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How Getting Laid Off Was The Best Thing To Happen To Me And My Career

He told me I was being laid off--effective immediately. No warning, no time buffer, no nothing. My time with the firm was up after only 13..

Workin' Girl

It was the day after New Years 2012 and most businesses were still on holiday break. I went into my consulting firm's downtown office that day. The project I was consulting on had just gotten cut, so I was working on a side project to help my firm out as I waited to get staffed on my next project.


I had only been in the office for maybe an hour when one of the partners called me into his office. I thought he called me in to talk about the side project I was working on, but not even one minute after sitting in the chair in front of his desk, I found out why I was really there.

He told me I was being laid off–effective immediately. No warning, no time buffer, no nothing. My time with the firm was up after only 13 months of being with them.

I immediately burst into uncontrollable tears. The panic. The blind-sided punch to the gut. I couldn't keep it in. Tears streamed down my face as he proceeded to run through their offer of only one month's pay.

I was one of two to get laid off that day. I remember gathering my things, trying not to sob on my way out of the office as everyone stared at me on my way out. As soon as I got into my car, the flood gates opened and I started sobbing again.

What in the hell was I going to do? How was I going to pay my bills? How was I going to survive?

I had to find a job fast.

I had to find a job now.

I had to find a job five minutes ago.

I was beyond devastated.

The first thing I did was call my dog walker to tell her not to come that day because I had just gotten laid off. I was worried about the $15 it would cost me if I didn't catch her before she walked my dog for the day. Because every penny now counted.

I drove home, changed out of the unflattering work clothes I hated so much, and got to work on saving myself.

I've always been a survivor, a woman who has taken care of herself, honored herself, and waited for no one and no thing to come rescue me. This time would be no different.

First, I re-did my budget, cut out every possible expense I could, and figured I had three months savings to get me by. I filed for unemployment, too. Thank God I qualified for it, even though it was a measly $550.00 a month (only a tenth of my salary at the firm).

I even got a part-time job at a day care where I earned a few hundred dollars a month to help pay my bills and to keep my mind occupied.

And every day, I searched the job sites, on the hunt for the next right thing for me.

The morning of the lay off was the only time I cried over the whole situation. I was actually relieved to have gotten laid off. Because, to be honest, I hated working at that firm. And I realized getting laid off was actually an opportunity. It was a shove from the universe to move on to the next job that would be more fulfilling, more in alignment with who I am and what I wanted out of my career.

At the firm, I felt so much pressure to be someone I wasn't, to perform at a level I just wasn't interested in. I didn't feel like I could be myself there. I worked 50+ hours a week and did b*tch work. I wasn't fulfilled in any way at that job.

Classified page 5 newspaper selective focus photography Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

I spent the next six weeks sleeping in, playing with a bunch of two and three year olds at the day care, cooking (since I didn't want to eat out and spend extra money), relaxing, rejuvenating, and applying for jobs.

But because this was my opportunity to find a job that I actually wanted to be at, I listened to my heart when applying. If a job description felt like more b.s., I wouldn't apply to it. I practiced listening to my heart, instead of the "right" or "logical" thing to do when it came to my career. "Right" and "logical" do serve their place in my career... but so does my heart.

After a month of a hellish job hunt, I had applied to quite a few jobs and had only two phone interviews. The panic started to run ramped again. I felt like I wasn't make any progress. But each time it did, I reminded myself to step out on faith. This was my opportunity to have a job I liked. Things were going to work out for me. Because I said so.

Only six weeks of the unemployment game, a few measly unemployment and day care checks, relaxing lazy winter days, and countless bowls of cereal for dinner later, I started a new consulting job.

A former coworker and friend knew of a big project and she kindly put me in contact with the project's program manager. They liked my resume, and because our mutual colleague vouched for me, that was enough for him to schedule two super easy phone interviews. Of course I aced the interviews. And the gig was mine.

But this time I was the boss. I had an LLC and was officially a business owner. And I was making double my old income at six figures. I went from not much to everything in six weeks.

To work on this project, I would have to consult as a contractor, not an employee. Being a contractor would require me to have an LLC, business insurance, to pay my own taxes, and they would pay me a whole lot more money than I had ever made.

I had no idea how to set up an LLC, or get business insurance, or how to file my own taxes. But within a matter of days, a few phone calls to friends who had LLCs, and lots of googling, everything was set up. And I officially owned my own business.

What's so amazing is I had always wanted to own my own business. But I had no idea how I would even make that happen. I also had a goal to make six figures before the age of 30. And also had no idea how I would make that happen. But I did, by age 28.

I attribute my success to a magical combination of timing, circumstances, a whole lot of faith, knowing, and surrendering.

I've noticed that most of the world is out there thinking if they just work harder, if they just push themselves to do more, to be more, that they will reach their goals. I never understood that way of thinking.

While there's something to be said for putting in the right work, why put in so much work that you burn yourself out? Why sacrifice parts of your life? Why make yourself miserable doing something you don't want to do to get to somewhere you want to be? That kind of thinking just never appealed to me.

For me, it all came down to choosing something different for my life and my career when the opportunity came my way when I got unexpectedly laid off. I didn't resist the reality. I rolled with it and chose to see the possibilities.

Not only did my dreams become my reality because I got laid off, what was equally, and maybe even more profound for me, was how I handled the situation. I never thought I, the typical type A perfectionist control freak, could be so cool, calm, and grounded in dealing with such a hard thing as a layoff. I surprised myself, big time.

After being laid off and coming through shinning so brightly on the other side, I knew I could do anything.

Featured image by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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