You’re going to be laid off


If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm,
you will be fired with enthusiasm. 

Vince Lombardi

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. 
Benjamin Franklin

Look you will be laid off eventually. Voluntarily, involuntarily. Your job, your company and even your industry will be laid off.

Defining what you want in your career and your life is a lifetime of work. If done well, there are wonderful unexpected detours and chapters. It all requires endless experimentation and conversation. It is not a video game you do in your brain. It’s not something that you think about when you lose your job. It is a constant creative process, not just saying what you don’t like. It’s the seeking of what you do like. The carving out of time, and space and connections to discover what you want to do and could be doing—while you are employed before you are unemployed.

Not to be too philosophical but everything is impermanent. Nothing lasts.

There have been an average of 23 million layoffs every year since 2018. Not counting the 2x aberration of COVID. 2022 was lower and 2023 will be higher.

The point is not to scare you. We have normalized layoffs. It is a routine fiscal strategy to bolster sagging stock prices, coverup failed business lines, demonstrate cost controls relative to the competition and/or just because they can. Look there are some executives who truly care about the welfare of their employees but at altitude the compassion evaporates every floor you ascend the authority hierarchy.

Now that 2 out of 5 Americans have been laid off (at least once!) 3 of 10 American workers have been laid off in the last 2 years!

More people have been laid off than have college degrees.

I remember when layoffs were abnormal and even shocking.

The fear we have is not generated by the outside forces of corporate power, but within ourselves. We fear not being in control. We fear we don’t know what we want. We fear being too comfortable with the status quo which will never remain the same. We fear that our wits and courage are evaporating from disuse as we surrender to the Stockholm Syndrome of company sponsored career paths.

Regrettably, being laid off is a brutal reality and becoming a common resume line item.

What is your plan if you are laid off?

We hate change. We want opportunities to knock on our doors. We want our employer to provide for our growth, mentoring, and professional development. Wake up.

You have to be in charge of your life. You are the CEO of You.

Mentoring, coaching, networking, career development are not emergency procedures that you rev up in crises.

You can always believe that it won’t be you. You are protected by the Fairy God Mother, or you have some karmic immunity, or you are “lucky”.

That’s what I thought before I was laid off and then again when I was fired. None of these were officially about performance, but I know that I was terminated because I was less compatible and not perceived to be part of the new restructured entity. I remember when I had to pack my stuff into a box that night. It’s a demeaning experience filled with shame, remorse, and all kinds of self-judgment.

It humbled me to try to be a better leader when I had to lay off team members, which unfortunately was too many times.

My layoffs became the opportunity for me to pursue other interests I was cultivating. To grow. To take control of my fate. 

I am dealing with a few recent layoffs, pending layoffs, and probable layoffs in the worlds that seek my counsel.

Here are the pre-lay-off scenarios I have recently encountered, which are more common than John Wick reruns.

  • A senior executive is informed of hiring freezes after the candidates have been selected.
  • The burn rate for the start-up is no longer part of all hands updates.
  • The CEO announces that “These are the last layoffs we will ever do.”
  • The non-profit CFO asks if severance is legally required.

I don’t care what level or status you have at the organization. You must be tracking the tell-tale signs of trouble which happen way before the rumor mill gets into full swing.

Do you know the financial status of your employer?

We are in a quasi-recession right now. Inflation is strong. Sales and profits are slowing. Interest rates are rising. These are tough times.

What would you be doing if you weren’t at this job? What work would you want? If you lose this job, even if you love it, what would you do? What type of work would you seek? Where would you live? How much time would you have to make the transition?

You are and have been avoiding these questions.

Had a spirited discussion with the global head of talent for the largest tech corp. She asked me what my metaphor for career development was. I said Super Mario Brothers. She laughed and asked why. I said, “You always have to be ready to jump. Get what you need and the leap or you will die. Get the resources, skills and “weapons” to overcome the obstacles, challenges and changes that are thrown in front of you.” We laughed.

Get ready to jump, either well before the layoffs, or wait for the severance package with a full plan to implement.

With just 4 weeks of severance, the national average provided, you have barely enough time to panic, commiserate with your inner circle, and maybe prepare for a financial hardship. Not enough time for a career reboot.

The more multi-dimensional we are. The more resilient we become.

Our interests, our network, our lives cannot be centered around our primary job. All your precious eggs are in one precarious basket.

We need to have side hustles. We need to be connectors and networkers. We need to diversify our interests before fear and loathing become the dominant company activity.

John aren’t you the one who harps on the present, not to be distracted by the future or what’s next?

So glad you have been paying attention. Yes, now is the only time. But we are very complicated. We love change if it doesn’t impact us. Career change makes our brain hurt. So we wait until the change hurts us.

What is loyalty anymore? What is the incentive to give our hearts and souls to an employer?

I am saying find good work, with good people and dive in. Enjoy it. Become more than that. Have a plan? Be ready to bounce. 

What is your lay-off plan?

In the middle of a bad job, just starting a good job–You will be laid off. It’s a fact of life. The quiet quitting, the great resignation, this is all about making life choices. Your layoff plan—your life plan. Not Plan B, this is Plan A!

Adopt the never-ending quest to become so much more than your job. Seek the harmonic integration of good work, and the active pursuit of your interests that give you a sense of centeredness and balance about who you are and want to be.

Layoffs are inevitable, but you will be ready.

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