Laid Off

Being Laid Off, Bruised Egos, and How To Recover

I’m a career, life, and executive coach, and I was recently laid off. It was a shock to say the least, but it wasn’t near as soul crushing as I would have expected. Let me tell you how I’ve decided to approach my circumstance. Maybe there’s something here that’ll help you too.

Before we start though, let’s talk about bruised egos, like mine. Have you ever read Moneyball or watched the movie? I’m not a baseball fan, but I love the story surrounding how some skills on the field were wrongly undervalued and other skills were wrongly valued.

If gross miscalculations of a person’s value could occur on a baseball field, before a live audience of thirty thousand, and a television audience of millions more, what did that say about the measurement of performance in other lines of work? If professional baseball players could be over-or undervalued, who couldn’t? Bad as they may have been, the statistics used to evaluate baseball players were probably far more accurate than anything used to measure the value of people who didn’t play baseball for a living.

Michael Lewis

You have value, even if those in authority didn’t see it. Never forget that.

Reclaim your identity.

Some will have a lot to process here while others won’t. For example, I’ve spent a great deal of time getting know myself so there’s little to untangle as I leave Salesforce. That may not be you though.

When I left the Marine Corps in 2006, I wasn’t sure where the Corps ended and I began, and it took me several years to sort it all out. Hell! I hardly had any civilian clothes. Everything I wore was a uniform, and my persona as a Marine was a mask I rarely removed.

Taking off that mask wasn’t easy. Some days were better than others, but I’m glad I put in the work. It’s led me to a much more principled place where I’m familiar with my capabilities and myself.

Maybe the sense of loss here is substantial to you. Mourn. If it’s available, take some time, and when the time is right, reclaim your identity. However, write down an expiration date on a sticky and place it somewhere that you’ll see it daily. After all, we soon have work to do.

Know (or maybe reinvent) thyself.

I was happy that my good friend Melissa Boggs offered up the advice here, and she’s right.

If your severance is terrible, we may skip this step in the spirit of pragmatism. For the rest of us, I suggest taking some time. To me, skipping this step feels too much like throwing s*** at a wall to see what sticks. After all, our time is the most valuable resources we own.

So how would you like to reinvent yourself? If this doesn’t scare you a little bit, you’re not thinking hard enough. Hopefully, it’s also an equal part exhilarating.

You can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.

Jim Carrey

Whether you’re reinventing or simply getting to know yourself, consider a few questions:

  • What did you value about your previous role that you want to carry forward? What about those things you want to let go of?
  • At your retirement party, what’s the most meaningful thing your co-workers can say about you?
  • What advice would you give to teenage you about to enter the workforce?
  • If work were a game, how would you score? How would you win? (Avoid the temptation of simply saying that you’d make more money or gain a cooler title.)

I’ll also make you an offer. As I said, I’m a coach. My first session with clients is always free so they know what they’re getting into. I’m happy to spend an hour with you exploring this space at zero cost or obligation. Click here to take me up on that offer.

Do small. Think big. Learn always.

I dig much deeper into this idea in my blog post You Can Only Empower Yourself so check that out. Since it’s easy to get buried in the minutia, create a system of accountability that propels you forward. Do small things consistently that eventually lead to big results.

For example, I’ve been telling everyone I was going to write this blog post all week so now I’m stuck doing it or looking silly. I’ve done this for nearly all of the 50+ posts you find on this blog. I now sign autographs for $5 a piece. (Kidding!)

And how do I ensure I don’t apply to just any job that shows up in my inbox? I talked to my wife about starting my own business. Because she was worried about health insurance, I’m applying only select full time roles while I also begin to explore what working for myself looks like. The back up plan puts me at ease as I sort out what’s most important to me.

Here’s a few ideas. Use what works and throw out what doesn’t.

  • Mike Cohn offered this tip, and the agilists in the room will smile. Write something akin to user stories for each of your opportunities. Include what you think life will be like for each. One gives you more time with family but is risky. Another keeps you on the road, but the pay is great. At the end if you have a hard time converging on a single one, don’t. Try both. As you act and learn more, one will likely win out over the other naturally.
  • List your career goals. This framework from Anthony Murphy is a great place to start. I’m toying with it myself right now to see what I can uncover. And I would also suggest going one step further by splitting these goals into smaller chunks using the technique below.
  • Get a task manager like Todoist. Create actionable tasks, mark a due date for each, and then follow through. Maybe even create a repeatable task that pops up every day that reminds you of the goal you set for yourself this week.

That’s all for now. And good luck out there!

I’ve never dedicated a post, but that changes today. I lost a great friend this week who’s been with me for nearly two decades. Her name was Eden, and she was my little girl’s very favorite. Always kind. Always patient. And always in tune with her family and their needs. We’ll miss you, my feline friend, and we love you.


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6 thoughts on “Being Laid Off, Bruised Egos, and How To Recover”

  1. Sorry to hear about your layoff. But “as one door closes another door (or window) opens! ” Not a platitude really.

    Hope your move to Raleigh, NC worked out. I’m in Foster City on a contract doing content strategy for now for a few months, great place for me. I may be visiting your part of the world this year, so I’ll let you know when if a chance coffee or lunch works out.

  2. I’ve been following your blog since I became a junior Scrum Master back in 2017. You have always been a source of inspiration to me. Thanks so much for writing this post. Whatever path you choose from here on, I wish you the best of luck Tanner.

    1. Thanks so much. I’ve been sharing my thoughts on this blog since 2016. Life with a new baby has been hectic so I haven’t spent as much time writing in the last few years as I’d like. Maybe that’ll change. 🙂

  3. Thank you for this. As part of the Capital One Agile family tree that was chopped down, this was very helpful and inspiring, Best of luck to you as well!

    1. You’re welcome! I heard about the stuff at Capitol One. For me, this whole thing has made me stronger. What I envisioned as the worst thing professionally did little more than bruise my ego. That knowledge is a gift, and I intend to use it wisely. What are you taking away from this experience?

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