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How to Deal with Rejection from Layoffs

How to Deal with Rejection from Layoffs
Photo by Finn on Unsplash

I’ve been meaning to write this post on how to deal with rejection from layoffs for quite some time. I’ve had to work myself up over 5 years to talk openly about how I was laid off from 2 jobs–back-to-back–out of college. At the time, I was in disbelief, and I felt terribly ashamed. “What is wrong with me?”, “Did I say something wrong to someone in senior management?”, “How come I didn’t see the signs?”, were just a few of the questions that ran through my head during the weeks following getting laid off for the 2nd time within one year. I started to read about other people’s experiences of being laid off, and although it helped to hear that other people had similar experiences of feeling a general lack of worth, feeling lost and aimless, and feeling hopeless; the rejection still bothered me.

When I was laid off back in 2015, the economy was still healthy. The industry I was working in was starting to grow. I worked back then and now in the building industry. Knowing that everyone else was doing well and that I wasn’t, hurt my ego even more. Today, I’m currently holding a job that I’m really happy with. I have been with this company for almost 3 years. But, I still carry the lessons that I learned from 5 years ago, with me to this day.

I was 23 when I was let go from a large General Contractor in Southern California. I was so confused and I felt a sadness that I really had never experienced before. This was the second job that I was let go from. The engineering firm I worked for prior to the general contractor had also let me go. My boyfriend at the time had just recently broken up with me, and my car had broken down. Everything in my life was falling apart: my career, my love life, and my car. To top it off, I experienced my first of many anxiety attacks during this time period. I won’t speak too much about the anxiety attacks in this post. You can go to read my post on anxiety to learn about my experience with anxiety.

I was extremely lucky that I had very supportive, loving, and caring friends and family that would check up on me regularly. The advice that I got during this time was sometimes helpful and sometimes not. I read several blogs, articles, and online websites in order to study how to deal with rejection from layoffs. I want to share what I found the most helpful in helping me get back on my feet and recovering from the rejection.

1. Ask for feedback.

If possible, and your manager is willing to provide you feedback. I would highly suggest asking your team and your manager for their feedback. The rejection from being laid off may hurt, but if the feedback is genuine and real, this could provide some of the most insightful information about your behavior and your strengths, as well as areas of improvement. Your lay-off might be spurred by financial challenges. Although, this might change how you deal with rejection from layoffs because it could have had nothing to do with your performance; I would still recommend that you reach out for feedback. There is always room for improvement. You will really only have a brief window of time to get feedback while your team’s memory of you is fresh and recent.

2. Be kind to yourself.

I’m not sure who needs to hear this, but I just wanted you to know: you are worthy, and things will eventually be better. Maybe you feel embarrassed, a lack of focus, and uncertainty of what to do next. I just want you to know that you are not alone, and there is nothing wrong with you. Even if you were let go because you made mistakes or your manager wasn’t your biggest fan, the good news is that you can learn from this experience and actually grow from the rejection from being laid off. Also, you can avoid making the same mistake again. If your manager was a tough person to work with, and/or you didn’t fit in with the culture, there’s probably a better manager/team out there for you. Either way, this is a gentle reminder to be nice to yourself through this time.

3. Write down your fears/anxiety/ruminating thoughts.

If you’re continuously feeling bad about the rejection from being laid off, chances are you are reliving the same thoughts in your head. Maybe you’re going through all of the reasons for your layoff, or your mind wanders into a sea of what-ifs and woulda, coulda, shouldas.

I’ve found that writing down my thoughts and identifying the thoughts that are causing my negative feelings usually helps me in getting more clarity in my thoughts. The steps that I take are:

1) Writing down my fear/negative thought,

2) Acknowledging that feeling the way I feel is understandable (this is actually probably the most powerful step in my process). If the probability of what I’m scared of is low, I will address that in my notes. If what I fear has a high likelihood of being true, I will address the worst-case scenarios and best-case scenarios.

3) I will reframe my fearful thought into one that is constructive. See example below:

Fear Journaling Excercise

  1. Fear: I have a strong feeling that I’m not liked at work.
  2. Acknowledgement: I feel like I am not liked because I have not been invited to any of the happy hours after work with the team. I feel left out, and it is completely reasonable that this would hurt my feelings.
  3. Addressing Likelihood: Most likely, the team does not know that I want to be included in social outings. Most likely, it is not that they do not like me.
  4. Reframe Fear: Because I have never vocalized to the team members that I want to be included for social gatherings outside of work, I will let someone that I’m close with know.

4. Get back up and try again.

Of all of the tips detailed in this post on how to deal with rejection from layoffs, this is the most important/effective step. It’s also the most bitter of the medicines that are prescribed when dealing with the fear of rejection. After facing any sort of rejection that affects you, it’s a good idea to take some time to yourself. Don’t take so much time that you put off getting back out there for an extended period of time. If you can afford a few weeks or months without working, I think it’s a great idea to take it. But if you’re trying to continue along the career path you’re currently in, I suggest you get back out there and start applying/interviewing again. If you’re worried about how to answer the question of why you were let go, here’s an article that will give you a couple ideas. Facing rejection right after being rejected can be very scary, but the bittersweet truth is: once you face it, it’s not so scary.

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