“Let go” is such an evocative euphemism, isn’t it? It suggests a kind of sweet, newfound freedom– I let that baby bird **go **free from my hands and oh how it flewww!
But it often feels more like- I know I’m dangling you off this cliff but hey I’m just going to gently let go… now stop clutching at me with your pathetic claw-hands.
Like many freelancers, I’ve been let go from plenty of positions – mostly for perfectly innocuous reasons, but occasionally because of complete company-wide meltdown. Once, working as a lowly assistant in a company that was swiftly plummeting towards bankruptcy, I spent an entire month putting together cardboard boxes for recently-laid-off workers clearing out their desks. Looking around at the rapidly emptying offices, it became clear… the next box would be for me.
It’s not an uncommon experience! Maybe your project is ending, or maybe the client is laying off freelancers left and right. Maybe you just have the sinking feeling that the axe is going to fall. But what do you do when you think you’re going to be let go?
1. Don’t panic
Seriously – don’t panic. It’s completely normal to be scared or nervous when you’re staring down the unknowable barrel of a layoff. Absolve yourself of some of that anxiety by focusing on what you CAN control.
While it may be tempting to agonize over details you can't contorl - when is it going to happen? how is it going to happen? where is it going to come from? - focus instead on preparing yourself to move forward.
Use this limbo period to take action. Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are natural, but ultimately, this is an opportunity to empower yourself and pursue all sorts of dream gigs and opportunities. You GOT this.
2. Get your materials together
No, I don’t mean clearing out your desk – although, heck, if you want to start sneaking Post-Its out of the workspace, snag a stack for me!
I mean, start updating your resume and cover letter. Write down major accomplishments that you achieved during this job, while they’re still fresh in your mind (you’ll be surprised how swiftly you’ll forget them once out the door). Update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles. Think about who in your current company might be able to write you a recommendation. Make sure your portfolio is in order. And if you want work samples from this gig, now’s the time to collect them – before your access becomes limited.
The idea here is to prime yourself so that IF and WHEN you’re laid-off, you’re poised to hit the ground running.
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3. Start looking
Make a list of people in your network that you could potentially reach out to in order to find work. Investigate job leads. Research your options. As soon as you realize that there are other fish in the sea, you'll start to feel much better.
Use this as a time to shoot for great new opportunities; think of your impending “schedule flexibility” (sounds better than unemployment, doesn’t it?) as a chance to shoot for your next goal – that dream company, that dream job. If you're willing to end your current gig before you're officially laid-off (or just want to take action) start sending out resumes. Otherwise, start casually mentioning to your freelancing network that you may be looking soon.
4. Start pruning
Now is also a good time to prune your budget a little bit – something many of us can do. Do you have a lot of frivolous expenses? Consider cutting back now, before you’re laid-off. Put any money you store into savings, if you can. That will build a little cushion for you, and ease the panicky feeling of sudden belt-tightening when (and if) you lose your job. Nothing is more annoying than having to cancel every lame magazine subscription the day AFTER you’re let go; get the minor cutbacks over with now.
Build your network; investigate your options. Instead of focusing on your anxiety (I know it’s tempting), use that wonderful/terrible stress-adrenaline as fuel to prepare yourself for new opportunities. By the time they actually let you go, you’ll be raring to surge ahead.
Ready to get started? Take a look at some of the other opportunities swirling about the universe in our Work, Work, Work Hive for freelancers seeking or hiring for work, work, work!
Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.