How to find the company and role that fit you bestFeatured

The day I got laid off is one I’ll always remember. Our open office was unusually quiet and though I’d sensed something was awry for weeks, I continued to plow forward with my work. The region’s director, who typically displayed a bombastic persona, came into the office and went straight to his desk, handing the team only a few pleasantries. There was a late afternoon meeting on my calendar with him, arranged by his assistant about a week prior. So, at the designated time, I headed to his office, rapped on the door, and walked in. He invited me to sit down. I noticed he was unusually pale and his eyes appeared to be glazed over. And then, he calmly spoke heart wrenching words as if reading a play script. He went on to say that I’d get to keep my job for another three weeks to wrap up any projects and hand work off to other team members. He told me I could head home early that day and skip the team retreat the following Monday. “What just happened here?” I thought. I had a decade of relevant experience in the field. I’d been loyal, honest, hardworking, and effective. My husband had been laid off due to the ‘08 recession, but this...this made no sense. I had a decision to make. I could get down on myself and sulk in feelings of rejection. I could act out of desperation and just take whatever job came my way. Or I could focus on my own professional development and use the time off to refine what makes me great, so that when the right opportunity presented itself, I’d be ready. The next week, I reached out to the assistant who’d arranged that first fateful meeting and asked for some time on the director’s calendar. In that meeting, I made the case for the negative impact a layoff could have on me and asked him to fund three game-changing tools on my behalf: 1. Two months of therapy 2. Three months of professional coaching 3. Online access for a full year to a women in business courseMy rationale was that being laid off could not only be crazy-making but also professionally debilitating, and that while his choice to restructure the region had nothing to do with me, his decision to do so could greatly impact my long-term success. In the prior meeting, I’d been offered confidential terms of separation, which I could accept or decline. Though I didn’t have any choice in whether I’d be leaving the company or not, I still had the choice of whether to agree to the terms, so I chose to look at this as I do my entry into a company--as a starting point for negotiation. And as with any negotiation, the other person can say yes, no, or meet you halfway. I decided I had nothing to lose in asking, but everything to gain. In the end, he agreed to my requests. Over the three months that followed, I’d work to stay positive and strategize with my coach to get really clear on my values, how my values play out, and what I’m willing to do or give up in service of my values. I thought long and hard about what I really wanted out of my professional life and I learned more about the worth and importance of what David Epstien describes as “range.” I focused on learning and further developing the growth mindset that allowed me to confidently respond to an email from Halle (my now CEO) letting her know that I’d be interested in meeting with her to learn about the new venture she was working on, with which I was sure I could help. Halle and I met at a coffee shop and she shared about the type of company she wanted Natalist to be. She talked enthusiastically about the grand mission to be a company by women for women and she shared her vision for the staff culture. She was looking for a Business Operations Manager at the time, which was sort of a catch all term for HR, culture, office management, some finance, and the infamous “and other duties as assigned.” All of this fit really well with where I felt like my next steps were headed, and to be working with someone who was so passionate about her cause, who could leverage my broad set of skills was really appealing. And to get in as a member of the founding team to influence the direction of something so meaningful was a dream come true. A year and a half in, I’ve gotten to work on almost every aspect of our business at Natalist. Being a generalist with an inclination to dig in, figure things out, execute, and constantly look for ways to add value has served our company well. And, building something from scratch has been deeply rewarding. For me, the road leading to finding the best fitting company and role for myself started with making a commitment to turning the most humiliating moment of my career into a moment of opportunity. It continued with standing up for myself and being willing to ask for the help I needed and deserved to overcome that hurdle. And it has continued with me being open to doing something I’ve never done, showing up each day, and pursuing both the things that excite me and those that can make our company successful.
What an inspiring story! I particularly love how you viewed your exit as similar to entry with negotiation. And fellow genearlist here, yay!!!
I often feel like a jack of all trades, master of none. There’s something to be said about being a generalist. Your story is inspiring!
Proud generalist here (capable of anything, and deeply understanding of early stage startup life- actually makes me a great executive leader) who is very impressed with your ability to negotiate a lay-off. That’s incredible and I love that mindset. Taking that energy into my offer negotiation process that will hopefully wrap up this week. Thanks so much for sharing, and I’d love to connect off the list.
This was incredibly inspiring and empowering. Thank you SO much for sharing such an intimate part of your story--so, so blown away by your courage and how you walked back in and requested what you needed. Also a generalist myself and appreciated hearing your story.
Wow, I am amazed at your tenacity and clarity in the wake of a very difficult experience. Bravo to standing up for yourself and asking for those things! Thank you for sharing your story :)
Thank you for sharing! I've tried to do things very similarly since my Covid layoff in April, but you did some key things differently that shifted my perspective on what is possible for me to ask for in such a situation and at work in general. Really, really appreciate the share.Oh and yes, also a proud generalist!
Thank you for sharing this! It's a very enlightening message for those who are currently facing layoffs during this pandemic. They say the worst things that happen to you end up being the best things that happens to you. Congratulations on your new role!
Incredibly inspirational. Thank you for sharing! Kudos to you!