My Story: Getting Laid Off

It happened.

I got laid off.

My manager asked me to come in at 8:30am on a Friday. He never came in earlier than 10am so I knew something was up.

When I arrived, I was immediately brought into our legal counsel's office and the door was shut behind me.

My manager explained that the company was down-sizing, my role was no longer needed, and none of this was due to performance issues. I was handed my severance package, and effective immediately, I was no longer part of the company.

I felt like the wind got knocked out of me. I had only been at the company for 7 months, and so this completely blindsided me. I had also moved into the city (nothing fancy, just a closet-sized room) and was living the bachelor "city" lifestyle. As someone who was living comfortably for himself, I knew things were going to have to change.

I was asked to pack up my stuff in a box and within 30 minutes, I was out on the streets.

...what just happened?

I was left to myself with so many feelings, thoughts, and a list of why's?

Needless to say, it was a huge blow to my ego.

As I stood in front of the building, I was surprised to see another colleague who was also "kicked to the curb". We decided to grab coffee and vent for the next hour on the s*it that went down.

We were both quite shook and our minds were still in a fog, but we quickly formed a sense of camaraderie that we haven't had while working together. I guess it's true when they say "nothing brings you closer together than a common enemy."

I left that conversation with slight optimism, but then the butterflies kicked in whenever I thought about having to break the news to my friends and family members.

I swallowed my pride and shared with my family and close friends. With words of encouragement and advices, they tried to lift my spirits up and it certainly helped. However, one friend gave me the advice that I should just take a "break". I took his advice.

Three days later, I was off to Japan.

I was traveling for the next few weeks, fortunately, with some money that I had saved up . And lucky for me, I crashed with a buddy to explore new places and eat on the cheap. I was extremely lucky to have backpacked both Japan and Korea with the right people. I wasn't worrying about working on my resume, what job to apply to, or coming to grips with reality that I was jobless.

And admittedly, as someone who is career-oriented, I felt guilty that I wasn't actively working towards my next job.

In hindsight, I was grateful for this time of self-reflection that I should've done awhile ago and helped me deeply understand more about myself.

On a side note: It's funny (and sad) that colleges and graduate schools charge so much money for tuition yet they don't teach you how to navigate setbacks which happens to every single person (but that's for another post).

In summary, there were 3 things that I learned after getting laid-off:

1. My job is not my identity

This was the biggest epiphany for me. I put so much emphasis on what my job title was or what I was doing that it became my only identity. I now believe that my job simply defines what I do, not who I am.

2. Your first lay off is like your first break up

Yes, it will hurt. It will hurt a lot. But you will get thru it and it will make you tougher (and more secure).

3. You're not alone

Lastly, I realized how many people around me were or have gone thru a lay off. And I didn't realize that the topic of unemployment was such a taboo (more so than sex or religion). And so by sharing with others, it gave me the confidence to know that I was not the only one thrown this curveball. And I always had my family and friends to support me when I was down and out. And I needed that.

Which brings me to my last (bonus) point.

Bonus: Define your own passion

What does it mean to "follow your passion"?

I recently found out that "passion" actually means "suffering".

The best example of this is the "Passion of the Christ".


Passion actually means suffering


The way our modern society portrays "passion" is in the glitz-and-glam, romanticized spotlight and often diminishes the true essence of the word.

Since my lay off, I've continually asked myself...What am I willing to suffer for and invest my time, energy, and money?

Am I willing to give my sweat and tears for something bigger than myself and believe that what I am doing is forming me into a man that God intended me to be?

This completely changed my perspective on what it meant to be passionate.

And so here's to all those who have, are going thru, or will go thru a breakup sometime with your the song goes..."It's gonna be alright!"

Much love,

Eric Pai

Update: After 5 months of unemployment, I was grateful enough to receive an offer from a company in NYC! Although it's not in education, I am still looking for opportunities to be involved in the education space. Thank you for all the support!

#laidoff #unemployment #story #corporate