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My First Layoff: Tales of Disappointment — And Relief

By Katherine Gustafson

With so much about layoffs in the news — and in some of our lives — we’re thinking back to how those moments have felt for us. Many or even most of us have a tale of woe (or secret thankfulness) related to a layoff.

We asked EM Marketing consultants about the stories of their first layoffs, and of the tales we received, the overriding theme was relief. It turns out that when layoffs are nigh, the company you work for…. well, may not be the greatest place to be right then anyway.

Good riddance, failing start-up

EM Founder Ken Chen remembers his first layoff like it was yesterday. He was working at a startup and hadn’t seen his boss for two weeks while the management team had endless (ominous) private meetings. Then the entire 20-member product and marketing team was gathered in a room and told, “Welcome everyone, this is your last day here.”

“Some people were shocked, some people were overjoyed, and some people, like me, quickly thought, ‘How do I get out the door as fast as humanly possible?’ If I could have just thrown my computer into a pile and left, I would have.”

His reaction was due to the fact that leaving a failing startup can be a profound relief, even if it’s disappointing to lose a job. “It’s amazing how many countless hours can be put to a futile strategy or project work,” he says. “So much was built in such a short amount of time, only to end so abruptly.”

Onward and upward!

Yvonne Fulchiron Schmidt, a marketing strategy consultant, was the sole marketer at a gaming middleware company that was having trouble hitting its numbers. The holiday party was cancelled, and then the marketing pro was the first to get the ax.

“The layoff was a shock; I took it personally and was disappointed,” she remembers. But “it was a blessing that this happened” because she landed a job at Apple within a week, “and the rest is history.”

The universe has a plan

Marketing consultant Nancy Keith Kelly asked to go part-time at her agency when her mother was battling cancer. She helped her mom with treatment while backfilling a maternity leave in the San Diego office, but when she returned to her usual San Francisco office, she was laid off along with three others on her first day back.

“The shock was pretty big, but a sense of relief came with it,” she says. “No more calls when driving to a chemo appointment, no more decks to work on in the patio given our neighbor’s internet was stronger, no more guilt about putting family before career.”

The layoff gave her two extra months in which she was able to be with her mom all the time — an unexpected blessing.

“I do believe that sometimes things in the universe do happen for a reason… my layoff was one of them.”

Layoffs can be romantic

EM’s Head of Growth Charlie Mock, a digital marketing consultant, was working at a startup in late December 2000 after the dot-come bubble had burst.

“We were hanging in there, checking f#ckedcompany.com daily, and burning through bridge loans,” he recalls. Then, the night before he was set to fly home to Texas for the holidays, he got a phone call, two weeks’ severance, and details on Cobra insurance. “Merry effing Christmas!”

It was a tough time in the Bay Area, but the layoff came to him as a “huge relief,” in part because he started dating his eventual wife in earnest as a result. “Our secret office affair the summer prior couldn't survive the startup’s political infighting,” he says, but it was free to blossom in the open air.

Look on the bright side

What this collection of stories tells us is that it’s very common for a disappointing or upsetting event like a layoff to have a silver lining. Even those who were shocked, saddened, or even insulted by the surprising turn of events were able to salvage something good — and in many cases far better — from the wreckage.

So next time you’re faced with a layoff or other similar forced life change, take a minute to look at the positive ways the new reality might transform your life. It may not be as profound as extra time with a dying parent, a relationship with a future spouse, or a job at one of the world’s biggest tech companies. But it’s probably at least as good as a little bit of time off and maybe a sweet sense of relief.

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About Katherine Gustafson

Katie Gustafson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, focusing on content writing for business, tech, finance, and nonprofits.

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