OPINION: How to survive a layoff in these trying times

Don't get caught with your pants down so to speak and be completely surprised when that phone call from the corner office or the HR department comes. Be prepared for anything

The recent mega news in the Calgary oilpatch that Cenovus was taking over Husky sent shivers I would bet to thousands of people gainfully employed by those two massive energy companies.

Now, they anxiously and nervously await the axe to fall on many of them as it inevitably will.

And this turned my thoughts back to almost five years ago when I fell victim to that axe, getting cast aside after 35 years of employment at the Calgary Herald. In mid-January, it will be five years ago when I found myself without a job and worried about the future.

Anyone that goes through a layoff will tell you that it is one of the most painful and dramatic events they will live through. So many emotions. Hurt. Pain. Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Bitterness. Sadness. And yes, sadly for some, thoughts of suicide. Let’s not sugar coat this.

Being laid off is traumatic for everyone.

With the continued uncertainty in the oilpatch, and throughout the local economy due to continued low oil prices and a vicious COVID-19 pandemic that is not going away anytime soon, there are literally thousands of people in this city and this province who are anxious and have a feeling of unease permeating their minds.

Of course that is natural.

For many of those people, now is the time to prepare. Don’t get caught with your pants down so to speak and be completely surprised when that phone call from the corner office or the HR department comes. Be prepared for anything.

You really have to be in these tough and challenging economic times.

So here are a few lessons I learned going through my own personal layoff.

First and foremost, guard your thoughts and your attitude. It can be easy to fall into that rabbit hole dominated with negative thoughts and emotions. It is truly a game breaker. Yes, it is not easy to do but it is a must when someone loses their job. They have to remain positive. In some ways, it will really determine their fate. Look at it this way. If you are an employer interviewing potential job candidates, would you hire someone that presents an aura of negativity around them because they had been laid off by a previous employer? Not likely.

So work on this. It is crucial.

The second thing to think about is your support network. This will be critical in getting through one of the toughest periods of your life. Whether it’s your family, friends, church, or social support networks, lean on them. It will help you through the dark valley.

Another group in your support network is the connections you have made during your career. It’s never too late to work on that. Ideally this is something people should be doing early on in their careers. Developing relationships and connections are vital in business and career success. They can lead to future business and opportunities down the road. Lay the groundwork for that now.

One of the keys in career transition is taking an inventory of your skills. Personally that was an eye opener for me and the game changer. As part of my exit from the Herald, I was given access to an independent HR consultant to talk about moving forward and providing information on how to successfully do that. The light bulb went on for me when that consultant talked about spending time to make an inventory of the actual skills I had. Yes I had been a journalist for more than three decades but what skills specifically did that include. And from there, where could I use those skills perhaps outside of a daily newspaper environment.

That was the key for me. It was like suddenly I could see that light at the end of the tunnel. That opened the door for me to opportunities I never would have imagined before. I always thought I would be a journalist at a daily newspaper. It was my dream since Grade 9 and it was all I really did from May 1979 when I began my career at the Nelson Daily News to January 2016 when it came to an end at the Herald. It was my passion. It was in my blood. It was what I thought I would always do.

One other thing to remember is that it’s never too late to learn new skills and to further educate yourself in your chosen field or even in a completely different one.

It’s almost five years later and life is good. My career is solid, thriving and growing as my eyes, and mind, are now open to a new way of thinking and alert for the opportunities that are out there. And there are always opportunities even in tough times.

Indeed, a layoff can be – well make that will be – a very difficult experience but there is always hope and that hope is magnified if you follow some of the lessons I learned through my personal experience.

Be prepared. It will help those facing layoffs sail through the turbulent waters and end up at a safe port.


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