If you’ve recently experienced a layoff, or believe you’re about to experience one, you’re probably going through a slew of emotions, many involving overwhelm and terror. And for most of the folks I work with after or anticipating a layoff, that’s exactly how they feel, and the only thing they can focus on is getting a new position doing what they were doing before.
But every so often, I meet someone who sees the layoff as the perfect opportunity to finally do something else, a moment for reinvention. I have two recent clients (names changed to protect their privacy) who fell into this category so I asked them both why they saw this as the perfect time to change careers.
Example 1 – A pivot from theatre to account management
First up, I asked Jessica, a former theatre person like myself, what motivated her to use her layoff to look for a change. She, like me and many other people, had pursued what I call “soul work” as her first career, and found it somewhat wanting. Though she enjoyed her work in the performing arts, there was no promotion potential, therefore no potential for more money, and it took a tremendous amount of time, time that she was not spending with her family. Jessica was looking for work that felt good, but it didn’t need to feel great. She no longer tied her identity to work and therefore she didn’t need it to say something about who she was as a person.
Jessica landed a fully remote position within a fintech SaaS start-up.
This, my friends, is huge, and it’s incredibly uncommon for someone to come to me already having made and internalized this information. This left us free to pursue work that would achieve her other life goals – working remotely, making more money, having nights and weekends free, and being able to invest in retirement.
Example 2 – A pivot from engineering to big pharma
Next, I asked my client Sam. Sam pursued a doctorate degree in the sciences right out of high school, and had no particular desire to change careers until she got a bad boss. Bad bosses, we’ve all had them, and they’re the most prominent reason people leave their jobs. Sam used this as motivation to go back to school and get a Masters degree (yes, on top of a doctorate, and no, I never recommend this – please DM me if you are thinking about going to grad school and let’s talk about it) and got the first job she could out of her field. The problem was that this job was not exactly in her new field and that she knew the likelihood of layoff at this company was high.
Sam increased her pay by $15K and got her new position right before her layoff.
Sam came to me having already selected her new field, and had even received a Masters degree in it, because of the pay potential and the work / life balance of the industry. But we needed to gain access to an incredibly competitive, notoriously insular field with the layoff potential right around the corner. Sam felt that if she was going to get in front of the layoff, she might as well use this shift to get the job she actually wanted at the kind of company she wanted to work at.
Maybe you identify with Jessica and Sam. Maybe you feel that your layoff is just the push you need for a change (it certainly was for me too).
If you’re thinking that same way, here are a few things to consider:
Reflect on your strengths and goals
A layoff can be a good time to reflect on what you’re good at and what your long-term goals are. You can also reflect on what you’re not good at and what you really dislike doing. You can also think about all the ways you would like your life to go, and how your current career pushes against those desires. This can help you identify both what you want and don’t for life and work.
Network and build your professional network
Networking can be key to finding out about whole new industries and fields, in addition to future job opportunities. What even exists? When you go out and meet people, you make discoveries. A layoff or potential layoff can also be a good time to reach out to your existing network to touch base, which also leads to new information.
Take advantage of free resources (like this site)
There is a whole world of free resources available to help you explore new careers, meet new people, and upskill in exciting ways. Take a free class! Attend a workshop from your local library. Join free networking groups. Dabble and test out ideas.
Forget your (most) current salary and don’t disclose it to anyone who asks
What you made at your last or current position is your own business and no one else’s. No one gets to determine what you can make based on what you made in the past. New job, new you, new pay.
Invest in yourself
A layoff can be a wonderful time to invest in yourself. Taking a short course on a topic you find interesting or hiring a coach or a service provider can do wonders in building clarity and creating momentum.
And of course, if I can help you, I’d be happy to! Check out my resources on deciding if it’s time to leave, the what next workshop, and more.
Discover the system to change careers without a demotion or a pay cut.