Last winter, a single writer-friend and I joked about starting a podcast called, “Laid Off. Laid On. Laid.” We were both recently unemployed—I’d just been evicted from an amazing 25-year journalism career—and we quickly realized the parallels between dating in our 40s, post-divorce, and looking for a job.
For example, there’s the self-unaware job who expects you to meet three pages of ridiculous criteria while offering a substandard payoff in return. The smarmy job who fails to disclose that it already has a “preferred candidate,” while trying to dupe you into auditioning for the role of Plan B. A job you thought you had a possible connection with, just up and ghosts you. A job you don’t want won’t leave you alone.
And yet I consider myself one of the lucky ones in the Media Apocalypse of 2019, when nearly 3,500 journalists were laid off across the U.S. My experiences in the news media gave me future death-bed stories such as the time I spent an afternoon in a dressing room with Diane von Furstenberg or scrubbed in to watch a young mom’s open-heart surgery. During my job search last year, I had several, mutual swipe-right experiences with potential employers that led to interviews—and a great position as a writer/editor at Newfields.
And, as with dating, I got some good stories to tell my friends—involving both my own humbling, hot-mess moments and the messed-up things other people did—and came up with a few do’s and don’ts for living your best life after a layoff. Feel free to learn from my mistakes.
DO keep it classy on social media.
Just as it’s not cool to light up your ex on social media, it’s not advisable to light up your former employer, either. I’m glad I didn’t. I hadn’t planned on writing a Facebook post a couple of hours after signing my severance agreement with IndyStar, but a local media outlet was about to report the news of the layoffs.
It’s a good thing I was still in shock, because I felt zero anger. All I could think about was what an amazing run I’d had; over the past decade, I saw so many talented journalists get laid off early in their careers. I quickly wrote a long post about my gratitude for my 12 years as an editor in Indy—and urged people to support local journalism.
Without the work of IndyStar, as just one example, Larry Nassar would still be sticking his fingers into the vaginas of hundreds of innocent and trusting gymnasts under the guise of a “legitimate medical procedure.”
Many colleagues shared the post, and a few national media outlets quoted from it. Then the encouraging comments—the ones that kept me from driving my car into a river—started coming in. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this feeling of gratitude set the tone for the rest of 2019.
DO prepare to be stupid with grief.
Much like with my divorce, once the shock of my new reality subsided, I moved on to a popular form of denial known as ahhhhh … sweet freedom! But then things got weird. I called my sister in Phoenix and persuaded her to contribute $1,000 to my YOLO fund. My plan: Meet up in the Himalayas with a longtime friend who’d quit his well-paying job to go on a Far East journey of self-discovery.
Ultimately, I didn’t go. And part of me regrets that. I wanted out of my house, and my head, so badly. Then one day, while visiting my parents, my daughter observed that I was laughing and playing with the dog—something I’d always been too “busy” to do when I was glued to my phone. Losing myself in a simple moment? Me? That’s when I knew everything was going to be okay.
DON’T underestimate the power of a Rocky YouTube clip, sent at just the right moment.
I make fun of my younger brother for his bro-ish tastes in music and movies. One morning, he texted me a video of the inspirational speech that Rocky gave to his son in the 2006 movie Rocky Balboa. (“Now, if you know what you’re worth, go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits.”)
I hadn’t planned on getting out of bed that day. Not only did I get out of bed, but I went for a long run in the cold, then came back home and did some serious e-networking.
DO day-drink—at your own risk.
“Drink wine at noon with a friend” was the breezy advice offered by a former classmate who’d been through a layoff. So I did. Once. (And on a Friday, so does that even count? I was home by 3 p.m.) My 12-year-old daughter, Violet, was scheduled to go to her dad’s that weekend, but after the school bus dropped her off in my neighborhood, she stopped by the house. She found me sitting on the couch, watching TV, with a wool scarf wrapped around my head like a turban, a la faded film star Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
Violet looked at me oddly. I just shrugged and said, “It’s cold.” After that, all wine was kept corked until at least 5:01 p.m.
DON’T expect your resumé to magically update itself.
Somehow, in the months before the layoff, I rooted myself in denial, all while knowing my salary and position could make me vulnerable in another round of cuts. So I hadn’t updated my resumé since 2014. When is the worst time to create a bold new resumé and breathe life into your LinkedIn profile? When your confidence is at level-zero and you’re not sleeping because of those 2 a.m. panic attacks when you visualize asking your ex-husband if you can move into his basement. I’m actually embarrassed about the first few, timid resumés I sent out.
DO be grateful, dammit.
I tried to write a thank-you note, email, or text once a day. To friends who sent job listings, spa gift certificates, and bags of Twizzlers—or who offered a free vacation rental, free house-cleaning, and free edibles (those things scare me). Busy, high-profile people gave their time, compassion, and advice. It’s near-impossible to feel bitter and victimized when you focus on the kindness people show after you’ve suffered a loss.
And I really AM grateful. I got to have leisurely conversations with my parents in the middle of the day instead of “fitting them in” on my way home from work. That means even more now because my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in June and his health has since rapidly declined.
Last April, I met up with two women, Leslie Bailey and Crystal Grave, for a brainstorming session that led to our launching Indy Maven, which is dedicated to my true passion: Writing about and connecting women in Central Indiana. None of this would have happened if I’d still had my newsroom job.
DON’T take rejection personallY. SERIOUSLY, Don’t.
I’ve hired a few dozen people throughout my career, and the “best candidate” doesn’t always get the job for various and complicated reasons. A rejection letter is just evidence that you had the courage to try. (As a former colleague said after my first post-divorce breakup: “If you’re not out there getting your heart broken, then you’re doing something wrong.”)
That is, if you even get a rejection letter. Employer ghosting is real—sometimes even after you’ve done an in-person interview and dutifully jumped through a few time-consuming hoops. One company I’d met with just abruptly sent me a link to a survey about its interview process—“I’m sorry, but did you just dump me via automated survey?” After you’ve accepted another position, hiring managers will suddenly re-emerge, like zombies, to see if you’re still available and interested.
One guy even sent me a rejection letter for a job I casually inquired about but never applied for because the salary was too low. It reminded me of the time I stopped responding to an unsuitable suitor’s text messages, and the next time I ran into him, months later, he apologized for having to choose another woman over me.
I nodded in sympathy—and assured him that he had made the right choice.
Amanda Kingsbury could spend another 1,400 words thanking all the wonderful people who helped her get her mojo back, but she’d like to give special shout-outs to her sister, the Mavens, Dasher, 3G, B.C., and the Squad.