Cocooning After a Layoff: Ways to Calmly and Confidently Figure Out Your Next Steps


Today is the first anniversary of my second layoff. That’s right, second. Let me do the math for you: I’ve been laid off from the only 2 copywriter positions I’ve held in my copywriting career. Yup. It happens.

I’ve been through that awkward moment twice, but in completely different ways. The first time, I was the only person selected from my team to be let go. It was a Friday afternoon and I was called down to HR. I was blindsided. Only a few months prior, I had been called down by the same person, but I was informed that I was getting a raise. I was 3 months into a 30-year mortgage. But, despite having some negative feelings (worry, embarrassment, confusion), I felt gratitude for my company. Everyone—from my manager and HR to colleagues—were gracious and helpful.

The second time was what I would expect: a meeting invite sent the day before. A woman with a title that started with a ‘C’ and ended with an ‘O’ running the meeting. I got suspicious when I asked what brought her into town (she worked at a different location) and she said she just really wanted to be there for the meeting. I got the hint. She wasn’t doing a tour like others had. This layoff was just as worrisome. I had an 8-month old baby (and a 2-year old) and as if figuring out how to manage a familiar job with a baby wasn’t hard enough, I didn’t know how I was going to figure out a new job with my young family.

For my second layoff, I applied lessons I learned from the first and pushed them further. Now, I have a list of tips I recommend to others who find themselves in similar situations. For the record, I officially call this list, “Cocooning After a Layoff: Ways to Calmly and Confidently Figure Out Your Next Steps.” Let’s get started!

Pause. Take a breather and sleep on it before hastily posting about it on social media. Emotions will be running high and you may be tempted to write something negative. Also, at least dust off your resume before posting. We all know that you’re more likely to get hired through some connection—a connection on social media, perhaps. When you make your announcement and someone replies with an opportunity, you want to be able to strike with your shiny resume.

Reflect. Take time to journal and discover where you’ve been and where you are now. This will help you figure out where you want to go. You may reveal new passions or realize you have more strengths than those already on your resume. Bonus: Ask a friend or colleague what they think your strengths are. Getting an outside, positive perspective is a boost to your resume and self-esteem.

Record. Write down any personal truths you may uncover, like your willingness to relocate. Relocation was a possibility with my second layoff, but despite my wandering past, I quickly realized I am happy in my current town. Remember that any truths you write down are true for now. They may not have been true 5 years ago and may end up being untrue in 5 years, but it’s essential to have a grasp on what your reality is right now.

Check your gut. Notice situations or tasks that make your stomach churn or put a big grin on your face. These are mileposts to where you are going. Follow the big grins and try to avoid the stomach churns.

Talk to people. Past co-workers. People who interviewed you in the past, but didn’t end up hiring you (it works!). Cold email people you admire. Find people like you. I found it helpful to talk with women who had been in my shoes: mom of 2 young kids. People tend to be very generous with their time and every person I’ve ever talked to during my periods of unemployment has given me valuable insight.

Continually say “Thank you.” Gratitude makes you feel great while strengthening and creating connections. All those people you talk to? Thank them. Even a “thank you” via email works. But, go beyond the people who explicitly helped you and thank people who are doing their thing and inspire you. I did a lot of “catching up” last year. I found my high school English teacher whose teaching was very influential (hello, I majored in English!) and sent her a message. I wrote the guy who sat next to me in seminar at portfolio school doodling funny things. I even sent “fan mail”—emails to people I didn’t know, but whose work I love. This was fun. And, being unemployed, looking for a job can be (at times) dreadful. Taking the time to thank others boosted my mood.

From my own experience, layoffs are scary and can be disheartening. Just when you think you’re getting into the groove of things, your world is turned upside down. I’ve been fortunate to be able to push my career in a new direction each time. I got to write about one of my passions (fashion) after my first layoff. The second time, my work schedule went from being flexible, to VERY flexible, which was exactly what I was looking for. Make the most of your situation and cocoon—you just may find yourself better off than you were.

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