Career & Finance

Getting Laid Off Was the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Me (No, Really)

written by EMILY DUMAS
Source: @pavel-danilyuk | Pexels
Source: @pavel-danilyuk | Pexels

When I graduated college, girl boss hustle culture was in full swing, so naturally, I did what any aspiring girl boss would do when entering the workforce: I joined a startup. But after less than one year on the job, the company was acquired, and I was back on the hunt for work. Soon after, when I found another job (obviously at another tech startup), they also quickly got acquired. This cycle continued, and over the course of eight years, I worked for five companies, played a role in five acquisitions, and experienced multiple rounds of my coworkers and myself getting laid off.

To say working in tech was a roller coaster is an understatement. I was pushing myself, working long hours and weekends, suffering from an intense case of imposter syndrome, and TBH, crying a lot. So, in 2023, when the last software company I worked for was acquired, I first felt panicked, but then, I surprisingly felt relieved. What was I going to do next? How can I get off this never-ending layoff cycle? What came next was my chance to start over, personally and professionally, and I have to say, it’s been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

Ahead, I’m sharing how I handled my next steps, from grieving the career path I thought was right for me to finding a support system and eventually landing in a brand new industry that lights me up. If you, too, are in a layoff season, I hope my story helps you find a little bit of relief and hope for your future.

I allowed myself to feel all the feelings

I don’t want to sugarcoat it—getting laid off is hard, even if you know it’s coming. I was warned about my layoff before the day came (thankfully), but that didn’t stop me from struggling to process my emotions. Every day after being laid off looked different, and I had to learn that it was normal to experience it that way and, moreover, that it was OK, too.

Some days, when I was ready to conquer the day, I’d wake up, go to the gym, have a healthy breakfast, drink my greens, sit down at my desk, and apply to every job I came across. But then there were days when I just wanted to cry and binge-watch reality TV and not think about my lack of employment. At first, I felt bad about having these sad days, but I realized that I needed the sad days to give myself the brain space for productive, positive ones.

My extra time was spent truly relaxing, prioritizing my needs, and connecting with who I was outside of my professional identity.

I prioritized self-care in a new way

Early in my career, it was so easy to pretend that I loved “hustling.” If someone asked me to come in early or stay late, I always said yes because I thought that was what I had to do. Everyone else was doing it with a smile on their face—shouldn’t I be doing the same? As time went on, it became clear that “hustle culture” was very much not for me. I dreaded waking up and going to work every day, I was scared to speak up in meetings, and I was becoming overly critical of my work. At the time, the only “me time” I built into my routine was when I would spend hours taking workout classes, which I did mostly so I didn’t have to be near my phone to deal with work emails or calls.

With no work hours taking up my day after I got laid off, I started by making some simple swaps for myself to make my life more positive. I swapped my high-intensity workout routine for a more low-impact pilates and hot girl walk routine, where I’d also listen to a podcast or audiobook. I unfollowed accounts and left communities on social media that weren’t positively impacting my sense of self, including marketing/hustle/girlboss style newsletters. And I turned normal nights into a luxury spa experience for myself because I deserve to have “me time” at home without having to escape my devices and without 30 other sweaty people in a room.

While I’ve always valued my mental health, I saw a shift in the ways that I prioritized it after my layoff, and I’m not sure I would have ever slowed down if I hadn’t lost my job. I truly needed a change of pace in order to get my mental health and self-confidence back on track. My extra time was spent truly relaxing, prioritizing my needs, and connecting with who I was outside of my professional identity.

I leaned into my support system

Although all of my colleagues got laid off at the same time as me, I still felt pretty alone. My marketing career was my identity for so long that losing my job felt like I was losing a big part of who I was. Luckily, my friends and family gave me the time and space for me to lean on them a little heavier than I typically would need to during this time. They talked more on the phone with me just because, listened when I wanted to run an idea by them, and helped me stay focused on my future. My boyfriend (now my fiancé) was there to listen and offer advice, and he even prioritized date nights to help me escape some of the stress I was experiencing.

Outside of my loved ones, I never missed a weekly therapy appointment because I knew I needed it extra during this overwhelming time. After my layoff, it was my entire support system that helped me realize that I was not “Emily the Content Marketer.” I was just Emily, and Emily could do whatever job she wanted, be whoever she wanted, and be supported no matter what.

Source: @micklejandro | Pexels

I networked with more people in new industries

As much as I was dreading finding a new job, I knew I had to get back out there. I decided to apply beyond what I had been doing for almost 10 years and try things that I had the potential to do. As a startup marketer, you wear too many hats, which makes for stressful work days but also gives you many marketable skills like product marketing, sales enablement, strategy, SEO, and more. And among my many skills was my ability to connect with a target audience, so I leveraged this in a new way to connect with hiring managers and catch the eyes of recruiters—my own personal target audience.

With my list of skills in mind, I applied to various jobs across different industries—not just marketing. I broke down my experience and created different versions of my resume to match. For example, I had one resume that was focused on my content marketing experience, another on my product marketing experience, and one on my editorial experience. The job I was applying for determined what version of myself I would present.

This not only helped me expand my search, but it connected me with more people, sparked new conversations, and helped me learn about different industries. And if someone reached out and wanted to chat about a potential role, I took the call for not only the practice but also the potential possibilities or contacts that could come from it.

I found my dream job

I had spent a few months focusing on what was important to me, switching up my daily routines, and reimagining what sort of life I wanted for myself. The truth is that working in tech marketing was never what I wanted to do. I always wanted to work in editorial, but I had thought I was doing the responsible thing by working in tech.

While job searching, I passed a job on LinkedIn a couple of times and thought it was out of my league. Even though I had some editorial experience, content experience, and even had an editorial resume ready to go, I still never hit apply. But one day, the recruiter from that company actually reached out to me, asking if I’d like to apply. Even though it was a part-time role and I desperately needed a full-time paycheck again, I wanted it so badly that I found myself taking a chance on the opportunity. Luckily for me, everything worked out the way I only could have dreamed.

When I was finally offered the job, it was offered to me at 40 hours per week instead of 20! So now, I spend my days at a dream company, working on an editorial team, focused on topics I care about, surrounded by colleagues who inspire me every day, and using my writing and marketing skills in a new way. Taking the leap into a new industry was scary, but I have my layoff to thank for pushing me in a new direction.

Taking the leap into a new industry was scary, but I have my layoff to thank for pushing me in a new direction.

Final thoughts

Getting laid off is never easy, but it is possible to turn a terrible situation into an opportunity for growth. If you had asked me at the beginning of 2023 where I saw myself in 2024, I would have told you I’d be a marketing leader at a software startup. I would have also told you I loved that plan for me when I really hated it. Now, I can say that getting laid off in 2023 sucked, but it taught me so much, and 2024 is shaping up to be one of the best years of my life.

If you are in a similar season of life—whether you’ve been recently laid off or are just struggling with not loving what you do for work—allow yourself to feel all the feelings, prioritize self-care because you deserve it, lean on your support system, and if you see a listing for a job you think is out of your league, apply anyway. I promise you’ll be glad you did!