I’ve mentioned my lay-off casually in a couple stories, so I thought this week I’d lay it out there and explain a bit about what happened during my hiatus from the daily grind. Plus, I’m coming up on my one-year work anniversary this week, so it’s timely in my world. I also thought it might be helpful to some of you going through similar situations to layout what I think are the pros and cons of a lay-off.
I was off from a daily job for five months, which was the longest break I had from a job since I was 16 years old and I had my first real paying gig doing telephone surveys. To say that this lay-off was easy for me would be a total lie. It was an exercise in patience, soul searching and real partnership. However, I don’t think getting laid-off was a totally bad experience. In fact, in a lot of ways for me, it was positive.
My last day at work started out normal enough. I went in, started my day, then got a call to come up to the boss’s office. I was given a manila envelope filled with my walking papers, now known in my head as THE manila envelope, and sent back to my desk to pack up and get out. Thankfully my immediate boss was great and let me come back to collect most of my things after hours so I could just get out of dodge that first day. My friend, who also was let go via a manila envelope, walked out of the building with me.
She and I fled to the nearby shopping center to depose each other on our shared experiences, then, before we left for our homes, she said “When will I see you again?” It was the saddest thing about my lay-off, losing time with my two good friends who had become like sisters. I will miss seeing those two on a daily basis for the rest of my life. But otherwise, the lay-off was a strange blessing in disguise.
I went home to relax but didn’t fully process my situation for a month. I think I was stunned, although I talked to my then-fiancé and my sister. My fiancé gave me good advice – take two weeks to settle in to my new reality before making any hard decisions or making a knee-jerk reaction that I’d regret later.
From that point on, these are the pros and cons, a year after having gainful employment again, that I’ve come away with from the lay-off experience.
Con: I had this weird guilt where I thought I was expected to “pick up the slack” because I wasn’t working by cleaning up the house incessantly. Nobody expected this of me, it was some weird lay-off guilt that I finally had to come to terms with. Once I did, my household was much happier.
Pro: The chance to really live your perfect day. I mean, you can go to sleep when you want, wake up when you want, exercise, work on personal projects, and evaluate what’s important to you and how you want to spend your time. Really, your time is truly your own, with the exception of looking for jobs and applying for unemployment.
Pro: The gift of time. This is sort of repeating what I said before, but it’s so important. I really began to see my time away from daily work as a gift, especially toward the end. I tried to appreciate what I had while I had it, because I knew it was just a season of my life, not the whole story.
Pro: I was able, because of no set schedule, to do things I wouldn’t normally be able to if I had to go to bed for work in the morning. My husband is a drummer, and I was able to go to this gig he had that started at midnight. It was seemingly something small, but we made so many memories during that time. Plus, I got to see a piece of his life I’d only previously heard about before my lay-off. It was cool to be able to be a part of his world for that moment. I’m sure there’s something in your life that you’d like to be able to do if it weren’t for work.
Con: I was on a very limited budget. Admittedly, you don’t know when you’re working again. We tried to be positive and I budgeted hard. We also were getting prepared for our wedding, so credit cards came into play here and there. You will be working with less money than you’re used to for as a long as it takes to get a job.
Con: Everyone expects you to be free all the time. But, hopefully, you’re looking for a job or creating some new way to make money to live. Regardless, I was actually very busy at certain points during my lay-off because I was applying, meeting with people, and planning my wedding. And everyone, I think, thought I was laying around eating bon-bons.
Con: You can’t travel. Well, at least I couldn’t. If you can swing it, I bow down. I was too worried the moment I got into California or some other locale that it would be that moment I’d be asked to do a job interview the next morning. Plus, there’s that whole not-getting-a-paycheck thing. I didn’t have money to travel because I wasn’t sure when I was getting paid again.
Pro/Con: This is a toss-up for me. There are a lot of emotions associated with getting laid-off. There’s shame, guilt, sadness, a certain sense of freedom. And you have to deal with all of them. But in the end, I promise you’ll be stronger and better for it.
Pro: You’re able to really think and dream about your future. I actually applied to work for Jack White when I was laid off. Yes, THAT Jack White. His company didn’t respond of course, but why shouldn’t I have thrown my hat in the ring? I’m not sure there was even a job open in my area of specialty per se, but I sent in my resume nonetheless. I’m talented. I think we’d make a great team. But more seriously, I was able to envision what my ideal future could look like and plan steps to get there. For that, I’ll be forever thankful.
Pro/Con: You find out how amazing or shitty the people in your life are. My husband stuck by me through the good and the oh-so-ugly. I think going through this, especially just before our wedding, made us stronger. He was and is amazing and I’m thankful. Others, however, couldn’t have been shittier. Instead of taking into account my emotions and how I must have felt during that time, they made things all about them. I had a lot of emotional rollercoasters the five months I was out of work and it really showed me who my people are.
Con: Good job leads will ghost you harder than an ex-lover. This one was really weird to me. If I didn’t get the job, tell me. But when I follow up with you and you’re a sole practitioner, don’t just ghost me. Especially when you’re in the same industry as me in Las Vegas. I mean come on, it’s a very small city.
Pro: You will get a lot of practice interviewing for jobs. Think of it like this: when that perfect one comes your way, you’ll be ready to fight for it and nail that interview.
Pro: You’ll be humbled. At the very least you’ll realize it can happen to anyone. If you let it, the experience will ground you.
Enjoy the time during your lay-off the best you can. Look at it as a season of your life, one you may even miss someday.