One of my biggest lessons as an adult was that hard work doesn't always mean success. How else is it that I experienced four lay-offs in the space of five years? I went through periods where I was horribly depressed and nearly broke and experiencing all of these other things no one tells you about losing your job. Does everyone feel as gross and pathetic as I did in those moments? Has anyone else thought their world was coming to an end? What about rent? Food? Gas? Who's going to take care of me? How am I going to make it? What about my friends that I worked with? Is this what being an adult means?
Indeed, I like to think of myself as something of an expert at getting laid off. I managed to always find jobs with small companies who were financially struggling; and then one day, there's a box on your desk and they're telling you to leave. But it taught me a lot — perhaps more than most other experiences I've had as an adult. And I firmly believe I'm smarter and stronger for it.
Losing your job can happen to anyone. No one is immune. And while I hope it never happens to you, here are 11 things I can tell you before you go through any of it.
1. You Might Get No Closure
You might lose your job in an unfair or cruel manner. Maybe someone did something to hurt or betray you. To make matters worse, you don't get to say what's on your mind before you walk out. You don't get the last word. It really feels like the short end of the stick.
There's a good chance you're really mad at first. You might cry for days. But for your own sake, you have to make peace with the fact that you didn't get to make peace. You have to (eventually) find a way to be happy and move on, because that hatred and anger is too much to carry around with you. You deserve better.
2. You May Not Get To Say Good-Bye
Sometimes, coworkers can become family. You see them more than most people, and you go through a lot together. You hung out outside of work, celebrated birthdays, went to their weddings and baby showers, and formed a special bond. And then it ends one day.
And here's the cherry on top: Your employer sometimes, requires you to leave immediately, and you don't get to say your good-byes to the people you were so close to. It sucks and it feels awful, but it does happen. Know that if those people are your friends, they'll still be there no matter where you work.
3. The Matter Of Unemployment Isn't Always Clear-Cut
Of course, if you get fired, it's fairly safe to say receiving unemployment is probably a no-go (although it never hurts to look into it). If you were laid off, there's a better chance you'll be eligible for some kind of financial assistance. Your employer should clearly explain this to you before you leave, but that doesn't always happen. Call your state's unemployment office to find out for sure.
4. If You Get Unemployment, It Might Not Be As Much As You Want Or Need
This varies by state, so you'll need to find out how it works where you live. But I can say from experience that Nevada (where I live) caps the amount of unemployment you can receive, and it ain't much. You might be just barely making ends meet. You might be getting way, way less than what your paycheck was. As if the emotional stress wasn't bad enough, now you're feeling it financially.
As hard as it is, you might have to pick up the pieces and get your ish together. Schedule interviews. Send out resumes. Look for freelancing work. Pick up odd jobs in the meantime. Use the resources you have, and you'll find a way.
5. You Might Not Be Able To Access Your Work Computer Again
If your employer has any security concerns at all, they're within their rights to lock your work computer (and any other company devices you use) and not give you the chance to access them one last time. It's usually a good idea to keep personal stuff off your work computer in general; and certainly don't let that be the only place you're storing it. You don't own it. You don't control it. It can be taken away at any point.
6. It Can Happen At Any Time, With No Warning
I (along with half my team) was once laid off by an employer who previously told us we were growing too fast and he needed to hire more people. Needless to say, I was just slightly caught off guard.
As bitter as it sounds, it's the truth: For many of us, "job security" is merely an illusion. Your job can end at any moment. All you can do is work your hardest, do your best, and be a good person. The fact that you don't control your job should also bring you comfort; because if you get laid off knowing that you always did your best, then there's nothing you could've done differently.
7. Think About Negotiating
If your employer's cool, they might leave you with one month's (or however many) pay. If they don't, ask. If they do, consider asking for more. I know this is tough for women. It's the same reason it's so hard for us to ask for a raise: We're scared to talk about money and "push it" too much. But really, what do you have to lose at this point?
8. Don't Assume Former Coworkers Will Want To Talk Smack — Or Talk At All
Some of your former coworkers could be contractually obligated to avoid all office drama talk with you. They could even be prohibited from talking to you at all. It's hard not to take it personally; after all, they were your friends. But remember: They're worried about their jobs too, particularly after your departure. Also keep in mind that things could be different a few weeks or months down the road. This isn't the end.
9. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Ask your former superiors if they'll be a reference or if they can provide a letter of recommendation. See if they have any connections or people they can introduce you to. Everyone knows someone; and they'll very likely be happy (and eager) to help you.
10. You Could Be Unemployed For A While — Or The Total Opposite
I've been unemployed for over a year. Another time, I was unemployed for two weeks before finding another job where I made way more money. You just never know. You're probably going to feel defeated and totally down in the dumps; but you have a bright future ahead of you. Take some time to grieve, because it really does feel like a loss. Then get back on that horse.
11. Lastly, At The Risk Of Sounding Totally Cliche...
Everything happens for a reason. This door closed because a better one is going to open. If you just lost your job and you feel like the scum of the earth, I'm here to let you know that you're brilliant, and this too shall pass.