What if I am laid off?

The LinkedIn posts about people losing their jobs just keep on pouring. This is definitely a hard time and if I can help anyone with a reference, a piece of advice, or anything else that can help them in this difficult time, then please DM me. I wanted to share my personal story with this post with the hope that this might be helpful for anyone who has gone through or might go through the scenario of being laid off.

Around a month ago, my company laid off people and it was a hard time for all of us. While my organization did everything possible to allocate the impacted people to other roles within the company, a number of employees were not placed and had to leave. I was extremely fortunate that anyone in my direct team or myself was not impacted, however, this gave me an opportunity to self-reflect and spend time on some of the hard questions we shy away from in a steady state. The question “What if I am laid off?”

When I asked the question to myself, the very first thing that came to my mind was “FINANCES“. Do I have enough to survive? This is the human instinct of survival that kicks in. I am sure that almost all of us have superficially thought about such a scenario, and in a number of cases “money matters the most”. I completely agree with this by the way. It does matter the most, however, it might not be the only thing.

Well, I am not here to share what all matters, but rather share about the thoughtful exercise where you not only do this What If Analysis with factual things like how much money you have in your bank account, but you really role-play the situation and feel the situation to an extent that you understand the narrative you might go through if this happens to you. I role-played my scenario with my coach Hasnaa Akabli and it was an extremely powerful exercise.

Knowing the narrative ahead of time makes the associated feelings familiar and hence that sense of familiarity does not throw you into a shock, rather it allows you to focus on the important things when you actually face the scenario. We all talk about Machine Learning in the field of technology where you train algorithms to understand behavioral patterns and provide predictive outcomes when the algorithms see a similar data set they have been trained on.

My analogy above is fully applicable to the human brain. During my time at Stanford University, I was fortunate to learn about Neuroscience and its connection to Exemplary Leadership taught by a renowned Prof. Baba Shiv. Baba taught us about the power of Narratives during this course and one of the key learning for me was that:

“Our Brain is like a Cutting Edge Movie Theater, it has a collection of narratives that are consciously and sub-consciously built over our lifetime. These narratives are like movie reels to me. Some are horror stories, some are comedies, some make us sad, some make us emotional, and so on and so forth. I call it a cutting-edge movie theater as while these reels play, various chemicals are released in our biological system and we get to experience the outcomes of these chemical reactions. The outcomes could be sadness, happiness, joy, resentment, stress, depression, excitement, calmness, etc.”

The point I am driving here is that just like in fictional movies if we dive deep into a scenario, and go through the role-play of being the protagonist of the story, feel the emotions to the extent possible and most importantly, think about all the possible outcomes in advance, then we are able to “Connect the Dots Looking Forward”. In other words, you will know what will happen when you will be told that you have been laid off, how would you physically and emotionally react, and most importantly what would be the next steps you would take. We will all agree that the NEXT STEPS are critical, however, my deep thinking on this subject tells me that the mindset you are in while taking the next steps is more critical. If you have gone through the exercise you will have your video, your brain would be trained and more importantly, you will focus on what matters and not what does not. Note that this is not about fooling your brain, but this is about focusing on a narrative (or playing a video) that will help you come out of the situation while making the most of it. Most of you might have listened to Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, where he says:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Steve Jobs

While I agree with the spirit of this speech from Steve and I am a big fan, I am starting to believe that you can “Connect the Dots Looking Forward”. You just need to face the hard questions, invest in deep thinking and self-reflection, and most importantly build narratives with outcomes that you would want to experience in your life.

I know this is a sensitive topic and I truly respect everyone’s situation. If you are in this situation or you know someone who might be facing difficult times, hopefully, you can get out of this soon and have a positive outcome for you and your loved ones.

Note – This post first appeared on my LinkedIn Profile. Added this to my personal blog for wider distribution.

Published by Sunny Dua

Product Management Leader with 18 years of experience with Digital Transformation, Application Modernization, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Business Observability and AIOps. Led large product portfolios at VMware and now at AppDynamics. Passionate about defining vision, strategy and executing on complex product roadmaps to build successful and innovative products. A Stanford Graduate School of Business LEADer with interests in the field of Critical & Analytical Thinking, Strategic leadership and Design Thinking.

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