167 : Layoffs While Black (w/ Crystle Johnson)

Sheneisha chats with Crystle Johnson in this episode themed around being laid off and how to manage. Crystle shares her personal experience with regards to being laid off and also offers up several helpful tips that can ease the process. She also answers a burning question: when is the best time to apply for unemployment? Listen to the show to find out!

Connect with Crystle on LinkedInTwitter, and Instagram!


Sheneisha: What’s up, Living Corporate family? It is Sheneisha, and today we’re gonna be speaking about being laid off and how to manage. Our guest today is an inclusion and belonging strategist, serial collaborator, and founder who believes in the value of our stories to increase empathy. Through mentors and allies she’s met along the way, our guest has been able to build social capital and navigate the corporate scene with ease. She gives back by educating other young women of color in the areas of professional development, personal brand, and the art of networking. Let’s welcome Crystle Johnson.

Crystle: Hey, y’all!

Sheneisha: Crystle, welcome to the show. How are you?

Crystle: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to talk about being laid off and how to manage. It’s a scary thing, but you can definitely navigate it.

Sheneisha: Yes, it’s definitely scary. And it’s not to take away from it being scary or the true issue of it, but in my mind, the first thing that pops up is Friday and how Craig got fired. Like, “How you get fired on your day off?” It’s the first thing that comes to mind. [laughs] Just to make light of it a little bit, but it is a very serious topic, and I know a lot of people do struggle with this, so I’m glad that we have you here to explain about how to manage and kind of talk them through the process. So my first question would be to know a little bit more about you, since we already gave the intro. What else would you like the Living Corporate family to know about Crystle Johnson?

Crystle: I think that the biggest thing about me is that relationships are wildly important to me. I feel like at the start of my corporate career I didn’t place much emphasis on relationships, but as I’ve been in the workplace, I’ve realized that those relationships are important, and they don’t have to be people within the organization. It could be someone outside of those four walls or someone you met online. Relationships, in whatever form they come in, are wildly important.

Sheneisha: That’s dope. So what would you suggest to be the first step in moving forward of being laid off? ‘Cause it’s like, “Okay, I’m laid off. What do I do next?”

Crystle: The first thing I would do is give yourself permission to have a pity party. So if you want to cry about it, if you want to scream, if you want–don’t punch the wall, ’cause I can’t help you [fix the wall,] but–[both laugh] whatever it is that you decide to do–or don’t punch anybody, ’cause I don’t [?].

Sheneisha: Yes, please. Don’t do the laying of the hands. Please. No laying of the hands.

Crystle: Exactly, but do what you need to do to kind of, like, get that frustration out so then you can move on, because if you don’t reset, then you’re gonna be carrying that around with you in your job search. For me personally, the day that I was laid off, I had an idea that I might be laid off because of the fact that the company was purchased, we had added a person to our team from the other company, I had been on the team for a really short period of time, and even though I had added lots of value and had made an impact within the organization, the writing was kind of on the wall. So even though I kind of knew when I was brought into that room and sat down in the room and told, “Hey, Crystle. You know, we’re gonna have to let you go. You know, we’re laying you off,” I still cried. I still cried. I was still hurt. I was still devastated, but I took that news, tried to look on the bright side of what benefits I was getting from being laid off–which is something that we can probably talk to in a minute–but I went home, I had a pity party, and that next day I was on it. I was on LinkedIn. I was sharing my story. I was doing everything that I needed to do and pulling and leveraging those relationships that I had already nurtured to help me define my next play.

Sheneisha: Wow, wow. And you know what? I don’t think we most times give ourselves enough time to even have a pity party and to really deal with that emotional side of being laid off, and we’ll speak more to that a little bit later, but you’re strong. [laughs] You’re a very strong woman. The next day. And you know what? I think it’s amazing how you took the time to utilize those sources and go back and reach into those relationships that you have already nurtured and just start to allow your network to work for you. That’s super important. That’s super important.

