Still Not Over It...

I write a lot about unemployment. (Did you just grumble, "No kidding!?" I heard that.) Not just here, but for The Muse and other sites as well. 

I draw on my personal experience but I also interview career coaches or other experts who offer their insight on a variety of work and unemployment-related topics. Frequently, my pieces are a combination of both.

Often, when I share content on Twitter or LinkedIn, I imagine readers groaning and thinking, "Jeez, would this woman get over it already?" 

And, yes, I hear you. It's been five years since my first layoff and about 18 months since my second. And, yes, I've moved on, and thankfully, we're in a much better place. I've picked up some new freelance clients, and my husband has a full-time job with health benefits — the holy grail. So, needless to say, we feel extremely fortunate.

But that said, after you've been "downsized," "right-sized," "impacted," "restructured," "offered an opportunity to go in a different direction" or whatever euphemism your company uses to tell you you're no longer valuable, the bad feelings linger. 

With media giants "releasing" large percentages of their workforce what feels like daily over the last few weeks, it brings it all back. 

While calling it "layoff PTSD" might sound a bit extreme, hearing about mass "reductions" makes me anxious — like, "Do we have wine and layer cake in the fridge?" anxious. 

It's not just hearing about others who are now faced with scrambling to reinvent themselves that makes me sweat like a high school wrestler. When my husband calls me from his cell phone at odd times of the day, I can feel my knees buckle and I have to grab my cat (the boring lady's version of that infamous emotional support peacock) to comfort me in case he says he's been let go and is on his way back home at 10 a.m. Because we've been there. Twice.

The other thing about layoffs is that whatever emotions you're experiencing — and as awful as they may feel at the time — they're fairly universal. 

Since starting this blog, I've received supportive emails from strangers who've lived through similar circumstances. I've gotten questions about how to address the gap in your resume after you've been out of work for a while. I've even gained new friends and clients — the silver lining in what once felt like a completely cloudy sky.

And I've been reminded of how sometimes commiserating and sharing your story can make it all seem like less of a disaster and more like destiny, part of a brighter, bolder future than you'd have ever dreamt of if you'd stayed penned in in your old cubicle. (More on this in a future blog.)

Recently, I had the pleasure of connecting with Michaella A. Thornton, a staff writer with Washington University in St. Louis' The Common Reader.

She reached out as she was working on an article about how unemployment is perceived and addressed differently for women vs. men. 

I loved the idea of exploring how navigating job loss as a woman presents its own set of challenges with Kella, who survived her own unexpected layoff — with a 9-month-old daughter at home. Here's her illuminating piece:

Pink Slips How layoffs create double jeopardy for working mothers.

Illustration by Maddy Cushman
I'd also recommend checking out Kella's other work, because she is a bubbly and ├╝ber-bright tour de force.

As always, thanks for reading!

Subscribe to On the Balls of Our A$$es


Rose said…
Pink Slips was a very well done article. Also, liked because you were the star. I'm glad things are going better over there, Liz! XO
Liz Alterman said…
Thanks so much, Rose! I miss you and hope we can catch up soon! XO
Unknown said…
Yes, I was recently laid off for the first time. It does feel like you are experiencing PTSD! Like your articles. I'm having trouble even wanting another job. I freeze when I think of working somewhere else. I get anxious having to start over after 20 years at one job.

Unknown said…
Hi, inspiring article. I was laid off 3 months ago due to the covid-19 pandemic, since then getting a job in my country has been so hard,so I have decided to apply to other countries even if it is for general work. I know I am good at taking up new responsibilities.
Unknown said…
Hi, inspiring article. I was laid off 3 months ago due to the covid-19 pandemic, since then getting a job in my country has been so hard,so I have decided to apply to other countries even if it is for general work. I know I am good at taking up new responsibilities.
Unknown said…
Hi! I was just laid off today. Completely blindsided, and completely crushed. I had no idea I wasn’t meeting expectations, and whenever I would ask questions I would often get “that’s a little hard to explain, just move on to the next.” I was put on a new project all alone with absolutely no guidance on how to tackle it, then they said I wasn’t moving fast enough. I feel like I was set up for failure. I have a 7 month old and this comes just in time for Christmas. I’m so embarrassed and ashamed… I feel so small and unworthy. Thank you for this blog, I’ve had so many emotions today and you’ve been helping me process them. I appreciate it.
Liz Alterman said…
Hi, thank you for reading. First, I'm so sorry about your sudden and unexpected job loss. I know how devastating it can be—mentally, emotionally, and financially—especially during the holiday season. Second, it certainly sounds like, as you said, you weren't given the tools and training you needed to be successful in that role. I'm sorry about that as well because, while it's hard not to feel like you've failed in these situations, please know that the failure is on the part of your company and manager for not ensuring you had what you needed to succeed. I don't know what field you're in, but if I can be of any help to you networking-wise, please reach out at liz(dot)alterman(at) I wish you better days ahead.

Popular Posts