Laid Off Lemonade -- How to DO Getting Laid Off

Writing at the beach in Cannes - because I could.
Writing at the beach in Cannes - because I could.

Last fall, still newly transplanted in Austin from New York City, I was invited to give a presentation to the Texas Advertising Group at the University of Texas at Austin.

“It would be great if you could just talk about your journey,” suggested Dr. John Murphy, the well-respected UT professor extending the invitation.

My “journey,” I thought. Well, it had been an interesting one so far. Unlike some of my peers, my career has been anything but linear. And for the most part, I’m grateful for that.

My presentation “It Truly Is About the Journey,” was inspired by an October 2015 Advertising Age article written by Jonathan Cude titled “Tough Love: The Advertising Business Is Hard.”

“Go in knowing it's going to be hard.” Cude explained. Not to discourage young, aspiring admen and women, but to prepare them with realistic expectations. I couldn’t have agreed more – this career choice has never been easy, but it’s always been rewarding. Why not give them a personal spin of the same message, I thought.

In addition to sharing some inspirational “truth of life” quotes and highlights from shoots in stunning spots like Cape Town and Brussels, I peppered the presentation with 4 “Unsolicited Pieces of Advice.” The last being maybe the most important:


If you’re going to work in advertising,

know that you will almost certainly be laid off.

The first time I was laid off was in late 2001, right after September 11th. I took pride in the fact that Ogilvy didn’t let me go until the third round of layoffs, but that didn’t change the fact that after five years, I loved it there and did NOT want to leave. I’m pretty sure I left claw marks in the red carpeting on the 8th floor, as they escorted me from the building.

“I don’t get it, “ became my mantra, refusing to look forward for many months to come. Spencer Johnson’s book Who Moved My Cheese, finally shook me from my self-induced coma, and has reminded me to this day that when the cheese disappears, only a foolish mouse keeps looking back – waiting for it to reappear. Go find better cheese.

For better or worse, I have been laid off from nearly a half dozen shops. Most everyone I know has had a similar (if not nearly as impressive) track record. This fact of ad life is due to the nature of our business. Agencies win and lose accounts regularly. When they win, they hire – when they lose, people have to go. It sucks, mostly – you have to always be ready to jump, keep your portfolio updated and networking contacts nearby.

But, like most things in life (depending on how you embrace the situation) there IS a silver lining. Laid off Lemonade, as I’ve come to call it. You get to try things you would never have the chance – or guts – to try with a steady paycheck.

During my past laid off periods I’ve worked as a nanny, driven cross country, learned to dance, summered in the Hamptons, taken a writing workshop in Paris, moved home for a year, reconciled a 30-year falling out with my dad, gone to Cannes, and spent a summer thoroughly enjoying my new hometown.

All things I can easily say I’d never have done if I were still happily working at Ogilvy & Mather, all these years later.

You really only have two choices on how to do getting laid off: with fear or trust.

Either way, you’re gonna find a job again – eventually. You just get to choose the scenery along the way. Not to mention the fact that like attracts like, so if you’re enjoying life while you job hunt, you’re much more likely to find something enjoyable and lasting. I’ve tried it both ways – happy wins big time.

My Laid Off Lemonade must-do list:

  • Sleep in on Monday mornings. Just because you can.
  • Apply for unemployment right away – trust me, you’re gonna need it. Things always take longer than they do.
  • Take a walk around the lake, park or river at 3pm. Again, because you can.
  • Have lunch, coffee and drinks with everyone – not just for the networking but also to keep you feeling connected and sociable.
  • Talk to strangers, and follow up with their suggestions. Bartenders, waitresses, the checker at Whole Foods. You never know where your next job will come from.
  • Invest in a laptop you love. You’re going to be on it. A lot.
  • Travel. This is a toughie, I know. Do it modestly, but do it. You have time, if not money – when else can you go see Mount Rushmore, explore San Francisco, or visit Cannes and network like a fiend?
  • Volunteer. For so many reasons: because you have time, for the karma, to network, and because again – you never know where your next job lead will come from.
  • Find a bar or coffee shop you love to work at. Most have free Wi-Fi, and it’s much more fun/motivating to job hunt with a glass of Pinot.
  • Follow your bliss. That dance/yoga/SUP class you’ve been dying to try and had no time? Now you do.
  • Write your novel. I’m still working on that one…

No one hopes to get laid off, but if/when it happens, I strongly encourage you to lessen the sting quite bit by making the most of the time you suddenly have. Because I promise you – before you know it, you’ll be rushing to and from a job again. And wishing you could sleep in instead.

Have some Laid Off Lemonade suggestions of your own? Follow me on Instagram @laidofflemonade and share how you’re making the most of your time off.

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