Crystle: They came through in a huge way. I would have never imagined how important my network would have been, because I–even though I had a job, you know, like, I was working, I was okay, I still continued to nurture my network. I didn’t say, “Oh,” you know, “I’m busy. I’m too busy, so when people reach out to meet me I’ll be like, “Oh,” you know, I’ll reach out to them later.” I respond to people. Almost everyone who reaches out to me, as long as you’re not trying to sell me something in the first message, I’m going to reach back out to you. I’m going to help you in any way that I possibly can. And even someone who I had helped when I was at the organization that I was laid off from actually reached back out to help me with the company that they were working for. So those relationships and those great things that you do for people or those acts of kindness really come back to you.

Sheneisha: They do. They do. That’s amazing. That’s really amazing. Make it work for you. Make it work for you. So you said the next day you got on LinkedIn, you started measuring your network, and I guess this plays into my next question – does the job hunt start right away? Like, how soon should you start back up looking for another career opportunity?

Crystle: To be 100% honest, I feel like you should always be open to job hunting, even when you have a job. So for me, my presence on LinkedIn and my personal brand is really important, so I’m always posting about my expertise, providing thought leadership, partnering and collaborating with people, so then the folks who are in talent acquisition or in recruiting who are looking for someone to fill a role, they’re constantly reaching out to me anyway to say, “Hey, I have this job opening. Are you interested?” And even if I’m not open to leaving the organization at that moment, I’m still gonna have a conversation with you, because I need to be in your rolodex, and I want you in mine. So that’s the first thing. Like, you should always be open to having conversations with people that are reaching out to you, and you should always be showing your value. So if you do get in a situation where you’re laid off, people are more likely to look at you and say, “This person is credible. I’ve seen this communicate with this person,” or “They shared this article,” or “Their expertise about X, Y, and Z topic.” So then you’re always top of mind.

Sheneisha: That’s good, Crystle. That’s really good. You know, a lot of people–and I’ve even been guilty of it myself–once you’re in a role, you almost feel like–I know Latesha with The Link Up has spoke about this before–you almost feel stuck, right? So you’re in this role, you’re stuck, and you’re going about your day to day, and it’s almost like you’re on auto-pilot. So when it comes to you seeing a job posting–and you may want to venture out, you may not, and like you said, even when you have a job, continue on looking for that and being in someone’s rolodex and vice versa. You kind of get content and complacent with your current role and you don’t seek other career opportunities until a situation as such presents. I think it’s important that we definitely keep those interview skills sharp, because you never know. You never know. And like you said, keeping those relationships strong, it’s super important. So let’s not get content, y’all. Let’s not get content.

Crystle: Yeah, definitely. And I would also add that losing a job is a real blow to your confidence. If you don’t have something else that’s, like, reassuring you in the background, you can easily just say “I’m not worth it.” Like, “I’m [serving?] B.S. on a platter. I just got laid off from my job. No one cares about me.” Just because of what happened with your job, and your job isn’t everything, but the value that you bring and the impact you can make outside of those walls is important because then you have people rooting for you that aren’t the people who laid you off.

Sheneisha: That’s good to know, that’s good. Well, let’s do a little bit of pros and cons with being laid off. Like, what would you say are the pros and cons of being laid off? I know for some people they may be like, “Look, there’s no pro. No way. I can’t find it nowhere. I’m looking high. I’m looking low. To my left, to my right. Ma’am, what are you talking about? A pro?” [laughs] But what are the pros and cons of being laid off?

