Is There Life after a Layoff?

Tom Roberts was laid off in April 2009, six weeks after he told his supervisor that he needed to have brain surgery. Paying the bills with a now-exhausted balance of vacation and sick days, Roberts awaits his disability check to pay the rent. He gave away his car because he couldn't afford the payments. His food supply comes from a food bank. All the while, he suffers from nerve disease that makes it impossible to speak for more than a few minutes at a time.

Despite these circumstances, Roberts, 59, says he "couldn't be happier." Until he undergoes brain surgery this summer (which his ex-employer will pay for), he is marketing presentations for his organization, Bipolar Advantage. After that, he plans to return to his roots in broadcasting and public speaking, leading workshops on presentation skills.

"It took a few days of reflection to accept that I had gotten a nudge from the universe to pursue my soul purpose," Roberts says. "[I] was settling for low-paying jobs just to pay the bills. I will never go back to corporate America on its terms. I am self-employed, but not making any money yet; I couldn't be happier!"

Attitude is everything in this economy and, surprisingly, Roberts isn't the only one in a positive post-layoff state of mind.

Blessing in disguise

Mark Ellison's layoff in December 2008 coincided with a bad time in his personal life. Family issues kept his unemployment issues at bay for a few months and though times were rough, he is happy that he was able to be there for his family. Finally, he signed up for unemployment, adjusted his budget and took a hard look at where he was in his life.

"It has been tough. I am able to handle the basics: mortgage, cable, Internet, electricity and home owner's association fees," Ellison says.

After 203 days of unemployment, Ellison gained some perspective. He's learned to appreciate the opportunities he's been given at the young age of 26, learned several lessons along the way and says overall, he's enjoyed his unemployment.

"Is it OK to be laid off? Yes. Is it a fun experience? Not really. My social life used to be full of exciting new restaurants, fancy bars and after-work cocktails. Now, an afternoon at the pool or walking my dog to my mailbox is a grand affair," Ellison says. "Being laid off at such a young age was probably something I needed. I am starting my new job on Monday with probably the best attitude I have had in years."

Lorena Prime had a similar awakening when she found herself let go from a Fortune-500 company at the end of 2008.

"It was a very difficult, emotional time. [I thought,] how will I pay my mortgage? Where will I work next? Do I even want to continue with my career in sales? What will happen to my lifestyle?" she said. "I needed time to clear my head, but even that prospect seemed risky."

After a few months of soul-searching, Prime found a common theme in her 20-year career: efficiency, organization and productivity.

Prime eventually started her own business, Clearly Organized, helping people streamline their lives and create a peaceful balance between work and home.

"I could not have started my own business without going through the pain of the layoff. I had to learn that I am resilient and strong; that I could do something a little uncertain and still make it; that I could extend the boundaries of my comfort zone," Prime says. "My layoff allowed me to pursue what I love and I have not looked back."

Making ends meet

Not everyone's layoff story has as happy of an ending as Prime and Ellison. For many people, a layoff is more of a curse than a blessing, and the majority of people are just trying to get by.

Jessica Lybeck, 25, fits a few categories. After quitting the architecture firm where she worked full time to start her own consulting business, the same company offered her a part-time gig. She accepted, to help pay the bills while she got her business running. While visiting a friend in London, however, she got a call from HR that she was being let go.

"I was exhilarated by the challenge and overwhelmed by financial pressure," Lybeck recalls. "The layoff couldn't have come at a better time, as it gave me the motivation to take my new consulting business to a higher level. [But,] I needed a part-time job to pay the bills while I got things started."

Eventually, Lybeck found a decent part-time position serving tables at a restaurant. But, she felt it was getting harder to talk to her friends or former colleagues about her situation because they didn't understand. She thought of how great it would be if there was a place to find people in her same position, sharing successful tips and tricks from their job searches.

"Me, my computer and a pile of rejections was my daily reality," Lybeck says. "I was desperate to share my mini-victories and defeats with people that could relate to what I was going through."

And so, the idea of Layoff Moveon was born. The Web site provides a forum for people to share useful tips and advice, connect with their daily sanity, and give some catharsis and hope to those dealing with unemployment.

Some examples of folks who are utilizing Layoff Moveon to this effect:

"I feel like I am treading water right now. I am typically a pretty positive person but this has me in a tailspin."

"Got a dog to walk? I can do that! Oh yeah, I'm a nurse. Need a band aid got those too! [sic] Been out of work for 6 weeks now with no benefits and no money. Things r [sic] getting really scary. Trying to keep that positive attitude, but it's getting more difficult."

"I finally found a new job in February 2009. I was laid off from that job after six weeks. I was tole [sic] I was not a 'good fit.' So here I am again. and very depressed."

Clearly, it's frustrating for people to face constant rejection and negativity and Lybeck is glad to provide a place where people can vent, cope and learn from each other. Though the Web site isn't providing much revenue, she is paying the bills through her consulting work and says she is "quite okay with surviving."

While she can't imagine far into the future, Lybeck hopes to continue growing her consulting business and turn more of her ideas into profitable realities.

"I'll have stability and prosperity someday," Lybeck says. "Sometimes the drastic change my from my 'previous life' leaves me feeling like I'm watching a movie. The plot has definitely thickened and now I'm just hoping that I've worked sufficiently towards a happy ending."

Next:Confessions of a Laid Off Worker >>
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