Sports business, career, job search, work in sports, career in sports

What to do if you're suddenly laid off or furloughed from your sports job

by Marina Foté - Assistant to the General Manager at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
February 17, 2021

It’s a typical Thursday afternoon. You’re going about your day when suddenly, out of nowhere, you get a call.

The explanations range in verbiage, substance, and quality, but you probably don’t notice or care. They all mean one thing: there’s no longer a place for your role, either temporarily or permanently, in the organizational budget. “Does this have anything to do with my performance?” you might ask. The answers, again, range in verbiage, substance, and quality, but rarely provide reassurance or comfort even if you’re told “no, this is simply a reality of the times.” Regardless of the exact circumstances and whether you absolutely loved your role or not, finding out you’ve been furloughed or laid off in one of the most competitive industries worldwide can feel extremely awkward, frustrating, and heartbreaking. It can also feel very lonely during a time of prolonged physical distance from friends and loved ones.

The journey is the destination!

Pre-COVID pandemic, I faced my share of challenging professional circumstances that were out of my control. And looking back, as strange as this may sound, I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way. During these times, I learned to make proactive, productive adjustments (often on the spot), get creative in my persistence towards my goals when the odds were against me, and re-create my reality all while learning how to maintain my sanity and identity. Challenges undoubtedly help shape who you are. I’m excited to share with you a few keys to my specific process in hopes they might help you work your way out of scary situations like these, and ultimately become the best version of yourself!

1. Sit down. Breathe deeply. Feel. 

This may sound obvious if you’re sitting here reading and are not currently going through this in real time. But if we don’t consciously remind ourselves to do these things in the moment, especially during the initial shock, we can quickly become judgmental, hostile, and unreasonably hard on ourselves. The range of emotions that can surface as you process what happened can be overwhelming, but it’s crucial that you allow yourself to feel and accept them all, despite the awkwardness. Many of us in sports have worked toward our goals and current roles for many years (or in some cases, most of our lives), and as such, everything you’re feeling is especially deep, valid, and understandable. If you feel the need to talk to someone, immediately reach out to one of your closest family members orfriends. If you don’t, don’t. Give yourself the time and freedom to process this in your own way.

“The extra mile is never crowded!”

2. Realize the “it’s 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” saying is 100% spot on. 

In life, the number of things we can’t control is a heck of a lot higher than those we can. Which is why controlling what we can is so important! Knowing that you suddenly lost your job, regardless of how much you did or how great you were at it, brings a lot of anxiety and questions with it, especially in today’s February 2021 climate. But have no fear; you can take back your power. You get to choose your attitude, as well as your levels of effort, patience, and faith as you construct your game plan. At a few points in my career, I've had to make heavy decisions whether to start over in a different industry or keep going. In making those decisions I’ve found time and time again, that in every circle of coworkers I’ve been part of, those who prevail: a) refuse to back down, and b) are open to feedback, tweaking their approach, and doing jobs they might never have envisioned for themselves as a temporary means to maintaining an income. It is critical you stay motivated and continue moving forward in whatever healthy form that is for you despite the roadblocks ahead. Which brings me to one of my favorite sayings, especially during a pandemic when crowds are frowned upon: “The extra mile is never crowded!”

3. Leave no stone unturned! 

The meaning here is twofold. 1) Open your mind and circle of connections to different opportunities you might not otherwise consider, and 2) Get part-time and/or temporary projects or business going in the meantime so you can then maintain a side income after you get your next job. Often I’d feel intimidated at first by the idea of reaching out directly to recruiters or connections in fear I would bother someone or get in their way. I’d forget all too often that helping others truly makes us feel good! While we may see ourselves in somewhat of a deflated light after a furlough or layoff, others will still see you for who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what you could bring to an organization. Fully explore those seemingly random possibilities that might come out of nowhere, and never hesitate to reach out or follow up. This will ensure you are kept front of mind, and will be among the first to know when a new opportunity becomes available. Additionally, what are some of your hobbies and interests, and how can you monetize them? Consider dedicating time to starting a side business you can continue to operate part-time that is 100% YOURS! This will help significantly to not only build your résumé, but boost your overall confidence as you search for and eventually begin a new full-time role.

4. Trust...

even when it seems completely hopeless, that not only do things happen for a reason, but you are on a journey, and will end up exactly where you need to be. One of many beautiful things about life is the fact that nothing is permanent. The journey is the destination! People, places, ideas, and industries adapt, evolve, and change. Though it may not seem many opportunities are available right now depending on your expertise or preferred segment of the business, this is the one time in history when virtually every organization’s business model is undergoing some form of an overhaul. Opportunities are on their way like we’ve never seen before! Stay current on industry trends as best you can. Keep in touch with those you know in both decision-making and support roles. Both of these things will help immensely to lead you to the next stop on your ongoing journey.

Marina Foté is the Assistant to the General Manager of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. She plays a part in every aspect of the business, including administration, contract management, assisting executives, event operations, marketing, and experiential initiatives. Prior to the last year and a half at the Coliseum, Marina worked with the Kansas City Royals, MLB's Office of the Commissioner, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. She is a Cal Lutheran University graduate whose interests include learning, public speaking and tour guiding, health and fitness, supporting non-profit organizations, and being a mentor with theClubhouse! You can schedule a mentorship call with her here.