How To Make Uncertainty Work For You

What a Layoff Taught Me About Living My Life by Amy Kan

(First published in Thrive Global and reprinted here with permission from the author. Amy Kan will present Leadership Strategies for Women in our June 23 webinar. Register now)

Living in this moment of Covid-19, of social distancing, economic distress, layoffs and all-around uncertainty, brings me back to Spring 2015. That was when the company I worked at for more than ten years, that I helped innovate, build and grow, laid me off from my position as vice president of marketing. It was a case of new CEO, new team.

I didn’t love my job at that point. In fact, I was pretty stressed out and miserable at the end, but that didn’t help me feel any less, well… less. I kept trying to figure out how they could not see the value I brought to the company, my contributions and my leadership. After all I had given to them, how could they do this to me? Being laid off sucks your ego right out from under you — and, it gives you time to think.

Being left on my own with my thoughts didn’t start out well: self-pity, anger, depression, even relief. It was all there. I quickly realized, however, that the negative emotions were all mine and I didn’t have to hang on to them. They weren’t helping me. When I let go of being a victim, I started seeing things differently. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I flipped the situation by asking myself, “What can I do now that I have time, that I couldn’t do before?”

Having previously lamented that I could only go to the gym on the weekends, I had no excuses not to go now. I am no fitness fanatic. In fact, I have never been ‘sporty’, so it’s crazy to me that this one thing had such profound impact. Exercising at the gym helped me feel better about myself and in control of my situation. It provided a schedule for me and got me out of the house in the morning.  It started my routine, and what I hope to be a life-long habit. Even now, during this pandemic, when we can’t leave our house, I am working out almost every day using the apps that are so readily available. Especially now, it is nice to know there is something I can control.

Time out of work also enabled me to meet people and build my own community. I live in Pasadena, in Los Angeles, and everything you’ve heard about commuting here is true. In the time I’ve lived here, I’ve never felt part of a community because I was always commuting out of it! I began volunteering for local organizations to which I could bring my experience, I attended meet-ups that opened my eyes to areas of interest and that inspired me to look beyond what I already knew. I began to hone in on interests I didn’t previously know I had.

Time to think led me to question my purpose. What if my next job wasn’t the same as my last? Maybe marketing isn’t all that interesting to me anymore? I asked myself what I was good at and also enjoyed doing? I read books, listened to TED Talks, took classes, attended webinars. Instead of growing a company, I found that I grew myself. I loved it and soon discovered there was a way that I could continue my own development, while helping others do the same.
As it turned out, my lay-off marked a new beginning for me. Distance from my previous company and its stressful, toxic environment, gave me the time and space to breathe; to think. Kind of like now, it felt like everything just stopped. Someone unplugged that treadmill I was on and all of a sudden, it was quiet. I could step off.

Once I stopped thinking about my lay-off as something someone did to me, and started thinking about what I could do with the time I had, I began seeing the opportunities in front of me.
Many of us go through life without taking enough time and giving ourselves space to consider how we are living. When given the opportunity to pause, voluntary or not, grab it. What can you do that you didn’t have time to do before? Look for the opportunity that time provides and it can change your life for the better.
About the author
Amy Kan is a certified leadership coach who specializes in helping women leverage their strengths, develop their confidence and embrace their authentic leadership styles so they can be powerful, successful leaders. She works with companies to develop their high potentials, and individuals who feel stuck in their professional development.

Amy launched her coaching business in 2018, with a mission to help companies achieve gender equity at the leadership level, and in so doing, improve their culture and bottom line. Amy's articles have appeared in Fast Company, All Thrive Global and CEOWorld Magazine, where she is an opinions columnist.

She received her MBA from the London Business School, BA from the University of Michigan, and her coach training through IPEC. She holds an ACC certification, and upholds the standards and ethics, of the International Coaching Federation (ICF.)

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