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Janelle Stiehl, Account Manager at Commit and Louisa Smith, Senior Engineer Success Coordinator at Commit

Career Transitions Series: Navigating Career Uncertainty

September 15, 2022 in Career Transitions

What do you consider when you’re making a career change? One thing we often hear is that folks are looking for a ‘stable job’. 2022 has proven that job stability might not be as predictable as previously thought.

There’s a likely chance that you or someone in your life has been affected by layoffs in the past 12 months. With tech companies like Microsoft, Shopify, and Wealthsimple announcing significant cuts to their headcount, one might feel like their job isn’t safe. 

“If employees at tech giants aren’t safe, how is my role even going to last?”

Layoff Anxiety

A 2019 study of just over 2,000 U.S. adults found that nearly half (48%) experienced layoff anxiety. 

If you’ve been laid off before, you can likely vividly remember exactly how you felt shortly after – anger, guilt, feeling like you’re replaceable. 

While they hopefully only happen once in your life (or ideally never!), there are a few ways you can prepare yourself for a potential layoff.

  1. Strengthen your network

Do you know who you would reach out to if you were to be laid off this month? It could be helpful to create a list of 5-10 folks you know who are in roles and companies that interest you. This way, you can reach out to them in the event of a sudden job loss. Adding informational interviews into your monthly or quarterly workflow can be a great way to add folks to your network.

  1. Create a job-search plan 

Layoffs can mean having 40+ extra hours per week not filled by your previous role. It may make sense to use that time to build a meaningful schedule. Finding time to update your personal marketing materials (resume, LinkedIn profile, website, blog, etc) to include your most recent accomplishments is a great first step, but it doesn’t end there. Creating a schedule helps you ensure you are meeting your job search goals and provides a sense of structure and motivation. 

  1. Find joy

It’s important to take time to process the grief that comes with a layoff, but there is so much more to you than a job loss. Make a list of things that bring you joy, some of which cost money (getting dinner at your favourite restaurant, a weekend trip to a place you have fond memories) and some of which don’t (getting a book from the library and reading in a park, making dinner with a loved one). Having this list beforehand means you have an arsenal of positive activities you can turn to when things get challenging.

Building (and Rebuilding) Confidence and Skills

Rebuilding confidence after a layoff can feel like looking up at Mount Everest from the bottom – a challenging climb. If you haven’t been laid off before, you may be wondering how to ‘layoff-proof’ your career. While layoffs are often unavoidable, there are things you can do to make sure you are able to recover afterwards.

  1. Focus on skills

No matter your tenure at the role you may have been laid off from, you undoubtedly were able to acquire and sharpen a variety of skills in that role. Partnering with a former colleague on a project, or taking a free or low-cost online course are excellent ways to build your skills. Coursera and Mooc.org can be great places to start your search.

  1. Accomplishment journalling

A cross-sectional study in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry found a strong positive correlation between gratitude, resilience, and feelings of happiness. Participants who felt more grateful and practiced gratitude journaling were found emotionally stronger than others. What are you most proud of in your most recent role? You can also consider thinking of your accomplishments outside of work – are you a great coach or mentor? Perhaps you bake prize winning cookies? Maybe you’re an amazing pet parent? There are roles you hold outside of your job title that you do really well, and taking time to remember those helps to reinforce resilience. 

  1. Take time to process

Rewriting your resume and marking your LinkedIn profile as “Open to Work” might be one of the first things that come to mind after a layoff, but is that the best next step for you? “Figure out how long you have to look for a job — and give yourself as much time as possible to do so” advises Priscilla Claman, contributor to the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job.

Next Steps and Learnings

Layoffs are incredibly challenging and uncomfortable but they can often be catalysts for some serious growth. Some folks have even said that getting laid off was the best thing to ever happen to them

If anything, layoffs provide an opportunity to re-assess what’s been working well in your career, what hasn’t, and where you want to go next.

The bottom line is, it’s important to not live in fear of what the next day may or may not bring. There are many things in your career that you control, like the network you build and the skills you develop. We suggest focusing on those so that no matter what your career brings, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done all you can to make your career a journey you are proud of.