I Was Laid Off During the 2010 Recession — Here's How I Bounced Back in Those Uncertain Times

a woman recently laid off

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Angie Callen268
Life-Centric Career and Business Coach
June 19, 2024 at 10:53PM UTC

Getting the rug pulled out from you at work is never a fun experience, and it's a place most of us never dream of finding ourselves. Regardless of the company's reasoning, being laid off can undermine your confidence, leave you in a world of uncertainty, and send you into panic mode in one fell swoop. 

How do I know?

I may be a career coach now, but I was once in your shoes. During my first career change - oh yes, you can have more than one! - I made the move from a civil engineer at a worldwide firm into a small business. A tiny business - running a single artist's gallery. The year was 2010, and the Great Recession was hitting hard. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the best time to move from a high-paying career into art retail, but I did. 

And then the gallery closed. 

I was unemployed. 

My ego had already taken an unexpected hit after leaving the prestige of an engineering career, and now here I am. Lost, confused, lacking confidence, and not knowing how to take a step forward. I mean, I couldn't even answer the "so, what do you do" question at parties without the tears welling up!

After about a month of daily Ben & Jerry's food therapy, I looked at myself in the mirror (and the scale) and realized I wasn't going to get anywhere from my couch. I picked myself up by the bootstraps, hopped on my computer, updated my resume, and started firing off applications to anything that looked half interesting and reasonably achievable. 

A few weeks into my application spamming efforts, I got a call back from a local film nonprofit asking for an interview for a part-time operations coordinator role I had, in complete desperation, applied for.

To cut the story short, I got offered the job. In fact, I distinctly remember the executive director offering me the job with the caveat that "I was clearly overqualified, but we would love to have you on the team." The job barely paid my bills and almost killed me because it was the most toxic work environment I'd ever experienced (there's another article for the future!); however, it became a stepping stone. 

After a few months, I was promoted into a full-time role and eventually became the second in command as the Director of Operations and Events. That role, combined with my previous experience as an engineer, set the stage for my next role as the Executive Director of a nonprofit that managed a historic building. Four and a half years at the helm of that organization ended up being the pivotal experience that helped me realize my strengths, skills, and passions and open up shop as a Career Coach!

In short, I wouldn't be where I am today had these events unfolded. While being laid off is one of the scariest things that can happen to you, it can also be an enormous blessing. 

So what do you do if you suddenly find yourself in this unexpected and often terrifying situation? 

Take a step back.

Give yourself time to process - and grieve - but not enough time to become utterly depressed to the point that you feel like you have no options, no motivation, and no hope. Get your resume updated, get clarity on what type of role you want to seek, and get your head in the right place for interviews, including your breezy and confident answer to the inevitable question: why did you leave your last role? 

Go to work. Apply, network, and do some math. Reduce your living expenses as much as possible and be realistic about the timeline you need to be on and the money you need to make to keep food on the table. Also, keep an open mind. You never know where the next opportunity will take you, even if it seems like a step back or a temporary solution to the financial woes of unemployment

Most importantly, be confident that you have value to add to a new employer. 

Being laid off does not define you or your worth; believing that is the key to successfully navigating your job search.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Angie Callen is a career coach, resume writer, and the founder of Career Benders. She's a Carnegie Mellon graduate with over five years of experience helping business professionals and entrepreneurs achieve career satisfaction. 

Before landing in the coaching world, Angie went on a career exploration journey with quite a few stops that shaped her perspective on career and business.

She uses her experience, knowledge, and skills to help others realize their potential and leverage their strengths in the professional world. Whether writing a resume, helping someone understand their worth in today's market, or facilitating the leap into entrepreneurship, Angie helps her clients build the confidence it takes to navigate career challenges and changes. 

Angie is a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) and Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) through the PARWCC.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for navigating a layoff? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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