What it Feels Like to be Laid Off (and How to Bounce Back)

lay off

I debated writing about this topic for a while. I had reservations on if it was too personal or unprofessional. But I remembered my goal for Black Coffee Creatives was to provide honest advice and insights to the industry for youngsters like myself.  After weeks of personal torment here is my confession: I was laid off.

Out of respect to my former company and colleagues I’ll keep details minimal. And at this point the “why” isn’t as important as the “what’s next.”

When I lost my job in December, I wasn’t surprised. Our company was evolving and evolution requires uncomfortable change. Those changes were various roles across offices. Even though I’d noticed change happening, officially receiving the news is always hard.

As a young creative, it’s an experience I wasn’t expecting; especially so early in my career. I’ve glossed over AgencySpy enough to see that isn’t an uncommon incident. Layoffs happen—clients switch agencies, budgets change, companies downsize. For whatever the reason, it’s part of the business. But no matter which side of the table you sit, it isn’t a fun experience for anyone.

If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of this predicament, here are some lessons I’ve learned.

Don’t Take it Personally


Losing your job is a definite blow to your ego. I won’t lie. However, it is not a reflection of your work, talent or performance. As I mentioned before, it happens. You can either feel bad about it (which is a completely understandable and normal reaction) or you can use what you’ve learned from your previous employer and use it to propel you forward.

Which brings me to my next point…

Sharpen Your Skills

You will have free time. Maybe a few weeks. Maybe a few months. It’s easy to fall into a routine of lounging about watching bad daytime TV. Don’t forget to feed your brain. Do more of what inspires you. If you’re a designer, design. If you’re a writer, write. Go see speakers and participate in workshops. Read books. Start a new project. Keep up with the trades.

Advertising is a fast-moving business so you want to make sure you’re making the most of your time off.

Make a plan

If possible, have an exit strategy. Before I received my news, I’d initiated conversations with mentors on how to navigate this situation and began to make connections that has allowed me to freelance during this career transition.

If there was no time to plan and your layoff blindsided you, evaluate your skills. Update your resume and portfolio. Make a list of things you want in an agency and really be honest on what you’ll be able to bring to your dream job. And as always get your face out there and network.

Resist the Urge to Ball


I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t bring up money. It will be tight. Knowing where you stand financially will give you less things to stress about when the first of the month rolls around.

Sometimes your friends will want to go out for drinks and you’ll have to decline. Assess your monthly budget and cut back where you can. Figure out how long you have to look for a job and make sure you give yourself ample time to find one.

Take Care of Yourself

The key to bouncing back mostly stems from your well-being. Don’t forget to eat, sleep, get some sunshine and surround yourself with good people. Staying positive about your future is vital for your creativity, job hunt and your mental health.

I’ve taken this whole layoff situation as a learning experience. Hopefully I’ve learned enough for a lifetime and won’t have to go through this again, but I can appreciate the time it gives to reflect on career needs and goals. This career hiccup isn’t the end-all, be-all. So if you find yourself in the same situation remember there will always be other jobs.

Required Reading III: Damn Good Advice

If Twitter were a thing back in the ’70s and 80s  it would be littered with the musings from famed graphic designer George Lois. Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!): How To Unleash Your Creative Potential by America’s Master Communicator, George Lois kept popping up on absolutely every must-read list for creative people and has been on my reading list for a while now. I finally decided to pick it up and give it a shot.

If you don’t recognize Lois by his name, you should definitely know his work—from his iconic Esquire covers to launching MTV into moon man welding, super stardom. He’s the only person hanging in all the Halls of Fame (ADC, One Club, AIGA, CLIO, AAF) and not to mention star of  the documentary Art & Copy.

In short, he knows what the hell he’s talking about.

Enter, Damn Good AdviceLois’ latest book (debuting in 2012, so I’m a little late to the party) giving hopefuls, pros, and creative thinkers 120 pieces of advice on…well everything. Big ideas, inspiration, selling work and selling yourself; whatever you need there’s a word for you.

It’s hard to pick a favorite piece of advice out of the book. But in the unlikely life or death situation where I had to choose it would be:

“No matter what stage you are in your career, use your creativity to stand up for our heroes, and protect your culture against villains.”

That quote stood out to me as a young creative. Though we’re interns, students, juniors—whatever, our work still has the power to elicit change and positively shift culture. Obviously, in the ad business our goal is to push product, but in that process we should never exploit ourselves, our culture and the people we admire. That’s everything Black Coffee Creatives stands for. That’s everything I stand for as a person, as a creative.

If you peruse Buzzfeed on the daily, this book will be a breeze to get through.  The list format paired with colorful pictures on every page keeps it engaging even for the shortest of attention spans.

This quick read filled with practical advice really puts this book off the charts. Priced at round $5, it’s cheaper than a fancy cup o’ joe–that alone is worth 5 out of 5 mugs. Definitely add this book to your collection, you’d be a fool not to.

5/5 mugs

What Makes a Good Partner and How to Find One

A few days ago marked mine and my partner’s anniversary.  I don’t know if she remembers…or if we should exchange gifts.

Not Every art director and copywriter  becomes “official.” From what I’ve observed ride or die creative teams are becoming less common. While I’ve worked with my share of art directors and copywriters, I always come back to old faithful.
My partner and I met in the basement of a bar – I promise it was at a networking event. We were both looking to get into the industry, she had just graduated from portfolio school, I on the other hand was bagging groceries at Whole Foods. We chatted for a bit, exchanged information and sent really awkward emails.
Fast forward a couple of weeks later and the next time we see each other is in the lobby of our internship.

Finding a partner won’t always be this easy. In fact, before my current partner I’d been taking out Craigslist ads and sending Twitter S.O.S’ searching high and low for someone to create spec work with. I was lucky to bump into Ariel.

Having a creative partner is very much like dating. You’ll learn each others weird, creepy habits. You’ll develop a comfort level where you’re able to share your off-the-wall ideas and not care if they think you’re batshit crazy. You will challenge them and they’ll tell you when your idea sucks. They’re there to help you defend ideas and have silent conversations with in status meetings. And they’re there to support your cool, non-work-related projects.

Personally, having a creative partner is lit.

The best advice I can give on finding a creative partner is networking and looking within your circle. Look at people you  work with, even if it isn’t in your desired field.  At Whole Foods I worked with so many artists, writers, designers and even passed my business card along to a few customers. I just so happen to meet my partner through an organization where we were both members. Consider joining a group or club (AAF has tons of local chapters) where you can meet interesting people if your network is small.

You’ve connected someone who wants to create some awesome stuff, how do you know it’s a good match? Again, like dating, you have to get to know each other.  Even if it’s a friend you want to work with,  you may have dissimilar work ethics and professional goals. Having different life philosophies and outlooks are fine, and even encouraged, as they’ll challenge you creatively; but a good creative partner will want to achieve the same goals.

Alright, you’ve found your creative soul mate the only thing left to do is get to work!

P.S. the best thing about creative partners vs IRL partners,  open relationships aren’t taboo. So feel free to switch around and mix it up.