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Getting let go and learning to let go

Every so often, life literally knocks the wind out of you. As you struggle to breathe, you panic. Wondering how will you ever recover from this devastating blow.

Last week, that was me. After a great memorial day weekend, I was called into the HR office--rather virtually called--and told that my position had been eliminated. I was being let go. I then had about 4 hours to collect my files, clear my personal data, and wrap up any outstanding projects. All while attempting to maintain perfect composure.

This was the second time in my career that I was let go, but this was the first time it dramatically impacted me. This job was my sole source of income and my primary way of saving up money for graduate school. Like many young millennials, I don't have three months' worth of paychecks saved up in case of emergencies. But I do have good survival instincts.

I put together this little list to help any of you who are also feeling lost, anxious, or afraid of the future after hearing shitty news. This is how I learned to let go and make strategic moves after being let go:

  1. Take a moment to breathe and center yourself I know it's easier said than done, but it needs to be done. It is easy to feel like you're spiraling out of control. I honestly felt like the earth was crashing around me. But, being in that kind of state, will not help you get anything done. Take a moment to let yourself feel those feelings. It's okay to be emotional and grieve after losing a good-paying job. Then once you're done, you fix your mascara and get to werk.

  2. Save as many files and samples of work as possible As a designer, those samples are proof of your work ethic. They will be paramount to helping you find a new, better job. If you happen to also be on a four-hour time crunch, set up a Dropbox or Google Drive account and download all your working files, final files, and any other samples of work.

  3. Read, understand, and sign all your severance documents Your severance package will include a lot of legal jargon and a few nuggets of important information. It is very overwhelming to read all this immediately so make sure you know the document's deadline. If it doesn't need to be the day of, then get it done on a less overwhelming day. Thoroughly read all the documents because they may include information on how much severance pay you get, when you get severance pay, and how to deal with your 401k funds. (Side note: if your mother is telling you to sue, don't sign the severance documents.)

  4. Like a bad breakup, update your LinkedIn status LinkedIn is a powerful tool to search for your next job. You can update your profile to let recruiters know that you are actively searching for a new role and when you want to start. I would also recommend updating your LinkedIn tagline to something eye-catching for anyone who might come across your profile. It should sum up who you are and what your career is or what you're looking for. This article by Alison Doyle has a lot of useful tips on LinkedIn headlines for unemployed people.

  5. Reconnect with old friends While you're on LinkedIn, reconnect with people in your network, or look for new connections. You can send a nice LinkedIn note inviting them to a virtual coffee chat or simply say that you're looking for new work opportunities. Ask them questions about their role and the company they work for to see if it would be a good fit. If it is, then ask if they can put you in touch with a hiring manager. You can also use other social media like Facebook or Instagram to see what closer friends are up to. Let everyone know you are available and ready to take on new experiences. You never know what opportunities might arise when you reconnect with your old friends and the local community.

  6. Update your portfolio and resume Take all your new work samples and turn them into feature pieces on your portfolio and LinkedIn. The day after I was let go, I spent time creating a digital lookbook with all my work and then shared it on various profiles. I even created a small email marketing campaign with it to get new clients. In your case studies, don't be afraid to talk about how you've grown and what you learned from your previous role. Now is the time to showcase wins and highlight your strengths. An updated portfolio and resume are great ways to stand out to recruiters and potential clients.

  7. Consider pivoting your career Even though being let go is not fun--not fun at all--it can be a fresh new start. This is a chance to evaluate your career goals and set yourself on a path to achieve them. Ask yourself: was I happy in my previous role? What would I make me happier? How do I get there? Maybe for you that means going back to school or starting a new business. For me, it meant getting back into my freelance business and preparing to leave for graduate school. Whatever you decide upon, right now is about you and your career.

I know things are hard right now. I'm sure you're lost, confused, and overwhelmed. But be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself everything will work out. Say it until you're blue in the face because everything will be okay. It might not be right now or tomorrow but, eventually, it will. I promise.

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