Stand Up After You Get Laid Off

Stand Up After You Get Laid Off

Making the decision to go out on your own has got to be one of the most exciting, and scariest, moves you can make. Which is probably why I took a while to make it, and even then, waited until I was pushed.

I had been standing there at the edge, contemplating my jump for a long time. I started telling select people I would meet that I was going to making “a change” even though I wasn’t altogether sure what that change was. I started reinforcing my network and adding new connections and cultivating and touching base with the valauble contacts, mentors, and friends, new and old.

And then I didn’t leave. I knew things were “over” at my current job, but with nothing urgent or upsetting enough to make me storm out, there I hung, in a mental and emotional limbo. It wasn’t unlike some relationships I, and no doubt you, have been in, where you almost wish for some kind of crisis so you have reason to leave.  Gah! Why can’t he do something terrible like cheat on me or say an unforgivable, I’d think, knowing my sweet, well-meaning boyfriend wasn’t about to do any of those things.

My mother, also very well-meaning, said she was worried that I would up and abandon a good, steady job with benefits for…what? What was the plan? I didn’t know. But I knew that above all, my carefully cultivated and nurtured contacts mattered most, and they did.

Then, It Happened

So while I was waiting and wondering when to leave my job, it left me first. And while it’s never easy, that hit to the ol’ ego, knowing that when layoffs are in the works, someone looks down a list of names and says, “Yeah, she can go.” But I knew that was a flesh wound that would heal, and that deep in my bones, it was a gift. I all but sprang into the HR office where my boss and the HR rep were waiting with strained expressions and a manila envelope. But while I was shaken, I was … relieved. This was the catalyst and my life wouldn’t be the same. And it wasn’t.

I crossed paths with many weepy, red-eyed people choking back tears while hauling boxes to the door that day who in a day or so would be filing for unemployment. But I never did. In my mind that seemed like a big pain with little reward. To file for unemployment would mean I was unemployed, and that wasn’t true. As of that day, I was self-employed.

Going through the rigmarole of unemployment would be like spending time repairing a bike when you’ve got a car in your driveway. I wanted to cover more ground, and thanks to severance (not much, but critical), I had enough fuel to get this baby out onto the highway.

The First Call I Made

The very first call was to a contact of mine who had been interested in finding a way to work together. I told her I was officially available, and she said, “Great, let’s get you out here to meet my team.” And within a few weeks I had one client, and then, after reaching out to another person I’d used to work with, had another. I was riding high for a bit, and then six months later, that one project ended, and I found another. And on it went.

Now, I’m not saying it’s wise to just jump—especially without a net. But you can’t create a supportive net while you’re free-falling. Money is one thing, and so saving some up is a good idea—but I won’t even pretend that I had the recommended three months of it squirreled away. I wasn’t making much, and it showed. But I also knew that while I hadn’t earned a huge salary (and lived in New York City), I was no longer going to take less than what I knew I could make. I’d spent many years honing my skills with a moderate salary, and I was about to make up that time now and charge what I was worth.

I’ll tell you what—that very first client paid me a higher monthly fee than I had ever been paid by a single entity, and it was more money than I’d ever made in my life. That project didn’t last, but I was glad I experienced that early because I knew then that there was money to be made, and still do.

Feed Your Network

My advice to you, besides save a little (or a lot) of money, is to cultivate your network. As a way of life. The people who decide they need a network now that they’re out of a job are the very ones who complain networking doesn’t work. It only works if your network isn’t something you pull out like an old umbrella on a rainy day. You must feed it as you would anything you want to grow, reaching out and being attuned to others’ needs. You can’t draw on a bank you haven’t made deposits to. And for many of those valuable contacts, the very thing may need is you.

(Read more about why your network is more important than your job.)

Terri Trespicio is a writer, creative consultant, and host of Solopreneur on the Whatever It Takes Network. Visit her on Twitter @TerriT.

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