There are two ways to approach being laid off: it can be an obstacle or an opportunity.
The latter was the subject of last night's Seeing the Silver Lining in the Pink Slip event at New York University. More than 50 attendees filed into the Stern School of Business to find out how the event's five panelists managed to create their own companies after they were fired.
The panel was organized and hosted by Jocelyn Chia, a self-proclaimed entrepreneur in the making, who was laid off from her position as an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges law firm last year. Instead of searching frantically for another job, Chia said she spent some quality time on her couch with pint upon pint of soy ice cream, before buckling down and brainstorming ideas for her own company.
The purpose of the event, Chia said, was to help other people transition, like she has, from being "pink slippers" to entrepreneurs.
Panelist Ann Fry, who became a life coach and author after leaving the corporate world, aptly summed up the unanimous feeling in the room last night, saying, "You're ripping off the world if you're not being who you're meant to be."
According to the panelists, including Suparna Bhasin, who lost her job in 2001, the first thing any person who's been laid off must do is get over those feelings of rejection and loss of identity. Bhasin is now founder and CEO of her third post pink-slip business, a women's empowerment organization called She Creates Change, and she attributes her success to never looking back.
"I remember walking around the city and people were like, 'I'm so sorry you were laid off.' I was like, 'You know what? Congratulate me, because I'm off to my next adventure,'" she said. "It really empowered me."
Panelist Gail Davis stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive people when you make the change. Davis lost her job at NBC and co-founded a consulting firm called The Goldwaters Group with a business partner based in London.
"You have to make sure that whatever you start to do when you get laid off, you have the right people in your life," she said. "When you first start your business, determine the type of qualities you want in a partner."
All of the panelists admitted that failure is inevitable, but the most you can do is try your best to plan in advance. Joseph Varghese, whose Peer Success Circles business helps entrepreneurs network with one another, said he asked himself a few crucial questions after he left his job as a chemical engineer: "How much money do you have in your account? How long can you go forward and survive? Do you have a budget for yourself and do you have an idea what you want to do?"
No matter how many ideas people have, however, panelist Kristina Leonardi, founder of the non-profit organization The Women's Mosaic, said that being an entrepreneur definitely isn't for everybody.
"It sounds great, but it's a completely different approach to life," she said. "If you're working nine to five, and you don't want to work nine to five anymore, maybe you just weren't in the right job. People think you have all this time, because you're making your own hours, but really, you're working 24/7."
For those who, like Chia, are ready to take the plunge, though, Leonardi advised, "Do what you love. The money will follow."