As a career co-pilot, Lloyd has created a new advice series titled “Dear Lloyd” to answer your burning career questions, anonymously.
Dear Lloyd, I was recently laid off from my startup due to COVID-19 related downsizing. How are others dealing with being laid off during this time? – Unemployed and Unsure
Dear Unemployed and Unsure,
Lloyd knows this may be a difficult time and hopes that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy during these unique times–in other words, sending you a big, socially distanced hug. Being real here, Lloyd wants to acknowledge there may be a range of feelings, including feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, questioning, relief, uncertainty, shame, and many others for those laid off or negatively impacted professionally by COVID-19.
Over the past few weeks, Lloyd anonymously interviewed multiple individuals who experienced a layoff due to COVID-19’s impact on their startup. Below, Lloyd shares a collection of raw and unedited responses, so we can better understand what this experience is like for many around us today. Lloyd hopes this is informative and helpful to everyone during these times, and thanks the participants.
What do you feel are misconceptions people have about getting laid off during this period? Maybe that you even had yourself?
“I think there is truth that being laid off doesn’t mean you’re not good at what you’re doing or not valuable … The reality is that some roles are necessary, other roles provide incremental value, and other roles provide multiplier value. My role, as a product manager, is by nature a multiplier role. You don’t need a PM. It just means everybody needs to do more work . . . Coming out of this, I recognize I need to be able to show why the role is a multiplier in value consistently.”
“In some ways, I feel like we’ve shifted too far to the camp of ‘It’s not your fault.’ While it isn’t completely your fault, there’s some ownership you have to take. Think about what value you actually brought to the business and how effective you were at your role, and reflect on that for a bit instead of 100% excusing yourself.”
“I think a lot of people feel like they did something wrong to deserve to be laid off during this time. I’ve definitely struggled with this a bit in the past few weeks, but ultimately I know this is not the case. You have to take a step back and look at the larger picture of the impact COVID had had on the world and the workforce.”
What is the emotion you felt in the moment when you got laid off?
“Frustrated that the company didn’t try to be proactive. A crisis is a great time for people to come together to preserve. Making decisions top-down shows that there was never really much belief / trust in the people doing the work.”
“Frustration and resentment.”
“I had a feeling it was coming the day of, but it was still dreadful in the moment. I completely blanked and couldn’t think of the important questions to ask. Luckily I was able to email them afterwards and get them answered.”
“I definitely felt abandoned by my employer. It was an isolating feeling, especially during this time when I’ve been spending so much time at home alone already. But, I found some consolation in knowing that so many peers were in the same boat, in my company and around the world. The communal grief has also inspired a feeling of camaraderie, knowing we’re all experiencing this shared pain and trying to get back on our feet together.”
What would you want people to know who haven’t experienced a layoff?
“It sucks. And it gets better. This is my second recession / layoff. You won’t be on your deathbed one day thinking ‘if only I didn’t have the recession . . . ;’. Yes, other age groups who were just before / after you may prosper more. But ultimately, the things that matter, health, family, friends, etc. they’re not job-dependent.”
“It’s painful and makes you feel devalued, but you’re still in control of your career: you can launch into a job search immediately, work on a shelved project, or take time off for other purposes.”
“No great athlete didn’t lose a game … The reality is that you couldn’t control what happened to you. You only control what happens next. Would you regret not trying ‘hard’ enough or not trying at all? Whether it’s to find a job, learn a new skill, start your own thing, or just enjoy yourself. The most important thing is to choose what you do next.”
“It can happen to anyone at any time, I like to expect the best but prepare for the worst. In these uncertain times I don’t think it’s unrealistic to have a conversation with yourself about a calm and strategic fallback plan should the worst happen. Also, please try to think of those affected by COVID-19 layoffs when hiring for your current companies!”
“No one knows how the crisis will play out yet, and it’s fortunate if your company has been able to retain you, but I think we should all anticipate tough times ahead across almost every industry. It could be a good time to update your resume now, just in case. If your company is lucky enough to be growing and hiring, reach out to your network and let them know; lots of folks could use an extra hand right now.”
How has this experience impacted your career plans?
“It’s been a hiccup for me, but has not deterred or changed the short or mid-term career goal.”
“Job searching has been a bit tricky. Part of my previous job responsibilities were done in office, such as office management and company events. 2020 will be looking a bit different so I need to focus on other skills for my next role.”
“I’m not quite sure yet. I had planned to stay with my previous company for the foreseeable future, so unfortunately that is a change. I haven’t landed my next role yet so I can’t say if it will differ from where I thought I would be by this point in my life.”
“It’s made me think more conservatively about my life in the medium term and in planning my next opportunity: looking for roles at larger, more stable companies where I can learn and grow over the next few years and ‘ride out’ the economic storm. I’m less likely now to take a role at a smaller, VC-backed startup, and anticipate having to accept a lateral title or slight demotion for my next role.”
“It’s forcing me to consider non-optimal roles. In some ways, it’s great, as I’m now considering companies I didn’t realize before – and finding they’re great opportunities. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel like I would have ‘planned’ my career with these roles. Perhaps the lesson is that life will always throw curve balls . . . and if you decide to hit it right, you can still get a home run.”
Lloyd owes a debt of gratitude to the individuals who provided these responses. Human and real. This column will be back next week, but for now, stay safe and healthy.