As you may know, layoffs happen all the time in entertainment. Even before this Coronavirus mess, Hollywood has been going through a transitional period as companies try to accommodate shifting viewership patterns. But getting laid off is a weird feeling – even if your position was eliminated because of a re-org or something else completely outside of your control (who could have ever predicted one of those things would be a global pandemic?), you still might start to question yourself and whether you were the problem. Why did you get laid off over someone else? But don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s normal for those thoughts to creep into your mind, but they aren’t going to help you get to the next phase of your career. Instead, you’ve got to stay positive and view this layoff event as an opportunity.
Your immediate reaction to a layoff might be extreme anger and sadness, or it may be joy and relief, depending on how you were feeling about your job and your personal financial situation. But even if you are on the anger end of the spectrum, there is always a bright side to a layoff.
Layoffs often happen because the company isn’t doing well. Do you want to be part of a company that’s failing? Of course not! Look at this as an opportunity to find something better, at a company with a more secure future. If the layoffs were the result of a merger, the people who were left behind are about to face a really tough transitional period, usually where they have to take on extra work, reorganize their teams and work cohorts, and adjust to new bosses and protocols. When you get laid off, you avoid all that stress. If you’re lucky enough to get severance, you may even be able to spend time taking care of your own personal needs – do more yoga, hang out with your kids, get a dog, whatever makes you happy. Think of it as an extended vacation! And if you don’t get severance, that’s okay – you can put all your focus into finding a job that makes you happy at a company you are excited to work for.
A layoff gives you an opportunity to reassess your career goals and make changes that you may not have otherwise considered. Maybe you were miserable at your job but couldn’t quit for financial reasons. And while it might suck to go on unemployment for a couple of months, you now have no choice but to find something better. You can put those 40+ hours a week you spent working toward finding something new. Think about what you liked about your previous job and what you’d never want to deal with again, and let that dictate your job search. Research various positions and think carefully about whether you want to continue on the same track you were on. It’s okay to change your mind – if you want to switch roles or even industries, now’s the time!
Another interesting thing that happens after a layoff is that people come out of the woodwork to help you. Let people know about your situation, and you’ll be amazed at all the kind words that come your way. Embrace the fact that people want to help you. Let everyone know what you’re looking for next, and rekindle relationships with contacts that you haven’t caught up with in a while. The outpouring of love and support you’ll feel will inevitably make you feel good about yourself and your work, but it also may lead to new opportunities.
That's not to say you can't, won't, or shouldn't feel any bitterness at all -- even if you're happy about your new trajectory, there's still a sting that comes with the change. You are 100% entitled to have whatever feeling that comes to you about your old company. But you must be careful how you address it in an interview. You don’t need to lie and say that everything was wonderful, but try to keep the conversation positive and focused on the future as much as possible instead of giving into the temptation to gossip. It’s an easy trap to fall into, so you have to be extra mindful about how you’re speaking about your former employer.
Ultimately, what happens after your layoff depends on how you handle yourself, and it all comes down to how you frame the situation mentally. If a layoff is something that you’ve gone through recently, we say CONGRATULATIONS! Look at this as an opportunity, not a setback. You’re in control of what’s next, and we’re sure whatever that is going to be great!
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan