I Lost My First Job Out of College… Here’s How I Bounced Back

My boss didn’t say hi. That’s how I knew something was wrong.

I’ve often thought about when I was going to be ready to write about this. You didn’t know any of this was happening because I was blogging through it. In fact, I was going through a very, very rough break-up at the exact same time that I lost my job and was trying to blog like everything was normal, because I just needed one thing in my life to be normal. (You can see that here, here and here) At times I never thought I would be able to look back and smile. Other times I knew it was going to happen.

Dress: Old Navy (Large, they sell this version of the dress every season!) / Jacket: Very Similar (Large)/ Shoes: Similar and Sandal Version/ Bag: Kate Spade (similar on massive sale!) / Earrings: Similar

I can write this now with a smile, because I know how it ends and I’m ready to share that day.

The Day it Happened 

I knew something was wrong. I’ve always prided myself on being able to read people and situations better than most, but sometimes that feeling is a curse. My boss didn’t say good morning. That’s how I knew something was happening. I walked up and back down the hallway of the modern, natural-lit hallway of my dream office. I walked by his office. Nothing. I sat down in mine. I took a breath and then I firmly walked into his office and asked, “What’s was wrong, I know something is, so don’t tell me it isn’t.”

All of the sudden it felt like I had the wind taken out of me and I was having an out of body experience. I nodded my head like I knew what was happening. All I remember was signing something, clarifying that I was going to have a severance package, letter of recommendation and that I could have some time to get my things. I walked back to my office and sat down. People were walking in, arriving for the day, and I smiled like nothing was wrong. My friend who got me the job walked in and I just stared at her and told her what happened. We then just stared at the ground.

I had been told I was being let go and to get my stuff before 8 am.

I had a tray in my desk and I put what I could on there. Please tell me how one can make it not be obvious one is packing up my desk at 9 am. But then again, there is no way to not be obvious what is happening when you are packing up your desk. I had to make two trips. I just wanted out and to not see anyone I knew. But of course I saw everyone I could possibly see.

I didn’t cry and didn’t get angry. Instead I just felt numb inside. Work had been the only retreat from the breakup. And now that was gone. It was so much more than a job to me. That office meant so much to me after my post-college job search. I thought I was who I wanted to be at that job.

I drove home, but I remember nothing about it. I just remember clutching a letter of recommendation and a severance package, wondering what I did wrong. And I wondered how many people knew what was going to happen and smiled at me for days.

Two people I found out knew I was being let go. And they greeted me that morning and asked how I was doing. I still do not understand how you can have the balls to asking someone you know is about to be laid off how they are doing.

I walked into the apartment and ugly cried. Picked up the phone to call my mom and told her I didn’t have a job and I didn’t know what happened. I realized that I had a pair of boots shipping to the office the next day and I was going to have to go back. I literally cried while staring at the ceiling for hours. Then, I realized that I really didn’t have a reason to wake up tomorrow. Except for the boots. Those were great boots.

Then the little things sunk in. I had to call Verizon to have my phone removed from the company plan the same day I was let go.
“What’s the reason?” – the unassuming rep ask me.
“I don’t actually know. I just know that I lost my job.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, me too.”

I had to call my dad to ask him to add me back into the family plan. Such tiny things stung. For months.

Dress: Old Navy (Large, they sell this version of the dress every season!) / Jacket: Very Similar (Large)/ Shoes: Similar and Sandal Version/ Bag: Kate Spade (similar on massive sale!) / Earrings: Similar

Aftermath

Looking back, um there were a lot of things wrong with that place. Other people lost their jobs out of nowhere. The place ended up being a misogynistic hell. The girl who helped get me the job ended up in a lawsuit for wrongful termination when she reported sexual harassment.  It was clear you had to be pretty to get by. Everything was political, down to the amazing snack selection in the break room. To be fair, they did have an amazing break room with snacks galore and my office was pretty sweet.

I ended up moving back home, which was perfect timing because of some other things happening. Had I stayed there, I don’t think I would have been able to truly get back on my feet. With the break-up and the job loss, it was time for a reset and I had to figure out what I wanted in life.

Dress: Old Navy (Large, they sell this version of the dress every season!) / Jacket: Very Similar (Large)/ Shoes: Similar and Sandal Version/ Bag: Kate Spade (similar on massive sale!) / Earrings: Similar

How I Bounced Back (What to do after losing a job)

I wish there was a five-step plan I could write out about what to do after losing a job. I wish I could tell you that I instantly just had this amazing experience in which I found myself. None of that happened.  Instead I think that I mentally have blacked out the months after this. But I did do some things which helped me.

  • As Drake would say, “Know yourself, know your worth.” Figure out your worth, outside of your job. This is something that I struggle with even when having a job, much less when I lost it! I needed to figure out what I was outside of a job. Who was I? What do I like to do other than work? What do I bring to the table independent of a job.
  • Update LinkedIn and your resume to think about what you truly wanted out of my next job. It’s such a cliche thing to do, but I really did feel like I had some sort of purpose when I did it.
  • Smile and enjoy the tiny things. Grocery shopping at 2 pm? Um, that is like a luxury for someone who was working 8 – 5.  I didn’t tell myself it was freedom because I thought it was just because I had failed that I was buying sad cereal at 2:30 pm.
  • Allow yourself to feel how you feel. I am a firm advocate to listening to how you feel. Ignoring sadness isn’t healthy for you and it’s important for you to process all feelings in order to be able to deal with things.
  • Laugh at yourself. I have a tendency to always be serious and not take a joke about myself, but since I was at a low-point, I kind of couldn’t help but laugh. The more I laughed at myself and in general the easier it got.
  • Understand sometimes you have to just take a job to get by. This isn’t about pride, it’s about bills. Sometimes you just have to take a job to get you by and sometimes that job can turn into new opportunities. Temp agencies aren’t as bad as you think, especially if you have marketable skills, many are great for transitioning into a full-time job.

All of these things took time. What to do after losing a job doesn’t have to be so seemingly insurmountable. It feels like for each point it took at least three months. Everyone I’ve ever talked to about this or who has had a similar experiences had said the same sucky thing. It takes time. Things do work out. Sometimes you have to get to your low to know when you are at your high. Without the sadness and pain of this experience, I would never know how great my life is now.