Crystle: So I’ll go through a couple of cons, but I feel like the folks that are listening probably already know the cons so I won’t go into that much, but for me the cons of being laid off were that at the company that I was working in, it was my dream organization. I loved the people that I worked with. I loved walking into that company every day. There was never a day where I said to myself that I didn’t want to go to work. I was actually happy to go to work every day. So for me a huge con was that I was losing my connection to that workplace. Not necessarily to the people, because I’m still connected with the people, but I wasn’t able to see them every day. The relationships that I had built in a certain way, face-to-face, I could no longer really do that because now I wasn’t working with those people anymore. And I think an obvious con would be you lose your income, your guaranteed income that you were gonna have, especially if you only have one primary source of income. And at the time for me that was my only source of income, so that was definitely scary. I can’t go into too much detail about my specific layoff, but there definitely were pros to that situation based upon the package that I received when I was laid off from that organization. So I know that I have a lot of friends and people that I know or people that I’ve followed online, and companies don’t necessarily give you a package. They don’t necessarily give you anything all of the time when you’re laid off, and for me I was lucky in that I did receive a package. So although I had only been at the company for a very short period of time, I still received a package based upon my level within the organization, not my time served. So I felt super lucky to have that opportunity. And then I was also assisted with some transition services as well. So they offered me some services to overhaul my resume. I didn’t really need it, but it was definitely helpful to have, and tha torganization really helped me–the purpose, I guess, was to help me really target the roles that I wanted to work in. Again, I didn’t need it so much, but it was definitely great to have in my back pocket. So I would say that those are a couple of the pros of being laid off from this particular organization.

Sheneisha: Oh, they took care of you, Crystle. They took good care of you, friend. That was some white glove service.

Crystle: Totally.

Sheneisha: Well, listen, talking about packages and some people receiving them, some not, are there benefits that we’re not aware of of being laid off from a company and it’s not made known? Like, the company doesn’t make it known. It’s something that you have to go and dig for. Like, are there benefits that we’re not being made aware of outside just the package?

Crystle: Absolutely. So I would say that everything is negotiable. Everything. Everything is negotiable. In my situation, I had moved from one state to another to start this role, and I had been in the role for less than six months. I had signed a lease. So, like, I had made commitments, and I’m like, “Okay, what am I gonna do?” And initially I said “Okay, well, I guess I’ll take the package that they gave me and try to figure out how it is that I move forward…” but then I was like, “Oh, no. All they can do is say no, so let me ask some questions to see what happens.” And in this situation I asked the question “Hey, I started this job less than six months ago. I signed a lease. I’m gonna need to move back home if I can’t find a job in a reasonable amount of time. Would you be willing to assist me in transitioning from the current apartment that I’m living in?” So “Will you pay for me to break my lease?” That wasn’t something that was normally included in the package, and they said yes. They were like, “Okay.”

Sheneisha: Whaaaaaaaat?

Crystle: And I was like, “Okay, thank you. I appreciate that so much.”

Sheneisha: Oh, come through and be a ram in a bush. Okay. [laughs] What?

Crystle: And then of course those transition services, maybe something that organizations will also help you with as well to help you find your next play. And then third, you may also still be eligible for any bonuses that the organization may have been giving out throughout the year. So in my case I was eligible for a bonus, because at that particular company we received bonuses twice per year. So I was actually still eligible for a bonus. I didn’t get it paid out immediately, but when it was paid out months later I did receive that bonus.

Sheneisha: Oh, yes. Leave no coins behind. Oh, yes. None. I want all of them. Give them all to me. Withhold nothing. [laughs] Give me everything. You know, I don’t think anyone–and I’ve had friends that have been laid off, and it’s unfortunate, because hearing you say how you can negotiate these types of deals with your lay-off, not many people are made privy of that information. Like, no one knows except what’s been given to them, what’s in front of them, and they just move on.

Crystle: Right, but never move on. You’ve got to negotiate. You have to ask questions, because the worst thing that can happen is that they’ll tell you know. But what if they tell you yes? Then that makes your transition so much easier than it would have been if you didn’t even open your mouth. A closed mouth don’t get fed.

Sheneisha: That’s what they say now. And I want to eat. I like to eat. I need to know. [laughs] I need to know. Let me know. Okay, so, you’re negotiating this. They allowed you to break your lease and move back home. But what are some tips, like, maybe three tips that you would give someone on how to manage their household after being laid off?

