On getting laid off
Disclaimer: these opinions are my own and do not represent that of my employer.
When you lose your job, it can feel like the world is crashing down around you, that you're not valued as an employee or as a person. But as someone who was recently laid off, I've come to realize that setbacks can be the impetus for growth and change. In this post, I want to talk about why I am passionate about working, and how my experiences with sales engineering have shaped my career. I also want to explore why I believe that every human has a fundamental need to contribute to something bigger than themselves, and how this can help us find meaning and purpose in our work, even in the face of adversity.
I was working for Wheel Health, based in Austin TX from June 2022, until February 2023 when I was laid off due to a RIF, it sucked. The week I got laid off I said goodbye to coworkers, reached out to family, and leaned heavily on my partner and my two cats, Mila and Evie (see them at the end).
This may not be everyone's preferred approach, but I finished updating my resume and cover letter that weekend. As I told my good friend, Machin, I'm an immigrant, and working is in my blood.
I'm an immigrant, and working is in my blood.
Although I was only at Wheel for less than a year, at a startup time moved so fast that it felt like it had been over a year since I had applied to another role, it was a bit exciting! The next 2 months were long, reaching out to my network, applying incessantly, vetting companies, and interviewing nearly daily. Shortly into March, I received my offer to work at...🥁drumroll please🥁*...* Paddle.com!
Now what I did not think being laid off meant - learning about myself more than ever, how I see my future, and coming to terms with knowing that I want to work for the rest of my life (more on that later, I promise). The rest of this article is about my experiences and what I learned about this event.
Firstly, I have to acknowledge the privilege I have of being able to stay on my feet after losing my job and having a support network around me. I not only stayed afloat financially but also emotionally thanks to my partner, my family, and a reasonable severance package.
Who I am
I learned more about myself during the last 2 months than at almost any time in my life, specifically about my place in the world, what I want to do, why I work, and what you should do if this happens to you.
My place in this world
I should preface this section by saying that I am so incredibly excited to join Paddle and specifically the Solutions team, I haven't been this excited in a while to join a team of like-minded folks.
After being laid off it became abundantly clear that I do not ever want to feel this way again, regardless of the rationale, someone is making a decision about your livelihood - ouch. I know that I need to further diversify my income, and eventually work for myself and/or have such a substantial "side" income that losing a job will never cause any stress. I've been really into getting into the Real Estate market, brick-and-mortar businesses, and even building out a Micro Saas. All of this to say - I have a new drive to get to a point where only I decide how my family will be supported.
What I want to do
I undeniably want to continue working in Sales, currently focused on its intersection with engineering. I am an engineer by education, and in sales by trade, to me a match made in heaven. Engineers are the new builders - we can build anything that someone can dream of, and the best salespeople are no longer just good at convincing people a product is good; but they must be able to tell a good story, quickly build relationships with their prospects, and always try to be better tomorrow.
The importance of sales is undeniable - no one can make survive or make money without sales. This is not just true for businesses, consider the following examples:
Interviewing for a new job: you're selling yourself as a candidate
Inviting a friend out: explaining that the value of going out exceeds that of staying in
Raising a child: incentives or rewards are used to have a child eat their veggies
Dating: you are convincing someone that your qualities are the best, all while vetting someone else to do the same!
The list goes on and on, sales is not just about making commission, but the techniques and psychology of selling is all around you. Knowing this, I can only naturally be inclined to be a salesperson.
Now I studied to be an engineer and still consider myself one by the way I think, through the engineering design process: find others' needs, brainstorm solutions, build an MVP, test it out, iterate, and never stop. This is how I approach my life, and this is how I want to keep approaching life - not just in how I choose which vacuum to purchase, but everywhere else.
Why I work
I inherently believe that humans need to work no matter their age. Now when I say work I don't necessarily mean clocking in 9-5 every day or going to meetings or using a punchcard, but rather contributing to something other than yourself.
Work is contributing to something other than yourself.
Very generally speaking: as a kid, you work by contributing to your education, from junior high to college you continue your education and understand your greater role in this world. As an adult, you typically work for money and possibly have kids. You work for your kids until you reach retirement age. Once retired you work on your passion projects - that vintage car, the beach house, building furniture, gardening, and everything in between. Again, this is generally speaking.
Once you've reached the end of your "working years" and retired, you are merely contributing to something else other than a corporate outcome. '
But in all of these cases you are only thriving because you are not sedentary, but contributing to something. I've learned that no matter where life takes you, you must be contributing to something to thrive as a human. We have evolved as humans to be good workers: whether it's something simple like working to provide food for your family, or complex like building a thriving community, our ability and inherent desire to work is what has helped us evolve and be where we are.
What you should do
If you find yourself getting that dreaded email and are laid off here are some steps that helped me.
Accept what happened. It's very unlikely that the decision will be rescinded, and that it has anything to do with your abilities. Your only path is forward, take some time to digest the implications of what this means for you, your new job is finding a job.
Lean on your community. It’s easy to feel like the world is ending when first hearing the news, but there are a lot more people in your corner than you think. Your family and ex-coworkers know you best and how to best support you, it is not weak to reach out!
(re)Activate your network. If you are not active in your network, whether that's on LinkedIn or Twitter, reactive it! Find alumni and others you may follow to reach out to, these will likely be your best avenue to landing your new role.
You are not your job. You still have all the talents and skills you know you have, regardless of your current title. Your worth as an individual is not equal to your salary.
Take advantage of the pause. We rarely take time off from work, take advantage of this time to do what makes you happy! Find your energizing activities(for me it was cycling, spending time with my girlfriend, and taking endless pictures of my two kitties).
Find government support. Depending on where you live there are lots of forms of support you can request, whether those are unemployment benefits, health insurance subsidies, etc. These benefits are for you! Use them! For anyone in the Uniter States, I suggest checking out findhelp.
You'll get through this, as did I.