The first time I was laid off it hit me unexpectedly. I was 26, early in my career, and in my zone of having landed my dream job for a dream company doing dream work. It was 2000, the beginning of a new decade, 20 years ago. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was working at a small dot com, about 20 employees wanting to make a huge difference in the world. A bunch of us were brought into the office of our COO and she was crying, devastated that she had to lay us all off. 

That’s what sucked… she didn’t want to lay us off, she had to, the company could no longer afford to keep us on.  I remember being given a box to pack up my desk and being escorted out of the office. We weren’t allowed to speak with anyone else. 

My office was downtown, so my route home was on transit. I was walking through the seabus station (kind of like a subway station but a ferry instead of a train) and I took a misstep, tripped, and dropped my box, scattering everything across the floor – the usual office stuff – pens, papers, stapler etc. I was really embarrassed, thinking, that surely, from viewing the contents of my splattered box, everyone would know that I just got fired.

Within a few weeks I was hired back by the company who eventually took over the dotcom I was working at. From there, I transitioned into variations of my role through the iterations of the company. I was one of the last 4 employees when the company shut down for good.

That experience shook me and it was definitely a pivotal point in my career journey. I was one of the lucky ones, as my “unemployment” didn’t last long. Things could have turned out differently though. The trauma of job loss is now considered to be on par with divorce, financial catastrophe, and even the death of a loved one. While different for everyone, the impact can be deep and long-lasting.

For many of us, our jobs are tied to our identity. When we face a job loss, or leave a job when we’re starting a family or have a health challenge, it can affect how we view ourselves. We all want to be seen as useful and contributing.

My parents had jobs that they worked at for 20+ years. The longest I’ve stayed in one job is 4 years. Times have changed. There is no real job security. Economies are shifting quicker than ever before and rapidly changing technology will continue to impact the job market, and as a result we will have to continue to evolve.

Creating a Personal Brand won’t save you from getting fired but it can certainly help you with getting hired. I believe it is such an important career (and life) move. 

Whether you are an employee, an entrepreneur or an executive, building your personal brand is what can see you through the inevitable career ups and downs and life transitions. Forward thinking employers who care about their employer brands should likewise be encouraging the members of their teams to build their personal brands. Individuals with strong personal brands make the best advocates.

“The average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life according to career change statistics. With an ever increasing number of career choices, 30% of the workforce will now change careers or jobs every 12 months.”

You never know what’s around the corner. If you are building your brand and nurturing your relationships along the way, you will be better positioned to find and create your own opportunities.

From an overall life perspective, the process of building your Personal Brand helps you to create an awareness of who you are, and the gifts and talents that are unique to you, in addition to your education, background and experience. It can be that grounding piece that reminds you of the “genius” that is you when life throws you that curb ball. It’s also the ultimate example of “preparation meeting opportunity.”