I was laid off from Lyft and it was a relief. Here's exactly how I used my severance to land some... - 5 minutes read

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Ziwei Li, a 28-year-old LA-based former Lyft employee and founder and CEO of Wei Good Food. It's been edited for length and clarity.

I led food delivery partnerships at Lyft for one year. Then the role was eliminated when the company decided to shut down its delivery business during its layoffs in November 2022. The layoff impacted 13% of Lyft's workforce, and my team was broadly affected.

I was taken aback by the layoff, but also a little relieved. It didn't seem like anyone on the team knew it was coming. My manager was in shock and didn't seem to know what to say.

My severance package, which was 10-week salary, became a pivotal resource not just to weather the immediate storm of my job loss but also to start a new career narrative. Up until the layoff, I'd been working on Wei Good Food as a fun side hustle on nights and weekends, dreaming about a day when I could take it full-time. The layoff felt like a sign from the universe to pursue that.

The joint account I share with my husband definitely alleviated things, and my severance was able to support us for about eight months. Here are the best ways I spent my severance package.

1. Career Counseling

I worked with a career coach to talk through my past work experiences, issues I faced, and what I hoped to accomplish in the future. It felt similar to therapy but specifically focused on my professional life.

Career coaches usually charge $200 to $600 an hour, but I was able to access a discounted rate through an MBA program I was already enrolled in before the layoffs. During monthly sessions, my coach helped me understand myself and how to position myself for success. We talked about my strengths and weaknesses, and what roles would use my natural skills.

Talking with a professional helped me to see that I'd accomplished more in my career than I gave myself credit for, which gave me the confidence to start my own business.

The coach also helped me see patterns around my bad habits like not prioritizing rest until my health suffered. The insights I gained and the plans I made during these sessions ultimately steered me toward a more fulfilling career path.

2. Starting a business

I'd always felt tied to the traditional career path and didn't feel ready to act on my business ideas. Suddenly I had the means to start my own business and a chance to see if I'd be happy as an entrepreneur.

I used this cushion as seed funding. I'd been making and selling chili oil as a passion project while I was still working in my corporate job. I started making this product during the pandemic and tinkered with it until I created a version I liked.

I put $3,000 from the severance package directly toward the business for basic costs to get my idea off the ground. First, I officially incorporated the company with the state of California. I also set aside money for the annual California franchise tax. Then I invested in building the brand and leased a commercial kitchen space to produce at scale.

I'd always been interested in the food and beverage industry but never worked in it — in my corporate role. My severance package gave me the chance to attend conferences and events and make connections that guided my next career move. I allocated around $1,000 of my severance funds for registration, travel, and accommodations.

I also used severance funds to join professional organizations related to my new field, giving me networking opportunities and industry resources.

3. Investing in my hobbies

I've got a couple of things I'm passionate about, but when I had my corporate job, I often didn't splurge on them because they're just hobbies.

After getting a severance package and more free time, indulging in these pastimes and creative projects felt like a well-deserved treat, giving me a renewed sense of purpose.

I'd always enjoyed baking but didn't have an outlet for all the baked goods I'd make and didn't want to spend money on baking if everything would go to waste. So I found a local nonprofit that would bake birthday treats for underserved kids, and after receiving my severance, bought more baking equipment, cake decorating tools, and classes to learn how to decorate a cake.

I spent about $200 on everything, and spending more time and money on my hobby felt nice.

4. Mindful travel

I used mindful travel as another strategy to help with my mental transition from one role to another.

I used a small part of my severance to take a quick weekend trip to San Diego, a three-hour drive from LA, to recharge after the emotional turbulence of my layoff and think about my next steps. I thought of this trip as self-care and an investment in my mental and emotional health.

My husband and I booked a hotel near La Jolla and spent the next couple of days going to the beach, visiting the San Diego Zoo, and eating at local restaurants. The hotel cost about $150 per night, and the total cost of the trip, including lodging, dining, and activities, was about $800.

Sitting with my thoughts during travel helped me reconnect with myself and what genuinely interests me. It was rejuvenating and served as a form of "strategic contemplation" of the next step of my career.

My layoff led to unexpected opportunities

Before being laid off, my day-to-day life forced me to focus on the next task or meeting. But this layoff was a deliberate step toward self-reinvention and showed me the transformative power of unexpected opportunities.

My severance package became a pivotal resource not just to weather the immediate storm of my job loss, but for starting a new career narrative.

Source: Business Insider

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