By Bianca Mendez
Every employee’s worst nightmare is to one day walk into your office and quickly learn that your job is done. In fact, I’ve lived through this day twice.
That’s right. Twice — within the first five years of my career! Needless to say I was devastated both times it happened, branding myself as a total complete failure destined to never work in media again.
But what ended up happening was that those layoffs were blessings in disguises. I was able to try out a new career, grow my network, and snag bylines in my dream publications. Looking back, I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t my first layoff.
But that wasn’t something I realized right away. It wasn’t until after the hardships that I realized how valuable this stage of my career was. Here’s what I learned.
Take some time to yourself
I get how tempting it is to get back on the job hunt as soon as you pack up your cubicle. You get this adrenaline rush of mixed feelings and start listing out potential career alternatives. You want to seem strong and maintain that “I’ll show them” attitude. You don’t want to cry or show any weakness so you’re determined to line up interviews ASAP. But, the best thing that helped me cope with my job loss was taking time to myself to just do…well…nothing. It’s a loss that will hurt just as much as a breakup. The first time, I cried. Then I cried again. And then I watched Glee and cried. After I spent a few days to myself, I felt recharged, more determined to snag some kind of a gig.
File for Unemployment and Get Your Severance Pay
Make sure you clearly understand what you’re getting out of severance pay before signing any documents. Will the amount support you throughout your unemployment? Will your benefits still carry over? Negotiating your severance can help you make sure you’re getting what you’re worth and obviously, keep you secure until you figure out your next step. And another word of advice: Don’t wait until the end of your severance pay to file for unemployment. Do it ASAP. The process could take weeks until you’ve finally been approved.
I get it, wallowing over your layoff isn’t exactly the most entertaining of topics to discuss at brunch. And telling colleagues that you lost your job isn’t exactly the humblebrag you want to share, but these people are your biggest support system. Partly because 1. There’s nothing friends and margaritas can’t fix, 2. There’s a probable chance that one of your colleague has been in this situation before, and 3. The more people you tell, the more people you have keeping an eye out for job and other temp gigs.
Don’t Lose Touch With Your Former Coworkers
Losing your job is a hurtful thing, so your initial reaction is to unfollow your magazine’s Instagram handle and distance yourself from coworkers. But just because you left doesn’t mean your relationships there are over. Ask your former boss if you can still freelance and to write you a reference. And because this industry is notoriously known for being a small one, your coworkers may end up knowing someone who just so happens to be hiring. Networking friends, don’t underestimate it!
Don’t Take the First Opportunity That Comes
Unless it absolutely is your dream job. As I was job searching, there were times I felt desperate to take whatever first job came my way. In fact, I was even offered a job on the spot for a copywriter position at a retail store. But I knew from the moment I walked into their Brooklyn office that this job wasn’t for me. That I wasn’t really into the job at all. It was tempting—I mean, what’s more appealing a full salary and health insurance?—but in the end, I knew I wouldn’t be happy so I decided to keep looking. And you know what, it was completely worth it because after I said no, my freelance career began to boom. Which leads me to my next point:
Start a new passion project
I was always intrigued by a freelance writing career so I took the plunge and gave it a try. It was during my freelance period where I got really immersed in the magazine/media industry and took on a variety of gigs. I was a news reporter for one website, talked to sex therapists, fitness trainers, and even celebrities for other publications. I helped one publishing company launch a magazine, wrote a children’s short story, dabbled with social media, pitched stories that I was passionate about, and had bylines in well-known publications. My résumé was seasoned, my writing grew stronger, and my confidence as a writer and editor flourished. And these opportunities wouldn’t have happened if I stayed at that one job.
Mastering a new skill is not only great for your résumé, but that coding class could open other doors in the industry or that podcast you’ve been meaning to start could end up being your full-time career.
Yes, being laid off is scary. But don’t see it as end of your story. See it as the start of a new one. As frustrating and hopeless as I felt during the process, looking back I’m glad it happened early on in my career. Now with experience under my belt, I have the strength and confidence to know that no matter what happens in my career, I’ll always bounce back.
Bianca Mendez is a writer and editor who has contributed to Refinery29, TeenVogue.com, Bustle, and other publications. Her perfect day in NYC consists of trying the latest fitness class followed by a night of wining and dining. Check out more of her work at biancammendez.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.