It’s something everyone dreads and almost everyone goes through: Losing your job. Whether that’s because your company merged with another and you are now redundant or because they’ve phased out your role or just because they hired a new boss who wants to bring in his own people, you are the odd man – or woman – out. What to do next?
Heather Jagels gets you. Formerly vice president of creative services at Scripps’ DIY, HGTV and Great American Country, she was let go in January.
Reeling from the unwelcome change, she was forced to take stock of her life, her work, and perhaps most importantly, herself. The following is what she learned through that process, with input from two other media executives who also have had to learn to pivot: Evan Shapiro, owner of eshapTV and former head of NBC’s now defunct Seeso comedy streaming service, and Astra Dorf, creative resource at Astra Reps.
Step 1: OMFG! What just happened?
You just got called into human resources and were given your walking papers without any notice. You are shocked, stunned and eventually, devastated.
That’s all okay, says Jagels. Give yourself some time to grieve.
“The best thing that helped me were people who felt solid emotions and were open to sharing that with me. I really hurt and I felt really sad,” she said. “Whether you were laid off, fired or reorganized – whatever—your job has changed and you are not a part of what you once were.”
“Part of being fine when things change is being prepared for those moments personally,” said Shapiro. “I talk to a lot of people in marketing who are the worst marketers of themselves. Understand what it is that you do and might do best and bring with you wherever you go. Everything I need to succeed in life comes with me in this package. What is it you carry with you that will carry you to the next thing?”
Step 2: We can do it.
Once you – sort of – get over the shock of no longer having a job, it’s time to start reaching out to your network.
“Find your allies, lean in to them, know who they are. Also know who your allies aren’t. Understand who they are as well,” said Jagels.
“Your personal brand is built when you aren’t in the room. If you are without a job and have to walk into a room and you have to ask for one, you should know what people think about you before that happens,” said Shapiro.
Step 3: Listen.
Now is the time to let people with expertise and experience guide you, even if you are used to leading a team yourself.
“This is the time to hear from the experts in your life. Listen for the advice on what you need to work on. No one person can do it all on their own, and this step requires you to step back and hear about yourself from another’s perspective,” said Jagels.
“I was talking to a friend about a situation I was in and she kept saying ‘uh oh,’” said Dorf. “You have to turn your ‘uh oh moment’ into an opportunity.”
Step 4: Take inventory.
Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Recognize opportunities and threats. And ask yourself the question: What has been getting in the way of you really going for what you want in life?
“I worked in ad sales for many years and I f—king I hated it,” said Shapiro. “Gravitate toward the things that you love. If it comes easy to you, it is a talent.”
Step 5: Hunt and gather.
You’ve got your self-assessment; share it with someone else.
“Share your inventory with someone on the outside. Get a perspective that you haven’t considered before. Let someone you trust see your list and help you collaborate ideas on zeroing in on your happiness and regaining forward momentum,” said Jagels.
Step 6: Be the change.
You’ve gathered a lot of information, and it’s time to act. Start implementing some of these changes you know you need to make, even if you just do it in baby steps.
Step 7: Om.
You’re more than half way there so it’s time to take a break to reflect and relax.
“Through meditation, contemplation, prayer or just quiet retreat, connect with and reflect on the brand, person you want to become, or lifestyle you want for yourself. Then position yourself honestly in your chosen path,” said Jagels, who, as part of her change after getting laid off, turned her passion for yoga into a part-time profession and became a yoga instructor.
Step 8: Discover.
You are zeroing in on your new path, so you can begin to communicate your message and identity.
For doers, this is the finally the time you’ve been waiting for: create an action plan.
“Once you do that, you can pitch the perfect version of yourself when you are given the perfect opportunity,” said Shapiro. “Being able to sell yourself will be really important in the next 36 months in this industry.”
Give yourself something to work toward each day to really discover who you are.
“What jobs should you be applying for and what companies would really be a good fit for the life you want to live? If a company isn’t interested in who you really are, are you truly interested in working for them?”
“Be open to the idea that what you offer is a product and if you want to stop being treated as a number, you have to stop acting like one.
“We have all heard we teach others how to treat us. The same goes for the professional environment: if you believe you are lucky to get any job, that is exactly what you’ll get,” Jagels advised.
Step 9: Follow your new path.
You have figured out what truly comes easy to you, now it’s time to dig into that as your talent. Combine that talent with learned skills and knowledge and start heading in that direction.
Step 10: Live for your life and not your work.
This can be a hard lesson for people to learn – and it was for Jagels – but you are not your work and your identity is not your job. When you allow your job to become your identity, it’s extra painful when that job goes away.
Instead, remember that you are who you are. Your job is just what you do.
“You have to figure out what you would do even if you didn’t get paid for it,” said Shapiro. “The thing that we don’t want carved on our tombstones is ‘awesome promo cutter.’ ‘Terrific middle manager.’ ‘Filled out expense reports on time.’ You have to figure out what you would do if you were not getting paid for it.”
Step 11: Just smile.
“The happiest person wins, so find the place where your talent, passion and skill collide,” said Jagels, but also “don’t wish it away, don’t work it away. You don’t get another shot at this.”
Step 12: I want to run to you!
You have done the work, learned what your skills, talents and passions really are, who you really are and how you can cultivate your happiness. Now comes the final step: be honest about what really makes you happy and run toward it.