Laid-off: I’m Sorry or Congratulations!

jibberjobber-congratulationsFor years my wife and I would say that when someone tells us that they are getting laid off we say “congratulations!” This is because this transition could be wonderful things for you. It could mean that you are leaving an environment that you’ve outgrown, that you are positioning yourself for something great to come.

That was my situation in 2006 as I was laid off from a toxic environment with a boss who stressed me out all the way to an urgent clinic to see if I was having a heart attack. Alas, it wasn’t that, it was “only” the result of a mismatch of integrity that manifested in physical stress to the point of a pre-ulcer.

I ended up starting JibberJobber, and down a very unpredictable but rewarding path.

So yes, for me, congrats were in order. And my wife and I would project that to others, giving them hope and inspiration, letting them know that great things were in store for them.

But, it’s not always that way. Last year when I was employed full time as a program manager some things in our life changed. Fortunately, I had the sense of mind to realize that that job was only one revenue stream… not my entire livelihood. That perspective would prove to be critical come October, when I heard “Your last day will be….”

Yes, this was only one revenue stream. Yes, great things could be in my future. But, I was about to, once again, realize the depth of devastation that a layoff could inflict on a family. These included:

Financial plans needing to be readjusted. When I got the job, that February, we got a new and significant revenue stream. This would allow us to take care of business and personal debt in a way that we couldn’t have imagined before. We didn’t get to live lavishly, but we certainly saw an path to getting out from under the debt stress. When I was given notice of my last day, the message was “and you won’t be able to work on your debt the way you thought you would.”  Fortunately we had (a) other income streams, and (b) opportunities to create more, or ramp up existing, streams. What if the job was 100% of our income, though? It would have gone from being a considerable annoyance to putting us out on the street (sounds dramatic, but I’ve been doing JibberJobber for 13 years and I’ve seen and heard stories like that).

Health insurance changes. Or, I should say, health insurance evaporating. If you’ve read my blog much you have probably seen my posts on surgery without insurance. It hasn’t been our choice to not have insurance. And we definitely know it’s risky. More risky than what we are comfortable with. But, with my job I got insurance. It was a nice feeling. We were in the system, and kept track of our deductibles, etc. We felt safer, and that we could take care of some health things. And then, it all went away. The feeling of safety went away. Health insurance is a luxury that people who have jobs get. Or people who have a certain income level get (we make too much for the affordable care act, but too little to pay the super high cost of paying your own insurance).

Purpose. I was on a cool team building a cool product working for a cool company around cool people. Then, I got booted out of the club. In Covey’s book, 7 Habits, he talks about what your center is. If your center is your title, or your professional purpose, or being attached to a cool company, then you are setting yourself up for a problem. Especially now, with companies ready to change employees like you change your clothes, do not rely on the fulfillment you get from work to be your center. That will change, or go away, and you don’t want to have no center.

So, congrats, or I’m sorry?

I don’t know.

I’m back to my core income streams, and focusing on strengthening them so if I get another opportunity like I had last year, I’ll be more prepared. I feel, for me, a congrats is in order. But I’ve had a hard time saying goodbye to what I had, what I was building, what I was a part of, and what I was becoming. Thank goodness my mind has been in “career management” all these years, with an emphasis on income streams.

I hope that for you, once the “I’m sorry” wears off, you get to see the beauty and security of “CONGRATS!”