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May Day! Getting Laid Off or Fired Sucks… But Change Can Be for the Better

Creative Career Coach Pamela Kleibrink Thompson shares how though our industry is suffering through tumultuous, post pandemic times… if you’re out of work, use the time to recharge, reconnect, refocus… even transform.

“Getting fired straight-up sucks. One of the many jobs I was fired from was a sales associate job at a luxury shoe store in San Francisco.” — Sophia Amoruso -- #GIRLBOSS, May 2014

COVID-19 and the recent strikes might have impacted you by imposing an involuntary vacation from work due to a layoff or downsizing. With Rooster Teeth shuttering in Austin after 21 years, and Pixar laying off 14 percent of its workforce just recently, it behooves everyone to be prepared by keeping your demo reel, website, portfolio, resume and networking contacts up to date. 

If you are affected by a layoff, here are a few ways to get in shape and cope.

Before you leave:

Before you exit the company, gather some work samples. Ask for a letter from the company indicating what your position was and your role on the project. Ask for a letter of recommendation or referrals. Ask for recommendations on LinkedIn from both peers and supervisors. Collect contact information of co-workers so you can stay in touch with them. If your employer offers outplacement help or resources or any severance or earned time off, take it and use it to your advantage.

Take advantage of your break:

Don't be ashamed of losing your job. Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, J.K Rowling, and Steve Jobs were all out of work at some point in their career. Regroup and take it as an opportunity to make a change. Sometimes getting laid off gives you a chance to move up. Think about applying for a job in a category the last employer never wanted or thought to promote you to.

Give yourself a chance to grieve over losing your job, if you need to. But don't let your self-esteem suffer. Being laid off or fired is not a crime. It doesn't mean you are bad, or your work was bad, just that the company doesn't need your skills anymore at this time. Or can’t afford you. (I've had so many jobs that I now do career coaching since I have become an expert at changing careers.)

Don't start looking for work immediately. You need to be refreshed to start looking for a job so get away from your normal stomping grounds. Go somewhere new to give yourself a different perspective. Make a list of what you liked about your last job and what you didn't like. What do you want from your next job? What kind of company do you want to work for? What do you want to learn? What skills do you want to develop? What sort of people do you want to work with?

Take stock of your attributes. What do you like doing at work? What do you like doing outside of work? Evaluate what you want to do. If you have always dreamed about starting a nonprofit, building a website, or writing a children's book "when you have the time," guess what--you've got the time!

Examine your skill set. Make a list of all the skills you've learned and the things you've accomplished. This list will be useful in composing your resume. If you have trouble making your list and thinking positively ask friends to help you.


Don't spend all your time worrying about where the next paycheck is coming from. Call your friends you haven't spoken with in ages because you have been so swamped with work. Be specific in your asks if you ask someone for help.

Ask for virtual informational interviews and be sure to thank all your interviewers as well as those who referred you. Attend all those virtual functions and meetings you wouldn’t have time for if you were working. Connect with people on LinkedIn. People are spending way more time online during the workday, (which includes LinkedIn) so they are often quick to respond. Don’t be afraid to connect with people. It’s often easier to meet someone online than face to face.

During the pandemic companies discovered that employees could be productive when working remotely. Now many companies are open to hiring those with great skills and experience who may not reside near company headquarters.

Though a layoff might not seem like the best thing that could happen to you right now, it can be an opportunity to magically transform your life. Just ask J.K. Rowling.

Having held almost every job in the entertainment industry and weathered many layoffs, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is uniquely qualified as a career coach for creative people, independent recruiter and management consultant. She frequently speaks about being fired and laid off countless times, and how to manage careers at colleges and universities. You can reach her at  or through her website Her picture book The Horse Who Wanted to Fly will be published by Firefly Books on September 1. Preorder it here