Crystle: So first I would say don’t start thinking after you’ve been laid off. So definitely as much as you can try your best to set money aside so it can sustain you just in case. One thing that I have learned is that companies are not loyal.

Sheneisha: Ooh. They ain’t loyal. They not loyal.

Crystle: They not loyal, so you have to watch out for yourself or consider “What would happen if I lost this job today?” So you have to prepare yourself for anything. Because maybe you went to work today and your boss pissed you off and you were like, “You know what? I don’t have to take this because I got savings and I can just go do my own thing.” Maybe that’s a choice that you want to make one day, so prepare.

Sheneisha: Yes, that’s good.

Crystle: So definitely prepare in advance when it comes to that. Secondly I would say consider–if after you’ve been laid off and you’re like “Wait, I don’t have any savings. There’s nothing I can do going forward in this role. I need to find something else,” I would consider other ways that you might be able to make money. So whether that’s driving Lyft or Uber, maybe doing Rover, which is, like, a dog-watching and walking type of service. Maybe there’s another skill that you can have that you can actually market. So maybe you build websites. Maybe you write content. So I would definitely consider other things that you might be able to do to sustain yourself, and then I would also just recommend to live under your means. So don’t live beyond what it is that you make. So if you have to eat noodles, then you gotta eat noodles.

Sheneisha: Cook ’em up.

Crystle: Exactly. If you can’t go to that weekly Happy Hour with your friends, don’t go to that weekly Happy Hour with your friends. It is what it is, and you have to take care of you.

Sheneisha: That’s important, that’s important. I think sometimes people [laugh] live in La La Land and do not want to face the reality of “Look, man, you’re gonna be broke. You need to manage until that network that you’re leveraging works for you and you’re finding that employment.” Crystle, you’re giving some really good tips. That’s really good. That’s important. So listen, when people are being laid off, they’re managing their household… would you suggest, even if they were to go back and apply for another role within that company, like, should someone do that?

Crystle: I think you can consider it, and I think it just depends on the company and what your relationship is with the people in the company, what your thoughts were and your perceptions were about the culture. If you feel okay with it, if you loved the environment and your job was just eliminated for some reason and it has nothing to do with your performance and there’s another job that you’ve identified that you want to do, absolutely. However, if the situation is totally different, I would definitely take that as a blessing and start to look for something else that really aligns with your values and the work that you want to do. Something that’s meaningful, something that feeds your soul – if that’s what you’re into. So for me, when I was looking for a new role, I actually identified my key values and the things that were super important to me to have within an organization, and I wanted to work in a place where if I talked to someone about it and they said, “Oh, Such-and-such is a very special place.” Like, those were the things, those were the words or the phrase that I held my breath for when I talked to the organization, and if I didn’t feel like they aligned with my values or that they had a culture that was human-centered or that diversity, equity and inclusion wasn’t at the center of everything that they did, I did not waste my time talking to them. I was not willing to just work anywhere. Like, it had to be somewhere where I would feel like I belonged, that I was able to make an impact in the way that I wanted to make an impact.

Sheneisha: Wow. That’s important. to know that you want to have somewhere where you can really share those like values and similarities. And most times, when people are laid off, it is that survivor–you go into survivor mode and it’s like, “I’ll get a job wherever.” Like, “I have bills. I can work on the whole career thing in a second. Just let me find something, because I still gotta eat, and these bills don’t stop.” Like, the water bill and light bill, it doesn’t stop coming. Rent, mortgage, none of those things stop, so I have to find something. And then you run into a situation where you’re in a job that you hate. Like, you absolutely hate this job, but it’s providing income, and now you’re trying to leverage that network and those career opportunities and you’re tied to something else. So it’s like going from one emotional state of being to the next. So what’s your perspective on being laid off from an emotional and mental state? I know mental health is important, but what’s your perspective on that?

