Hello from Your Unemployment Poster Girl

It's that time again, friends.

Where are all my irony-lovers? Step right up. Have I got a story for you! A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for The Muse titled I Have Layoff Anxiety. Here’s How I’m Learning to Cope. 

The idea for this story came to me in September when my then-manager sent me an instant message asking, "Hey Liz, got a sec to talk?" leaving me with a sweaty-palmed certainty that my relatively-new gig had come to an abrupt end. After being let go twice, the feeling that you could be dismissed at any moment lingers, making you suspect that every impromptu meeting may be your last. 

But it turned out he wasn't terminating me. Instead, he said he and I were moving to a new global team. Knowing that restructuring is often the kiss of death, I took a deep breath and bluffed my way through a chorus of "Wow, that sounds exciting!" 

As this group formed, one teammate immediately quit because his new position was quite far afield from what he'd been hired to do. My former boss, surmising that this was going to end up like a bad middle school science project, promptly took a leave of absence. (Spoiler alert, he returned two months later, spent an hour in a meeting, and quickly resigned, noting that this new position was one he would "never want nor aspire to"—a sentiment I shared but tried to ignore.) 

As I plodded along trying to understand how I could use my skills in this new role, I couldn't help wondering just how long I'd last. With it weighing on me, I thought writing a piece about layoff anxiety and interviewing career coaches and mental health experts could quell that constant sense of unease and possibly help someone else afflicted with the same bad feelings. 

After writing the piece, I felt like I was slowly tuning out that voice in the back of my head that screamed, "Get your teeth cleaned now while you still have dental insurance!" 

But as weeks slid into months filled with three-hour meetings in which people debated the merits of one adjective versus another and very little was accomplished, I wondered what I was doing there. After years of freelancing, I was spoiled from taking an assignment and completing it without twenty people weighing in on what images they conjure when they hear the word "sustainable." 

Side note: Shortly after I started this job, a friend and former colleague also changed careers—switching from regional news to the communications department at a large pharmaceutical company. We texted to compare notes, both of us confused by the number of lengthy, pointless meetings and processes. To illustrate her point, she sent a screenshot of her meeting calendar. "See that virtual baby shower in the middle? That one was the most productive."

To say my new position wasn't a good fit would be an understatement. I wasn't really writing so much as I was cobbling together canned responses and sprinkling in commas. Guidance was murky at best and I spent most days feeling lost and unproductive. When friends would ask how my job was going, I'd often say each day was like walking into a foreign film in the middle and being expected to explain the plot. To put things in perspective, even my cat had stopped attending the daily video calls. 

So when I received an invitation to a meeting with my new manager that arrived without an agenda or any other information, I knew my layoff anxiety had been well-founded. I was let go in a mercifully-brief call that came as a relief rather than a shock.

One of the more difficult aspects of this job loss (aside from losing the paycheck and healthcare coverage) was turning in my company iPhone, with its fancy camera that allowed me to capture what I consider the best photo I've ever taken. Behold:

Boots in repose

(Please think of me for all your pet portrait needs.)

When I told friends and family about my latest layoff, most said a variation on "Good! You were miserable there!" and that was true. 

A teammate who recently applied to get the hell out of our group for a transfer to another department once described his work week this way, "It's a bit of a ballache." (Put that on your company swag hoodie!) And that really captures it.

For those keeping score at home, my husband and I have racked up three layoffs a piece since 2013. Here's hoping we stay tied and he doesn't best me in the weeks ahead as having one income is always better than none.

While it does, of course, sting to be told your skills are no longer valued, I'd been planning to leave in June to promote the domestic suspense novel I sold last summer and, hopefully, start a new project. So I'm regarding this as a bit of a head-start.

Think you know your neighbors? Think again.

Shameless plug: Pre-orders are a huge help to both booksellers and writers. If you're looking for a twisty summer read, I'd be beyond grateful if you considered ordering a copy. 

Or, if you'd like to hear more about our past layoffs, my memoir Sad Sacked is available at Audible.com, which is offering a 3-month free trial (through Feb. 21). So go ahead, give it a listen, and see if you agree with the reviewer who said I "lack comedic timing." 

As always, thanks for reading and I wish you the best!

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Rose said…
Great to hear you made it out alive, Liz. Now you have time to write the next the next best seller. I'll see you on your book tour!

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