I have a good friend and co-worker who likes to say: “Things are never as bad as they seem, and things are never as good as they seem.” I learned this lesson after becoming unemployed…twice.
“Sorry Aaron, unfortunately, we couldn’t protect all positions during this acquisition…so yours was eliminated.”
It was Tuesday, July 15, 2008—the morning after my employer was acquired. I had four kids (one newborn). The new company offered a severance package that covered the cost of diapers for a month.
I could hardly breathe.
Lots happened after that day (detailed in an eBook I later published) but the most important decision I made was to re-focus my career on what I love doing—writing.
In eight weeks, I quickly shape-shifted from a Sales Executive to a Content Writer and landed a gig with an engineering firm. I increased my income by 30% and I began looking forward to Mondays again.
Life was good…for a while.
Fast forward to 2016—after electing to change jobs and become the Marketing Director for a finance firm—I heard a similar spiel. My boss, visiting from his home office in Arizona, invited me to “grab a beer” after work one day. It was an odd request but I wasn’t too worried; I played a vital role and I bathed in praise on a regular basis. I was good!
“Aaron, as you know,” he began, looking down at his water (!). “We’ve experienced significant setbacks with some of our investments so we have to eliminate more positions including yours.”
Again, breathing and thinking became painful. I ordered a bourbon, neat (no ice), after my brain resumed functionality, and we settled on a severance package.
I went home, told my wife, and we agreed to go on the two-week vacation to Martha’s Vineyard we planned for months. We needed the escape.
READER NOTE: Vacations to New York City and/or Martha’s Vineyard are best experienced when you’re fully employed…and you have an income waiting for you when you return.
And yet, again, the “loss” and apparent setback led to astonishing growth.
Six months later, the day after my severance expired, I started working for a bigger, family-owned business operated by fantastic humans. Once again, my income increased along with my sense of value and fulfillment.
Lay-offs suck. Two lay-offs really suck. They offer gobs of personal, professional, and financial challenges. But they are just that: challenges. They aren’t show stoppers. And today, I marvel at the strength of my personal and professional outlook. The lay-offs made me a stronger human by forcing me to lean into my natural ability and love for writing, which, in turn, has helped a lot of other people. Amazing.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, I did make the finance firm pick up the tab for the drinks that day in 2016.