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Recently laid off? Here are three ways to bounce back.

OP/ED: Amid a looming recession, at least 160,000 jobs have been cut this year, with diversity and inclusion roles among the hardest hit. Here’s how to recover stronger.
Minda Harts is an author and the founder of The Memo LLC, a career development company for women of color.
Minda Harts is an author and the founder of The Memo LLC, a career development company for women of color.Dalvin Adams

I don’t know about you, but I started 2023 with lots of personal affirmations and excitement about what my upward mobility might look like this year.

Unfortunately, many of us weren’t prepared for the massive rounds of layoffs that have taken place at many of the top tech companies like Google, Twitter, Meta and now in the broader economy – most recently at Accenture, 3M, Dow and likely McDonald’s.

Nearly 160,000 jobs have been cut this year – and that’s just in the tech sector. Among these mass layoffs taking place, many of the once coveted roles that were affected fell squarely in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion departments.

As I write this, it makes me nauseous to think only three years after the death of George Floyd, companies thought it was best to start with not prioritizing equity. What happened to bringing your authentic self to work? What happened to caring about people’s emotional well-being? What happened to DEI being an important framework to a company’s bottom line? Recession or not, a company or organization should never make equity optional – it’s mandatory!

Now don’t get me wrong, when layoffs happen tough decisions have to be made, but what bothers me the most is that leaders felt there was no longer a need for DEI in the workplace on the scale that it once was.

To give you an example, in 2022 during Black History Month, I got booked to provide programming to 33 companies and organizations. In February 2023, I was booked for five Black History Month programs. It wasn’t that companies didn’t reach out and request my services; many no longer had a budget to hire me this year, due to fears around a recession and the recent budget cuts that heavily impacted Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

These ERGs served as the one safe space that many employees turned to when they felt they weren’t being seen and heard – and company commitments were pulled back. The one place employees could find community on the days that felt heavy being the “only” one – no longer have the same budgets they had last year.

And even as a small business owner, I feel the same anxiety and uncertainty that many others might feel when you don’t know if you will have a job later this month or not.

I wish I could predict the workplace future over the next few months, but that is not my strong suit.

What I can tell you is this: I am optimistic about the road to equity and how we can still keep securing our seat at the table despite what the economists say. We now have the opportunity to strategize what we want the rest of the year to look like for our careers.

Don’t ever think you aren’t good enough to deserve a career that is built on dignity, humanity, equity and respect from your current or future employer. Here are three strategies that have helped me during this time of economic upheaval.

Embrace a mindset shift.

Many of us joke around and say that 2023 is our Jordan year (the highly-decorated basketball icon Michael Jordan and his iconic No. 23 jersey). Michael Jordan made that number synonymous with excellence, with pushing ourselves to greatness.

Before he became “Air Jordan,” Jordan didn’t make his high school varsity basketball team. Yet he would go on to become one the best athletes of the 21st century – some might argue one of the greatest.

I use this story to remind you that whatever your circumstance might look like right now doesn’t mean it has to be your final destination. You must believe in yourself and always be willing to see yourself with the skills and resilience to get to the next rung on your ladder. But it starts with having a healthy mindset and positive self-talk. This is the perfect time to affirm yourself and not question yourself. Don’t participate in your own oppression!

Redefine your brand.

Now is a great time to become the CEO of YOU. Often, people think you have to be an influencer or entrepreneur to be concerned with your brand. But did you know the definition of brand is the “promotion of,” which means you get to promote and market yourself as if you are your own company.

How can you market yourself?

For starters, you can make sure that your LinkedIn or personal website is up to date with your current skill sets, any awards or recognitions you might have received or article contributions.

Now is the time to shine because you never know what recruiter might be looking for the skills you possess, but they simply can’t find you if your LinkedIn profile hasn’t been updated since 2016 with the job you left three years ago. Don’t wait on permission to start marketing and branding yourself.

When I was working in corporate America, I remember one of my old managers called me a “utility player.” He called me that because if he placed me in any role, I am going to succeed. But later I realized that wasn’t the type of player I wanted to be in the workplace. I don’t want a leader in my company just placing me in any position. I wanted those opportunities to be thoughtful and ones that would help advance my career.

I realized that I needed to rebrand myself as a senior consultant. I needed to rebrand myself so that my manager and colleagues thought of me for that next rung on the ladder, not just any ole’ rung. And within a year’s time, I was promoted. I couldn’t control how they saw me, but I could control what my presence looked like in the workplace going forward.

Build your squad.

One of my favorite quotes from my first career book, “The Memo: What Women of Color Need To Know To Secure A Seat At The Table,” states this: “Success is not a solo sport!”

I live and breathe by that motto in my personal life. Now is a great time to incorporate strategic networking into your career plan if you haven’t already. Networking is one of those words that depending on the person, might make your skin crawl. You might consider yourself an introvert and just don’t have the energy to muster up for office small talk. I would like for you to consider what networking might look like if you are building your career team.

You are the point guard. You get to call the shots and make the plays for your career. The question I have for you is this: What could it look like to build relationships at work or in professional organizations to help you cast a wider net for future opportunities?

The person you meet tomorrow might be the one who speaks your name in the room that you’re not in today. Or your department might be down-sized but because someone on your career squad had an opportunity in another department, they were able to invite you for an interview for a new role.

Relationship building is currency. It never gets old or expires. Right now, you can start by thinking about who is currently on your squad and where you might need to forge new relationships.

Is it someone in the Human Resources or tech? We might not be able to control everything that happens during these uncertain times, but we can decide how we use the resources that are accessible to us now – and make them work for us.

You have the power to redefine your success!