Crystle: Ooh, that’s a really great question. So I feel like it absolutely takes a toll on your emotional and mental state, but I think you also have to consider what was your emotional and mental state before you got laid off? Were you at a company that was straining you already? Become sometimes your peace is better than saying “Oh, I’ve got a job and I’m making X amount of money.” Obviously having income is–like, that’s important. That’s a real concern. You can’t just live for free. Ain’t nothing free. But also you have to consider what was the situation like at the company, and if it was a bad situation, then just chalk it up and just walk away and work towards finding something better. And I’m not saying that maybe you don’t need to accept a role that you don’t want, but absolutely work as hard as you can to get somewhere where you want to be once you feel more financially stable after that initial layoff.

Sheneisha: These are some gems. Like, I hope you guys are pen and paper writing this information down, whether you need it or do not need it. This is some really good information here. So Crystle, how soon should someone apply for unemployment? Would you suggest doing that right away? Or do you want to wait until you find something first?

Crystle: You absolutely want to apply for unemployment the DAY you get laid off.

Sheneisha: The day. Not the next. Oh, wow.

Crystle: Yes. Start looking into it as soon as you get laid off. Now, I will say that there is a caveat to that. So if your company’s like, well, we’re gonna pay you through the end of the week.” If they’re gonna pay you through the end of the week, you probably won’t start getting unemployment until you stop getting paid. So if they’re saying “We’re gonna pay you through Friday,” you really wouldn’t technically be unemployed until Monday. And I’m sure this might change depending on what state you live in, but I would definitely consider that. But apply as soon as possible. As soon as you’re laid off, you should at least be looking at the process to see what it takes for you to get those coins that you deserve and that you need in order to sustain your household.

Sheneisha: That’s good. I didn’t even know that you could do that. I mean, granted I haven’t been in the situation, but to know that you should do that the day of, I would think that would be something that you need to wait a little while for. And maybe I’m just being slow. A little touched. Maybe it’s something you have to wait a little while for for something to process. I wasn’t aware that you can do that the day of–like, you know, at least start looking at it the day of and seeing what your options are.

Crystle: You should definitely do that, even if they say, “Okay, well, you can’t start claiming until the Monday after,” you should be 100% prepared to understand the process and know how it is that you move forward rather than wasting the time that you have, and then you’re only applying or looking into it the day that you become eligible. I would prepare myself in advance. That is absolutely what I would recommend to anyone that may be going through that type of situation. Luckily for me in this last situation I should have, I should have applied for unemployment, but I didn’t, because I was too focused on connecting with the people that I knew in my network and applying for new roles and interviews and all of those things, and in California specifically, the process seemed difficult, so I really honestly didn’t have the time to go through the process because I was too focused on the next thing that I was trying to get to, and I feel lucky in that sense and definitely had the privilege to have the package from that organization so I wasn’t struggling at the moment to sustain myself, so I was able to focus on finding a new gig rather than focus on unemployment.

Sheneisha: Wow, that’s important. If you have the package–if, you know, you’re allowed the package and you have the unemployment coming, that should carry you for a good little while. I mean, if you’re managing it the right way, it should really carry you for a while and keep you in a place where you’re not as stressed out. I think that lightens the load a lot. Okay, Crystle. Is there anything else that you would like to share about managing or how to manage being laid off that we have not touched on?

Crystle: No, I don’t think that there’s anything I can say about managing being laid off. I would just reiterate to please nurture your relationships, whether you need the person or not, because what you don’t want to be is the person that you meet someone and then you get laid off or you need something and then you’re reaching out to them when you need something. People don’t feel like that’s genuine. That’s not authentic. That is you’re in dire straits and “I need help right now. You’re my last hope.” It’s desperate. So don’t be that person that says “I’m gonna wait until I need something from you in order for me to reach out.”

Sheneisha: All right, y’all. Don’t be that person. Do not be that person. Please. You heard it from Crystle. Leverage those relationships. Nurture them. Nurture them. Nurture them. What encouragement would you share with the Living Corporate family for those that may be going through this right now or potentially in the future or have already experienced this? What words of encouragement would you give them?

