Laid Off? Here Are 5 Ways To Make The Most of This Time For Personal Growth

With the COVID-19 situation, while few of us are fortunate to continue working from home, for many this is not an option. Operations-heavy companies’ businesses are especially affected and newer startups, small businesses have run out of reserves in the light of an apparent economic slowdown. As such, lay-offs are likely to rise in the coming quarters.

Written by: Abhinit Modi

Akbar and Birbal were strolling around the palace lake. Akbar turns to his pal and ponders “What is one thing which can make you sad when you are happy and make you happy when you are sad?” Birbal effortlessly retorts “This time shall pass,” leaving Akbar contemplating standstill. As cliche as Birbal’s comeback sounds, layoffs mostly are temporary and non-personal.

Like the current COVID-19 situation. While few of us are fortunate to continue working from home, for many this is not an option. Operations-heavy companies’ businesses are especially affected - dearth of pickup/delivery workers, store staff, customers. Newer startups, small businesses have run out of reserves in the light of an apparent economic slowdown.

Dealing with a layoff is NOT trivial. Your self-esteem is dented, you still have bills to pay and there are clouds of uncertainty till you can foresee - valid reasons to incite emotional havoc. Even though job hunting will hog the most time, it is not the most important. Leveraging a lay off for bettering your outlook and re-inventing yourself is the focal point of this blogpost.

#1: Focus On Emotional Resilience

“Biggest mistake is not the mistake, but not learning from it.”

The frontline reactions post a layoff are lack of confidence, victimisation and a whole lot of finger pointing on self, on employer, circumstance etc. First to-do - reinstate mental sanity.


  1. Stepping back: It is highly recommended to take ample time off i.e. not jump into job hunt impulsively. Feel like sitting and sulking or gossiping or cursing for a while? Go ahead, mourn, grieve, vent it out.

  2. Self-talk habits: How you speak to yourself can either support you or compound your stress levels. Instead of playing the blame game, identify the closest root cause. Establish what this experience has taught you about yourself and your goals. Once you tell a story over and over to yourself, it cements a belief. These will help you candidly justify the hiatus in your next job interviews.

Many successful professionals have experienced this and were able to turn things around. You're no different.

#2: Build A Routine

Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but of self-security.

Next are practices that should be preached even otherwise, but in situations like these they catalyze self-growth and emotional equilibrium.

  1. Fitness: Best clinically proven method for coping stress. The feeling of “tired” by “own hard work” incites a great deal of self-satisfaction. Start with just a walk.

  2. Friends & Family: Your closest circle of positive minded people. Communicate honestly and frequently with them. Use them as your cushion. 

  3. No Distancing: Avoid isolating yourself. The longer you do, the harder it is to get out. Interacting with people will make you more accepting of your situation. You realise more, when you express more. These are people who could be potential networks.

  4. Mindfulness: It is a good idea to consciously devote 20 mins everyday to sit in stillness, accept your thoughts and narrate the positive story you made above.

  5. Sleep: You do not want to feel mentally exhausted when there is already so much turmoil. Even the contrary, sleeping to avoid facing reality is just cowardly.

  6. Self Pampering: Even though you might be living by the day, shower, treat yourself, go out. Feeling nothing is under control? Go clean that desk of yours, see the hormones elate. Your confidence only increases once you start loving yourself.

#3: Weigh Your Finances

“Do I really need smart lamps in my living room?”

This is an opportune time to take a hard look at wants versus needs. Get an estimate on how long you can sustain. Budget your expenditure more carefully than before. Start using finance and budget management apps. Classifying “needs” will push you towards the career you “aspire (next section)” rather than pouncing into the corporate rat-race again. Financial freedom is needed but refrain from making it top priority.

#4: Seek Clarity

“Career is not a destination, it is a journey.”

Any job has negatives, but were there many you were ignoring (team-culture, nature of work)? Are there aspirations waiting to be pursued (entrepreneurship, teaching)? Would you deploy skills for rather meaningful objectives (build educational web-servers v/s cloud applications for tech-giants)? Or pursue learning seriously (a degree in computational finance)? There cannot be a better time. 

This is a ripe time to realign with your values than living on autopilot. A career-path change, a detour, some branching are obvious positive outcomes of a layoff. They need not be your immediate next careers, but foundations to set now and reach eventually.

Maybe think beyond 9 to 5?

Look inside your heart to know what you want is practically useless advice. Self-awareness is hard acquired by sustained practice. These prompts only scratch the surface.

  1. Enlist things you want to change from your old job. Use this to bolster your self-narrative for emotional resilience. 

  2. Journal your thoughts, high and low days. Daily ask yourself what made you happy, when did you not notice time pass by, what were you appreciated for, when did you feel that you mattered?

  3. Paint your future self. Where do you live? Who with? What kind of people would you influence with your job? Look for people whose lives appeal the most to you. Reinvent.

  4. Play IKIGAI.

Consider the power of side-gigs:

Rather than immediately jumping on to a new job, invest in a side hustle to experiment if it could be a future role. This not only keeps you busy, but gets you meager income and trust in your self-worth. If you are strapped for cash, or want to buy time to recover, to know yourself better, use a side gig to teach skills you already have, work on freelance projects, volunteer etc.

Step out. And just ask people, how can you be of help. Service to people, the feeling of being useful is the biggest missing piece in the capitalistic jigsaw.

Focus on skill augmentation:

The hard part after drawing your goal is finding a route. Up those skills which cost your job, gaps you wanted to fill, specialise in your interests, diversify and connect domains. Often penchants are transferable, what you need is a connecting arc. An engineer’s passion in music need not manifest as a lead-guitarist, she could build tools to generate music, mix music. Be your own niche. Go back to school if that is the commitment you’re looking for. Online courses, weekend classes also benefit significantly. Again side gigs are great platforms to empirically evaluate mastery. Persist, persevere, repeat.

Stints like these not only add weight to your resume but speak volumes of your character.

Too Long, Didn’t Read? Here’re some quick take-aways:

  1. Form a positive story about yourself - your history, the layoff. Narrate.

  2. Make physical fitness and friends/family time a daily routine.

  3. Visualize your future identity. Identify and fix skill gaps. Hone existing skills to find shortcuts, pick new ones. 

  4. Leverage side gigs for financial sustenance, practice, finding roles aligned with identity.

  5. Take a finance check.

Always remember, the wound is the place where light enters the body. Layoff can be the wound in disguise you needed to find your light. Use it to reap a longer-term benefit. Know that you would get by fine, but once it’s done, what is the feeling you want to come out with?

Was this helpful for you?

Consider sharing it with people. If you have more suggestions on what can be done in times like this, let’s chat in comments.

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