I Got Laid Off. And It Was Awesome.
This time of year is often a time of reflection on what we’ve accomplished, as we set new goals for the year ahead. For me, a bit of office cleaning had me reflecting on the last letter I got from my last employer.
*Waves hands up and down in flashback motion*
About a decade ago, I had it pretty good. We had just moved into a new suburban home, I had finally left the grueling hours of agency life, and I had secured a new corporate job as a communications director just 10 minutes from that new home – which in the DC area is no small feat.
Like I said, I had it pretty good.
Then, a year and a half later, a big giant company acquired the medium-sized company I was working for. That was great for everyone – until I got the call from my boss that Friday night.
I was laid off.
Since I started working at 12 years old, I’d never been fired or let go from ANY job. Hell, I’d never even had a bad performance review! But, in the wake of the acquisition, my role was duplicative and there was no position for me at the new company. It was devastating. I mean, it wasn't the best job in world, but I had a good team and I got some good work done. But I also had a mortgage. And suddenly I was unemployed in what was still the tail end of the worst job market in a long time.
I was terrified.
I was crushed.
My confidence in myself and my abilities was at an all-time low.
I got a letter, too. A package, actually. And looking back, it was a fairly generous one – one that afforded me a decent amount of time to find a new job. But as my incredibly supportive wife pointed out, it also gave me time to finally try something I’d been talking about for years – freelancing.
I figured I’d give it a shot. At the very least I’d be able to make that severance package last a bit longer, and have some fun between interviews for jobs I was either overqualified for or didn’t pay enough. So, in the early days of social media, I put it out there to my network – the hundreds of people I’d worked for and with – my clients, my colleagues, my partners. I was now officially a freelance copywriter.
And something funny happened. That “some fun” turned into a project. And another. And a bigger one. And a more high-profile one. Then a referral. And another. And before I knew it, I had something amazing – a new career. It’s given me freedom, flexibility, and a fulfillment I haven’t had since I drew comics for my college newspaper. And I never looked back.
So yeah. I was laid off. And it was pretty damn cool.
The point? One you’ve probably heard before, but hopefully demonstrated here in a practical fashion – even the worst situation can often be a huge opportunity. For me, it was an opportunity I wouldn’t have been able to explore without the support and confidence of my friends, family and colleagues.
And that, dear reader, is what I’m most thankful for this holiday season.
(c) 2015 Kwame DeRoché