Crystle: The words of encouragement that I would give is to be vulnerable. You don’t have to carry it on your own. We’re all out here. And I read this on LinkedIn the other day and I thought it was so important. Someone said that we’re all out here taking Ls in silence.

Sheneisha: Wow. Whoa. That’s a word, somebody. Okay. Taking Ls in silence.

Crystle: Yes. So we’re out here taking Ls in silence, and all we have to do is just be more vulnerable, and I guarantee you there are so many other people that are going through the same thing that you might be going through or have gone through something similar who can give you words of encouragement or who can support you as you’re supporting them in finding their next play as well. I know that by utilizing–for me, by utilizing LinkedIn and being vulnerable and actually–I created a hashtag called #HireCrystleJohnson, and a lot of people–

Sheneisha: Whaaaat? Crystle, that is so smart. What? I wouldn’t doubt it, but what?

Crystle: [laughs] Yes. So I used LinkedIn, I used my story, and people felt really connected to that. They felt like it was authentic. They wanted to know how the story ended. And luckily, in this case, it came out to be a super happy ending. I’m in a role right now that I love doing work that feeds my soul, and I work for an organization that ultimately inspires the world to play. So what better could I be doing?

Sheneisha: Crystle, when I tell you you have shared some things today… you have shared some things today that people are–I think they’re gonna be super, super encouraged by your words and your advice and your insight and being that you can actually connect and relate to this type of situation. I think this is super important, and I really hope that you guys actually take heed to what Crystle is sharing. It’s important, especially your emotional and mental state of being. It plays a big role in being laid off. So I don’t want you all to lose focus. Just stay connected, stay connected, and continue to nourish those relationships. Crystle, where can our listeners find out more about you?

Crystle: You can actually follow me on LinkedIn at Crystle Johnson. My first name is spelled C-R-Y-S-T-L-E. And if you’re looking for inspiration or if you have questions, if you’re looking for professional development advice, I do share hours of my week with folks, especially those who look like me, to help you to build the things that you need to, whether that’s personally or professionally to help you get over the hurdle. I don’t charge any money. I’m not a consultant. I’m not a coach, but I feel like it’s really important for me to give back to others, especially thsoe who look like me, to make sure that we have the health that we need, the advocates, and the ability to navigate the workplace just as well as our white counterparts. Follow me on LinkedIn. Connect with me. Reach out. I’m more than happy to help you. Just don’t try to sell me something, because then you will get blocked. [laughs] I will block you.

Sheneisha: Please. Santana voice – please. Unknown person, please. Just stop. Just don’t. And look, by now if you all do not have a LinkedIn profile, please get one. At this point. Please?

Crystle: Yes, and be sure that you’re posting. Post about your expertise, because people want to know who you are and what it is that you can do, because you never know what that one post will do for you or who’s watching you. So definitely–don’t just sign up, but actually use LinkedIn.

Sheneisha: Use it. So they know where to reach you. They know how to contact you. What other shout-outs or more about you that the people should know? Any shout-outs?

Crystle: Yeah! If I had to shout anybody out, I would definitely shout out everyone who’s rooted for me and everybody who hasn’t. But as for me, I’m rooting for everybody black like Issa Rae.

Sheneisha: Come through. Come through. [laughs] Crystle, it has been a pleasure speaking with you today, and thank you so, so, much for coming on to Living Corporate. Your information will be down in the description. You guys, please go and follow Crystle. Reach out to her. Ask her questions. Give your story, your testimony. Share, share, share, because you never know. There may be someone else out there who is in need of a word, something to help push them through at this time. Crystle, thank you so much. You’re amazing. Thank you so much again. I appreciate it. Like I said, your information will be in the description down below. You guys, check Crystle out. Go, read, listen to her story, and Crystle, thank you again.

Crystle: Of course. It was nice talking to you.

Sheneisha: Absolutely.

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