laid off

If you’ve ever been laid off or fired, you know what a downer it is. It’s scary. Where will my next pay check come from? You weigh what’s worse: a bite out of your wallet from COBRA vs. being bitten by an actual cobra. But, you can’t throw the pity party for long. There’s work to be done. Time to find the new gig to keep you on the hedonic treadmill.

Before you resign yourself solely to the drudgery that is watching the want ads and browsing CareerBuilder on an hourly basis, I want you to do something almost as scary as it felt that fateful day when you were handed your bon voyage package. Try life as a freelancer or an entrepreneur.  Or, if you are too uncertain, try a few side gigs while searching for your next job. Yeah, it may diminish your unemployment benefits, but it will make you feel good. It might even lead you to a career you will love.

I know what you are thinking, “Wait a minute, Stacy, I need health insurance. I need a ‘sure’ thing and stability in a permanent, full-time job.”  Well, here’s what I have to say about that:

  • You can get health insurance as an individual or via membership in certain professional organizations. Or, if you want to get a partner and start a business, you can get group insurance for as few as two people (that’s what I did).
  • Working for someone else does “feel” stable and secure. How stable and secure did it feel, though, that day you got let go from your job? Everything in life is a crap shoot. If you are going to take a chance anyway, why not place the bet on yourself.

I was laid off on November 1, 2011. From September 1 through October 31, I was a nervous wreck waiting for that to happen. The company I had worked for for over 16 years had just been sold and the majority of my sales and marketing colleagues were let go on the first day after the sale. I knew my time was coming, and I was terrified. Then, it happened. It was devastating. I spent my adult life with most of these people, and suddenly I was out.  I cried for almost the whole day.

The next evening my former boss took me out for drinks and told me, “this is your chance to start over and do something really cool, or you can just wimp out and get another job.” I thought about those words for a few days as I went through the process of filling out online applications for jobs and forms for unemployment. Applying for jobs and unemployment is soul-crushingly sucky. So, I started networking and I created an Elance account. It’s a little over a year later. I am doing things I love, I get to work with my sister Alanna, I have health insurance, I have a paycheck, and I’m happy.

Don’t get me wrong . . . doing your own thing, whether freelancing or starting a business, is a lot of work.  I work harder now than I ever have in my life.  I wasn’t lazy as an employee either–I always put in extra time.  But now–now I am working doing the things I enjoy with people I enjoy.  I’ve had wonderful mentors during the process, discovered new friends, and learned the value of networking.  I’ve also discovered the agony of figuring out taxes, but it’s all worth it in the end.

I read Chris Brogan’s latest post today about “passion economies,” and it made me want to share my passion with all of you who may be struggling to find “what’s next” after getting laid off.  I was lucky enough to find a way to make my interests into a career.

Another key point in his post is about having secret lairs and co-conspirators.  I have been lucky enough to have my sister, Alanna, as my co-conspirator.  I accompanied her on a mad dash to Miami to get an expedited passport (so she could go to Canada for the company that just laid me off!), and we conspired on that 12ish-hour round-trip drive to start our own business.  I worked on building the business while she kept her day job.  We kept it a secret from family, friends, and her coworkers.  It was great fun and it still is!

Have you been laid off?  What’s next in your life?  Are you still employed but want a change?  What do you want to do next?




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Stacy Jackson is a digital marketer and enjoys helping manage