Gustafson: So I got laid"¦.off

February 28, 2009

Posted by contributor Mary Gustafson (Originally written 2/14/09)
In honor of Valentine's Day --  a holiday scorned by cynics and romantics alike --  I thought it was time to break out my analogy about how being laid off and the process of finding a new job is a lot like dating. Hear me out.

Regardless of whether you were happy and fulfilled with your job/relationship prior to getting the axe, the official act of being told "You are no longer needed here" stings. And I'm convinced that the grieving process associated with being laid off is very similar to the grief experienced after losing a significant other --  even one you weren't particularly attached to.

(There is one place where the scenarios diverge: after being laid off you're expected to bounce back and do things like "Hit the ground running," "Pound the pavement," "Dust yourself off," or "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps." After the end of a relationship, however, a period of inaction is acceptable and encouraged --  to an extent.)

But once one has "landed back on their feet" the real work begins: finding someone/something new. In dating-speak this is known as a "rebound." In human resources-speak, this is known as "finding gainful employment," and each process is fraught, what with the heartbreak of the last relationship/job still fresh.

For the newly unemployed, applying for a new job comes with a series of landmines. Do you mention the layoff on your cover letter, or do you let the dates of your employment history tell the story on your resume? How do you put a positive spin on your streak of bad luck? Do you lie or cop to an outlook you hope one day to embrace and say "Being laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me. It finally gave me an excuse to go find a job I'm passionate about," nevermind the fact that in this economy, you're lucky if you find one that pays your rent‚ and‚ your Netflix account?

The dating equivalent here is the exciting and sadistic world of online dating. Upon your well-meaning friends' suggestion, you create an online profile that masks your status as a recent dumpee and try to paint a picture of yourself that isn't needy and insecure, but rather breezy and devil may care. In both cases it's advised that you hide your baggage and make light of --  or even deny altogether --  the fact that it (the ending of your previous job/relationship) still hurts.

The next step (with luck) is the first in-person job interview --  or the dreaded first date in the dating world. Good references come in handy in both situations. Obviously, career-wise, it's always nice if you can make a list of people willing to say good things about your abilities and work ethic. Likewise,‚ ‚ my friend‚ Jennie‚ insists that even new paramours should be willing to provide references, even if it's just a couple of friends or exes that can vouch for this person's integrity and tendency not to become a stalker after one missed phone call.

Since I have yet to get this far this time around, I'll end my analogy here. The last person I shared this metaphor with suggested that clinching that first new job after your layoff can be likened to a second marriage. I hope that's the case.