Making the Most of Life's Lemons: Life After My 3rd Layoff

Everyone has heard the cliché, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Well, there's one dangerous assumption within that statement - that I actually have access to water and a pitcher.

I experienced my first layoff at the tender age of 19. After having worked at Castle Rock Entertainment part-time for four years, about 100 of us were laid off when Ted Turner's company bought us out. I landed my next job at NBC within weeks, without even interviewing for it. Talk about amazing grace!

My second layoff was a bit more traditional, and I spent about 3 months pounding the pavement before I landed at E! Entertainment. Still young & full of energy, I handled it all in stride. That was in my mid-20s. I was still relatively debt free, aside from student loans, and living with parents.

But this last layoff. Oh, this last one. This last layoff found me as a 30-something single woman, juggling a full-time job and several part-time ones to maintain my overhead, which included a mortgage, car note, tuition for an MBA program I was one year into, and basic living expenses. Needless to say, the third time was not the charm. This layoff completely devastated my beliefs, priorities, and sense-of-self. I experienced a gut wrenching sense of despair as I watched all that I had worked for over 15 years vanish. Not only was I grappling with the material losses, but also with the spiritual ones, most noticeably, the dent to my once fearless drive and resilience. I was crushed. I recall telling close friends, in-between crying sessions, that this would be the breaking of me.

But life's challenges have a way of showing you what you're made of. About a month and a half after the layoff, I found myself 6,000 miles away from all I knew, teaching English in South Korea. I had never lived outside of California, but here I was in Suwon, South Korea, walking to work, living rent-free, smiling at strangers, and picking up basic Korean phrases. A few months after working in Korea, I re-gained the confidence I once knew, applied to graduate school, and started a different Masters program (still ashamed that I had abandoned the MBA so abruptly). It was in Korea that I regained the confidence that comes with completing an honest day's work, feeling like a contributor to society and having enough money to live comfortably.

My post-layoff transition wasn't easy. I happened to be single and child-free, so I was able to drop everything and move. Not everyone can do that. But there are things laid-off workers can do to keep their sanity until their next big break happens (see for ideas.) Fast forward 26 months: I am refreshed, re-energized, and re-committed to pursuing my passions.  I'm back in sunny southern California, spending my days volunteering, swimming, taking Zumba, re-writing resumes for frustrated job seekers (no charge), and sourcing talent for a few of my previous clients until I land my next 9 to 5 (which in recruiting can sometimes be an 8 to 8).

To close with another cliché, hindsight is 20/20. I am grateful for the layoffs. Without them, I may not have been pushed to grow, professionally and personally. I was mistaken when I told my friends that my latest (and hopefully last) layoff was the breaking of me. It was, in fact, the making of me. My third layoff taught me that life's lemons not only can make lemonade, but also one heck of a lemon pie. Tasty!

Here are some stories from Americans who are working through/have overcome their layoffs:


Maisha Cannon is a Senior Recruiter and Researcher committed to introducing employers to talent that will enhance and grow their businesses. Over the span of her 15 year career in Human Resources, Maisha has filled over 1,000 positions, and has coached hundreds of candidates on resume writing, interviewing skills, and career planning. She spends her free time blogging, engrossed in social media, and singing along to the thousands of songs in her iPod.

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Comment by Jerry Albright on February 29, 2012 at 9:22am

Great story Maisha!  Thank you for sharing - and good luck in your next chapter!

Comment by Doreen Koronios on February 29, 2012 at 11:04am

Great story!  So inspiring!  I know several young ladies in your same position who went overseas to work and loved the experience. They all came back better for having done it.

Comment by Bob Sharpe on February 29, 2012 at 11:05am

Thank you for the inspirational jolt, Maisha.  Winners ALWAYS find a way, even when the way isn't immediately apparent.  Best wishes for your continued success. 

Comment by Kyle Schafroth on February 29, 2012 at 11:08am

A great tale of perseverance and determination to come out on top! 

Cheers to you for that and 축하합니다 (chuka hamnida) on already moving towards the next step in your career!

Comment by Glenna Halligan on February 29, 2012 at 11:51am

Excellent read, thanks for sharing!

Comment by Russ Cole on February 29, 2012 at 11:55am

Maisha, thank you for sharing your story of perseverance and resiliency!  It is an uplifting account of human spirit overcoming worldly challenges.  I can relate in that I'm on my 3rd layoff also, although at a slightly different stage of life with 30 years work experience and 3 kids in college.  Like in your experience, there are highs and lows, but as I learned 4 years ago when forced out of business by the economy, there are blessings to be had each day that we need to look for, recognize and cherish.  So, now while seeking my next "gig", all of a sudden I find myself being sought after for career, recruiting and business advising.  Today I am finishing up a written review of an online music lesson instruction website and gathering musician friends for a special performance coming up in 3 weeks, and having a blast.  We haven't gone out to dinner in over a year, no vacation trip in 2 years, I ride my bike everywhere to save gas money, haven't bought a stitch of new clothing or new shoes in over a year, no new CDs, thermostat at 63 degrees, no cable TV or landline telephone, but I've never felt more "wealthy" and happy. And I appreciate you reminding me of that through sharing your personal story!

Comment by Maisha Cannon on February 29, 2012 at 12:31pm

Jerry, Doreen, Bob, Kyle, Glenna and Russ:

You kind words have made my heart smile this morning. Thank you for the support and well wishes!

@Bob- I love that wording, "inspirational jolt!" I may have to borrow that phrase! @Kyle - Kamsahamnida!!! @Russ- Wealthy, indeed! Perspective is a beautiful thing. Enjoy the scenery and fresh air on those bike rides, it's a completely different view than when gridlocked in horrific traffic! (And trust me, even with 500+ channels, you aren't missing A THING by not having cable)!

Comment by Suresh on February 29, 2012 at 2:30pm

Thanks for sharing, interesting story. I am sure your experience is worth a couple of MBA's.


Comment by Maisha Cannon on March 1, 2012 at 2:58pm

Thanks, Dr. Raghavan!


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