Searching for a new job when you are gainfully employed can sometimes be demoralizing. When you're laid off, however, a job search descends into the act of thrashing about for a life raft. Your ego takes a hard hit and emotions can take over.
I was laid off on January 2, 2009. Not only did it suck to be kicked off the team, but it made me wonder how I would keep the lights on and the children fed. I wondered how to address the gap in my work history. I was angry that people who still have jobs are looking for jobs. I also wondered how big a paycheck the devil would offer me for my soul.
Compounding the ego issue, there were no openings at my level. My husband and I did some life-math to determine if I needed a job or the job. Lowering my standards quickly became compulsory. With more layoffs looming in my job market, there was pressure to act fast. My bruised ego did not immediately buy into the rush to under-sell myself into under-employment.
To better explain it to my ego, I crafted a list of pros and cons:
- Health insurance vs. COBRA rates;
- Staying busy vs. daytime television mush-brain;
- Growing my network vs. growing my waistline;
- Learning a new industry vs. stalking innocent recruiters;
- Shorter commute vs. no commute;
- Better schedule vs. no schedule; and
- Money vs. no money.
I stopped waiting for a miracle and started applying — and jogging. Ultimately, something is better than nothing, so I stuffed my ego in a closet.
Caught off guard one afternoon, I took a call from a recruiter. She quickly asked why I had applied for a job that I seemed overqualified for, considering my (considerably higher) previous salary and experience. I wanted to say "Funny, my ego wants to know too," but I paused, waiting patiently for the words to come. The pause got awkward as I struggled to keep my ego quiet. My brain shrieked, "You're blowing it!" and I suddenly pictured my pros and cons. I apparently mustered something coherent, because she scheduled an interview.
To prevent my starving ego from devouring my tongue again the next time I faced this question, I "scripted" my pros to demonstrate that I have considered my options carefully and I'm a go-getter with commitment on my mind (they even convinced my ego a little):
- "I'm interested in this position for reasons other than compensation."
- "While I have skills and talents that will transfer, I am new to your industry."
- "I'm targeting companies that prefer to promote talent internally."
- "The shorter commute will greatly reduce my expenses."
- "The schedule fits my home life."
- "Your comprehensive benefits will offset some of the disparity in pay."
So, I used versions of these scripts in five interviews and eventually accepted the best of three offers. My ego finally went into hibernation.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, my advice to you is to get your ego and emotions on board with your wallet. If you've achieved something worthwhile in your work history, it's probably not an accident. If it is an accident, you were over-employed and should try to learn something this time around. Assuming you worked hard to get to where you were, trust that you will do it again. Repeat after me, "Success is at the intersection of preparation and opportunity."
Once I allowed myself to go for the job, I was energized. I think I'll even enjoy it! Maybe there'll be no Disney trip this year, but my kids won't miss it. They're too busy talking about the camping trip that found us all huddled under a tarp eating soggy PB&Js when Dad farted and we couldn't escape the smell for the rain! Which experience serves them better later in life? No question.
Thank you, I'll take the job. (Ego, go back to sleep, it's not springtime yet.)
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