Dear Bev: What Should I Expect If I'm Unexpectedly Laid Off?
If you're among the unlucky, you're probably going through some predictable emotions. Noted psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross's five stages of grief pretty much sum up the emotional roller coaster many of you may be riding right now.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You may not experience them all and you may not experience them in rank order, but Ross says you can expect to experience at least two.
In my 12 years as a recruiter, I've talked to countless media executives that have lost jobs. I'd say denial and anger are the more common one-two punch with an overlay of depression.
Denial. Even with unemployment rates at an all time high and lay-offs occurring in every industry, we all can't shake the "it won't happen to me" delusion, until, of course, it happens. You're crushed, left high and dry by the company you've been loyal to for years. Or maybe you were just unlucky enough to be part of the "last in/first out layoffs and it's way too late to regret leaving that other job for a mere 15% to 20% salary boost. But the tears dry quickly as you move into phase two: Anger.
Now that you've had time to reflect on all you've done for the company, all the blood, sweat, tears, overtime, and lost weekends that went into producing the best work possible, you're downright mad. And here's where it can get tricky. Whether the anger is justified or not it is often rashly directed at the person who gave you the bad news.
Placing blame is easy in this state but burning bridges is something you will quickly regret once you've entered the acceptance stage. Avoid the temptation of trashing your boss or your company to anyone that will listen. If you have to complain, even if you're justified, try to keep it to your loved ones and trusted friends that don't work in media. And, this should go without saying but no angry e-mails, IM's, Facebook postings or Twitters. In other words - no digital trail.
Once the anger has subsided, even if it hasn't gone away completely, depression sets in. Feelings of hopelessness are normal, especially with daily announcements on the economy's downward spiral flooding the news. But as with any break-up, you'll find love again. So shove this phase aside and prepare yourself to move on. Who needed that job anyway?
Finally, the acceptance phase. You've come to terms with the harsh reality and now it's time to reorganize and plan your next steps. Pull out your Rolodex and start planning your triumphant return, because they haven't seen the last of you yet.
Editor's note: If you've lost a job in the media industry recently, or are afraid of doing so, despair not. Beverly Weinstein's column will reappear here regularly dispensing sound advice and practical tactics for managing your career in a volatile employment market. If you have specific questions about what you should do, please post them below, and Bev will help you out. Or if you feel uncomfortable posting your queries publicly, feel free to email Bev anonymously at firstname.lastname@example.org