Find Your Future (So You’ve Been Laid Off)

I came across this LinkedIn post by Jason Fraser, a well-respected Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and thought it offered some practical exercises for folks who have been laid off, so I am reprinting it here with his permission and linking to the original.

Find Your Future (So You’ve Been Laid Off)

On the Monday after Thanksgiving, I lost my job.

On Tuesday, I ran a workshop for others who had suffered the same fate the day before.

Since then, I’ve been using the work that I did based on the workshop prompts to explore a future that’s exciting to me. I’ve had some amazing conversations already with people who are working hard to make an impact in the world, and I’m looking forward to many more of these before eventually finding the right match.

I wanted to open source this workshop, so that it can provide value to anyone any time, so here’s the write-up (experienced workshop facilitators can skip to the bottom to get just the set of prompts):

Step 1: Gather your people and your supplies 

I hosted this workshop on zoom and made it available to anyone who wanted to attend. You can also do this live, but it should be noted that this workshop can generate feelings. It was nice to do this remotely because it allowed folks to have their feelings in private and to keep their work to themselves if they were feeling sensitive about it. I encouraged people to have their cameras on and to participate in the discussions only if they were comfortable.

In order to do the work, participants will need some blank paper and a pen. Post-its work better, but not everyone has those just sitting around. I did not provide an online whiteboard for this workshop so as to allow people to keep their work to themselves.

Step 2: Introduction

I like to tell people what they’re in for. In this case, the workshop is about 90 minutes and comprises alternating stages of private brainstorming and conversation. There are 3 sections containing brainstorming prompts. For each prompt, we do an initial 3-4 minute private brainstorm, followed by 1 minute to self-edit (weed out the less significant ideas and focus on 3-5 that really pack a punch). Then we have 5-10 minutes of open discussion. This discussion helps us see how others are approaching the prompt, giving us further ideas about our own responses. It also helps us feel less alone. There are also two supplemental homework prompts.

Step 3: The actual work

I provide an introduction to each section to help people understand the purpose and what I’m hoping they’ll walk away with.

Section 1: Take care of yourself

Introduction.  Getting laid off sucks. It injects instability into your life in an already chaotic world. It causes all kinds of feelings, from fear and shame to elation and joy, and they all swirl up together making it difficult for us to find our feet and move forward. As with the aircraft that’s suddenly depressurized mid-flight, we all need to put our own oxygen masks on first. Self-care is an obligation, not a reward. (h/t Christina Wallace )

So our first prompt is take three minutes in silence to write down as many ideas as possible in answer to this question: What can you do to make this moment, this day, this week, just a little bit better? (some ideas: take a walk, put on comfy socks, have a hot chocolate, invest in loved ones, go surfing).

Now that you’ve generated a bunch of ideas, take one minute to circle (if you’re working on a single sheet of paper) or pull aside (if you’re using post-its) the ideas that you’re more likely to actually do. We call this the “self-edit”. I want you to have at least three things that you’re going to do this week to make life just a little bit better.

Reducing your cortisol level by engaging with something you love makes it easier to take care of business.

And speaking of, that’s our second prompt. Take three minutes to write down as many ideas as possible in answer to this question: What do you need to ensure you’re taking care of so your life doesn’t devolve (keeping the wheels on)? (some ideas: pay bills, go grocery shopping, clean the toilet, do post layoff administrative bullshit).

After generation, again, take 1 minute to identify the most pressing things. Circle them or pull them aside so you can make a to-do list.

Now that we’ve generated these ideas it’s time for some open discussion. I usually prompt this discussion with questions like, “What ideas came up that surprised you?” or “How are you thinking about taking care of yourself? Was it something you had considered before coming to this workshop?”

I allow 5-10 minutes for discussion.

Section 2: What do you care about in a job?

We want you to find the best possible future, and that means finding a job that gives you the most of what you love, and the least of what you hate. So let’s take a minute to be explicit about those things.

The first prompt is take 3 minutes to write down at least ten things that you loved about your experience in a previous job. We’re looking for actual experiences here, not hypothetical things that you think you would love about a future job, but qualities or experiences you have actually had. (a boss who saw my potential, kind co-workers, great comp for the level of work, etc.)

Next is our self-edit. Take 1 minute to highlight the things that gave you the most joy, or the things that would be a deal-breaker for you if they were not a part of your future work life.

Now we’ll look at the opposite. The second prompt is take 3 minutes to identify at least 10 things that you disliked in a previous work experience. It’s helpful here to focus on qualities or broad experiences rather than specific people. You might want to never work with Jim and Sheila again, but  it’s more helpful to think about their qualities than their names: imperious or back-stabby people.

As always, we’ll take 1 minute to self-edit. Circle or pull out the ideas that you never want to experience again. Again, we’re thinking deal-breakers here.

Discussion time. Let’s take 5 to 10 minutes to talk about some of the things that stuck out. Some questions I ask are, “What were some of your deal-breakers?” “How can you assess whether a prospective job either has the qualities you care about, or doesn’t have the pitfalls you never want to see again?”

Section 3: Your network

In this section, think about who you know or who you’re connected to who might be able to give you guidance (or solace). Who cares about the same sorts of things you care about? Who works in roles that could embody the qualities you want?

Prompt.  Take 3 minutes to come up with as many ideas as possible: Who do you know who can help you define/refine your vision, find direction, or make connections? Who should you be talking with?

For the self-edit, let’s take 1 minute to identify three people you’re going to reach out to this week. From this set of names you just listed, which ones should you be talking with first?

This is our last discussion.  Take 5-10 minutes to talk about how you thought about the people you’re going to reach out to.

Section 4: Homework

Homework 1: Now that you know who you want to talk with, how will you communicate what you’re looking for? (resumes tell people where we’re coming FROM, but they don’t say where we’re headed…)

Homework 2: What kinds of jobs will give you the qualities you’re looking for? Are there broad areas that are more likely to have more of what you want and less of what you don’t?

That’s the workshop, soup to nuts.

If you would like me to run this workshop for you, I’m happy to make time if you can pull together a group of ten or more people. Otherwise, feel free to run it yourself, and adapt it as you see fit. The intention here is just to give people some actionable starting points and to remind them to stay healthy. Getting laid off is shitty. Hopefully this makes it just a bit easier to cope with.

For experienced workshop leaders, here’s just the prompts:

Section 1. Take care of yourself

  1. What can you do to improve the moment?
  2. What do you need to ensure you’re taking care of (keeping the wheels on)?

Section 2. What do you care about in a job?

  1. What did you love about your last job?
  2. What did you dislike? (Is it worth explicitly looking for the opposite?)

Section 3. Network

  1. Who do you know who can help you find direction or make introductions?

Section 4. Homework

  1. How will you communicate what you’re looking for?
  2. What kinds of jobs will give you this?



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