A sad part of working in entertainment (or in any industry, in this economy) is that sometimes, despite your hard work and effort, you get laid off. You lose your salaried job or your freelance contract ends, and all of a sudden you’re without a paycheck.
Media has always been an unstable industry, but in recent years film and TV have taken particularly hard hits due to the rise of piracy and user-generated content. If you happen to be one of the newly (and unluckily) unemployed, here are a few ways to deal—and to recast your misfortune as a new career opportunity.
Expand Your Network
Difficult as it may be to see, there is one silver lining to getting laid off: Everyone who just yesterday was a co-worker is now a networking contact. Almost everyone can sympathize with the newly laid-off, and your now-former colleagues will likely be as helpful as possible. Look at it this way: It’s a lot less awkward to approach your department SVP and ask her to introduce you to someone at another company you’ve been dying to work for once you’re not working for her anymore.
Say Your Goodbyes
If you can, don’t leave the office until you have co-workers’ contact information. The best way is to send a brief goodbye e-mail to anyone you’ve worked with. Keep it classy—now is not the time to bad-mouth your boss or the company’s latest project. You want to leave people with the impression that you are grateful, capable, and mature. Leave gracefully, and you’ll leave with your reputation, your friends, and your networking contacts intact.
Keep Records of Your Work
Let’s say a big part of your job is designing PowerPoint presentations. Ask your supervisor if you can save a few as examples of your work. This will be invaluable in future interviews when a prospective employer wants to see a sample presentation you’ve assembled. But be smart: Don’t save anything that has sensitive, financial, or otherwise confidential information, and don’t take anything without explicit permission from your boss, or this could end up backfiring in a big way.
A layoff is an opportunity to re-assess: What parts of your old job did you like? What parts did you dislike? What kinds of skills do you want to develop further? Before you start looking for your next job, keep in mind that it’s OK to be a bit choosy. If you can reflect and process a bit on what you really want, you can more precisely target your informational interviews and applications for your next job.
Take Up Side Projects
It’s your first day without a job. So—go to the gym. Learn how to cook. Pursue a hobby you’ve never had time for. This is a great opportunity to develop self-discipline as well as decompress a little. Being let go at a young age means you’ll be better prepared to deal with it later in life when you may have larger responsibilities, like kids.
Plus, you can channel some of your free time into gaining new skills that will help beef up your resume. Want to move into a more technical position? Learn HTML. Shy in an industry full of big personalities? Take an acting or communications class. Use this time to grow—both as a complete person and as a future employee.
It’s easy to get discouraged while job hunting. Create smaller goals for yourself so you’ll feel some sense of accomplishment. For example, decide that you’ll contact three new people and apply to three jobs every day. The next time you’re feeling like there are “no jobs out there” or discouraged for “not trying hard enough,” you’ll see all the work you’ve done. Remind yourself that your hard work will eventually pay off.
Say Thank You
Keep a list of anyone who talks to you or meets with you or points you in some direction. When you do land that next job, it’s crucial that you thank everyone who helped you along the way. Send an email to your contacts thanking them for all their help and let them know where you end up on your path.
Getting laid off and ending up unemployed is one of the toughest things you can experience. The good news is that it can become an opportunity to redirect your career and clear your mind. With a little luck and a lot of patience, you will find another job—and maybe something even better than you had before.
Photo courtesy of Helga's Lobster Stew.
Anusha Deshpande, a native of Atlanta, is a first year student at Harvard Business School. She spends most of her spare time listening to Bruce Springsteen, watching Red Sox games and staying up to watch late night comedy TV so you don't have to.More from this Author