty years, I’ve never been in this situation. Until now. I see well over 1000 remote jobs on LinkedIn that I am qualified for, and that meet my criteria. Jobs that LinkedIn even says I would be a “top applicant” for. After all, I’m a Rockstar. How do you let someone know you’re a Rockstar if you never make it past their very first screening of LinkedIn applicants?
Hey, this is a mental health blog, not career advice! Yeah, yeah, but this is affecting my mental health, and no one is forcing you to read my ramblings!
Last week, it didn’t feel like I was out of a job. It was Thanksgiving week, so being off with family seemed very natural. This week, I’m waking up super early to remember that my “job” is to find a job.
Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Oh, Wait, There Wasn’t One
It’s cool, though… it’s not like I was laid off via email right before the holidays… seeming very similar to having someone break up with you via text… oh wait… that IS what happened. No conversations… just an email that basically said, “peace out, babe.”
Even just writing that reminds me that I OBVIOUSLY made a terrible career decision working there in the first place (now go back up a few paragraphs and see why I am sticking with being picky). I ignored red flags from leadership almost starting on day one. So, logically, I know this is best. Emotionally, I’m kind of freaking out, and honestly, my feelings were very hurt by the way things were handled. I pride myself on adult-to-adult communication, but apparently, this person does not. All of the things that I do to try and be a great leader were completely missing from this situation with the leadership I was working with. On the one hand, it REALLY does hurt my feelings. On the other hand, it does help reinforce why I am so dedicated to servant leadership and all of the other qualities I bring to a leadership role that was just completely lacking here.
I Now Pronounce You Unemployed
In my entire career… I was fired ONCE when I was 17 years old from Spencer’s Gifts. That is actually a funny story, though! I mean, imagine what it would take to get fired from Spencer’s Gifts and then ignore all of what you imagined because you would NEVER guess! I didn’t do anything illegal, just something that was very funny at 17-years-old and it really is something I laugh about when I look back at it 23+ years later.
In my entire career… I’ve had one and only one write-up. I was pregnant and got sick on the drive back to the office from a client. I went home because I got sick in the car… driving down the interstate in Atlanta. I was a mess! I called and left a voice mail on my supervisor’s phone, but no one checked it until I was hours late from when they thought I would be back.
Okay… I very begrudgingly signed that write-up form purely because I can see how I didn’t follow the rules for being off work. I was also very new in my career and very young. If that happened today, I would have disputed it.
I can say that the last employee at that company before me that was pregnant had a very rough pregnancy. Let’s call her “Grace”. Grace was sick her entire pregnancy because she needed to have her gallbladder removed and that wasn’t something the doctors were going to do while she was pregnant. When I was written up, I was told “this pregnancy is not going to be like Grace’s, and you need to know it is not okay to miss work for pregnancy-related sickness”. While I do admit that I didn’t follow the rules, I also know that they were very obviously writing me up to make a point that had less to do with me, and more to do with their frustrations with Grace’s pregnancy.
Side Note: I was and am actually very good friends with Grace. She did not take advantage of being pregnant to miss work, she was truly very sick the whole time. It actually made me very scared that that was what it was like to be pregnant. It was very unfortunate that the company I worked for thought that one REALLY bad day during my first trimester meant that I was going to somehow abuse the rules and needed to be written up.
Still, those two blemishes on my record are the only things since I was TWELVE YEARS OLD! So, let’s just count work experience from 18-years-old and older. That’s a 22-year career with a stellar work record. I haven’t been “faking it till I make it” for the last 22-years, but being laid off still makes you question yourself! Or, being laid off made ME question myself. I guess that I can’t speak for everyone!
What a Layoff Can Do For Your “Imposter Syndrome”
I don’t know how many men struggle with “imposter syndrome,” but I know many women who do. I have had numerous conversations with other women where we are both struggling with imposter syndrome, but also both reassuring each other that the other is a complete Rockstar at their job. I usually am not one to need a lot of external validation of my work. My boss at a previous position tried to coach me on taking more credit and speaking up about everything I was working on and accomplishing. I REALLY struggled with this. I never want to take credit for someone else’s work and I truly felt like my success was a result of the great work my team was doing. I still haven’t found that balance. I feel awkward sitting in a meeting and being like “Hey, look at all the amazing things I did!”
But, back to the nightmare that has very appropriately been name “imposter syndrome”. You have this fantastic job, or you are talking in front of an amazing group of industry experts, and part of you thinks, “Wow, I am such a fraud; I am not good enough to be here.” Well, unless you are a master manipulator, you probably are good enough to be there. If you are surrounded by intelligent people and industry experts interested in what you have to say, you are most likely the Rockstar that part of you truly KNOWS you are!
YOU ARE NOT AN IMPOSTER!
How a Job Change Affects Your Mental Health
One article discusses the “unemployment depression” that thousands of Americans are feeling right now. We went from companies just throwing money at people because they couldn’t hire anyone in a super competitive job market to mass layoffs. Major businesses have been laying off people by the thousands, and those are just the name-brand companies that you hear about in the news. This is also just the beginning. I am NOT an expert on economics, but I did know as I tried to hire people at inflated wages that businesses would never be able to sustain the tremendous rise in wages.
So many people feel defined by what they do. This isn’t surprising because we spend so much time working. One of the first things people ask you when you meet them is what you do for a living. I don’t think I realized how often people ask that until I was unemployed. Luckily, I am a digital marketer regardless of my actual employment status, and I have been working on launching my Podcast… but I did shy away from the answer “I am unemployed” or “recently laid off.” I am also SUPER open about things, so I feel like the fact that I tried not to mention it really says something about the damage a layoff can do to your confidence and overall mental health.
Learning to Trust Your Intuition Again
I really struggled with this entire ordeal. I am still struggling with it. I left a company about two years ago that I knew I was valued at. I knew that I was really good at my job, but things still weren’t perfect. I wasn’t looking for another job, but one found me. One that paid more and raised me up to that executive position “I thought” I wanted.
At the new company, I had a great manager, but upper leadership wasn’t happy with him, and he was laid off. This made me so nervous that I “jumped ship” for what I thought was going to be a much better fit for me… even if it knocked me down to a salary lower than I have had in over a decade. I left because I didn’t feel stable and confident in my job once the person that brought me in was let go. I had never in my life felt like my job was at risk or had been worried about being fired. I got to a point where at every meeting I was asked to join, I braced myself because so many people had been laid off and fired in the year that I was there that I was bracing for when it was “my turn.” I also left because I was trying to hire for open positions and stopped believing in the “great corporate culture” that I would brag about in interviews.
Then, the position that I thought was a better fit was really a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The great “energy” the business owner had “flipped” from being nearly a manic state to being enraged so fast that it could cause whiplash. One day there would be talk of great growth for the company, and the next, he would threaten to shut the business down entirely because someone made a mistake. I didn’t trust my intuition, though. I was worried that I was being paranoid because of all of the drama at the company I was at before, and I ignored my gut feelings about the whole situation.
It is hard to trust yourself when you have been wrong and seriously paid the price for it. This is a whole other level of strain on mental health when you are trying to find a new job, but don’t trust yourself to know which one is the “right one.” I am going to push on, though, and try to keep all of the negativity from the last two years from clouding my judgment!
Hopefully, if anyone is actually reading this, you walk away with a few key takeaways:
- If You struggle with Imposter Syndrome: IT IS LYING TO YOU
- A job not working out doesn’t necessarily mean YOU FAILED
- Try not to lose faith in your instincts. We have them for a reason!
- I refuse to say “everything happens for a reason”, but I would challenge you to take the bad experience and see what positive next steps you can take to make the next experience better!