Light at the end of a layoff – 5 life lessons learned


Have you ever experienced a layoff? Did it make you stronger? Sometimes, it can help to hear what others have gone through to know that you are not alone. Below, one of the members of our recruiting office shares her story and insights that may help you as a job seeker, even if you’ve never experienced a lay off.

“Back in 2000, I finally got the courage to go for what I thought was my dream job – as a copywriter at a web development firm. At first, it was. They had cool clients like Jolt Cola (which meant FREE, super caffeinated soda for all employees), creative people to work with, a modern office with up-to-date equipment, higher salaries and stock options. Nine months later, as the boom crashed, 20% of us were let go – most in the marketing department. The company had hired too many people (and kept on hiring) without enough clients. The stock options I negotiated – worthless. My fun, new job? Gone in what seemed like an instant. It was a crushing blow. 

Two months later, I landed a contract job as a communications specialist for a global telecommunications firm. It wasn’t my ideal gig, but, if it went permanent, would lead to a 20% bump in pay. Unfortunately, three months later, all contracts were let go. At that point, I was just numb – here we go again! I actually felt worse for the non contract employees at the same company who I knew would be losing their jobs within that next year. 

Don’t get me wrong, I never want to be laid off again. But, being laid off did teach me valuable life lessons that I still carry with me to this day:” 

1) The Grass is not always greener
Before being laid off in 2001, I worked at a not for profit. Back then, I bemoaned the lower pay and lack of more exciting clients. However, more excitement, “cool clients” and other superficial perks don’t mean a thing when you’re out of a job. At the time, I was so eager to start a new job that I ignored red flags. Taking a new job is always a risk. Don’t let your excitement to jump ship cloud your judgment.

2) Having a 6 month emergency fund is not optional
During my brief period of unemployment, money was tight. I got very little severance from the web firm and none from the contract job. Between those two layoffs, I was only out of work for about four months. Even with unemployment (which, let’s be real, is not much), it was rough. Start off by saving fifty bucks a month if you have to – whatever it takes to have cash on hand for the unexpected. You really will need that cushion.

3) Keep your network growing – not just when you’re out of work
LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media didn’t even exist in 2001. All I had was email to keep in touch with my other unemployed colleagues. I also met up with people face-to-face. You can’t always hide behind a computer screen. Force yourself to get out there. Networking is not just for when you lose your job. By keeping a healthy network, those people will be there when you need them the most. Remember, it’s a give and take, so be willing to help them out as well.

4) Pay vs Potential – keep an open mind
When I saw a job for a freelance copywriter at a catalog company in our local circular, I was skeptical and dismissive. Why bother? It’s only part time, no benefits and who is even advertising jobs in such a small paper anyway? I decided to take a chance and send in my resume. I was called in, met with the owners, explained that I was looking for full time (with benefits!) and proved my case by taking home products that day to write about – as a test. They hired me as a full time contractor – at a rate that was $3/hour LESS than what I had been making at the contract job I had just been laid off from. Yet, I stuck it out, was hired permanently, worked hard, got raises, branched into Public Relations/Social Media and moved forward in my career. Don’t let your ego or a sole focus on money deter you from what might be a good thing down the line.

5) Keep learning
When I was laid off, I researched to see if there were any funds, grants or scholarships available to displaced workers for training programs. Turns out there were! One of our local colleges offered 60% off tuition for certain certificate programs. I applied right away and was accepted. I also received a grant for computer classes. It does take time to find, apply and write essays for these programs, but the rewards are well worth it. When you land a new job, see if they offer tuition reimbursement or other training opportunities. This is especially true for marketing and design professionals. Current college students have access to the latest programs and are up on the trends. Don’t be left behind. There are also many free webinars online you can take to keep your skill set up to date.

I’m not going to lie – being laid off was awful and scary. These are normal emotions for that situation. It tests your character. I was lucky to find a new position in the relatively short time that I did. Most unemployed job seekers face a much longer job search in today’s marketplace.

Being laid off taught me to understand what unemployed people go through and how strong I was. It gave me an empathy and understanding that I would not have otherwise had. It’s been almost 15 years, but I will never forget that dark time period in my life. It’s part of the reason why I love my current role here at the Oldcastle Recruiting Office – because I now get to help people on their career and job search journeys every day! – Kyra M.


“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Looking for more job search advice? Check out this post: “How to write a better resume – the Top 10 Tips from our Recruiters”

A version of this post, by our Social Media Specialist, also appears on LinkedIn.

Photo credits: Unsplash – forest, K. Mancine – tunnel


Oldcastle is North America’s largest manufacturer of building products and materials. With more than 2,000 locations throughout North America, we are in constant pursuit of the next generation of successful decision makers, leaders and problem solvers. Learn more about joining the Oldcastle team HERE.

Follow Oldcastle Careers on: TwitterLinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Facebook for jobs and career advice. And, don’t forget to join our NEW Talent Community to receive a monthly e-mail newsletter with expert advice on the job search process.


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