Life After Layoff

Nicole R. Smith
5 min readFeb 25, 2024

Season’s change. It has been just a little over a month and due to organizational restructuring, my position has been eliminated. I have to say, I was dismayed, but honestly not 100% surprised. Perhaps 98% surprised, but not 100%. My initial thought was “why me?” then followed by “why not me?” When you work in Volunteer Engagement in Nonprofit, you are fully aware that, unfortunately, when it comes to reorganization, the Volunteer Department is often the first to go.

I wish I had read Rob Jackson’s article entitled Share This With Your Leadership about a month earlier. Would it have changed my fate? Maybe or maybe not. Maybe this layoff is guiding me to my next adventure that I would have never taken had I not been laid off.

It has been a weird month. It’s the first time since I started working oh so long ago that I have been without full-time employment. One of the first things I had to do was create some kind of structure for myself because I was all over the place emotionally and quite literally!

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst has been an ongoing motto in my life. After coming to grips with the possibility of being laid off at my last job due to the pandemic, I vowed to never put myself in the position for fear to hijack me emotionally like that again. So, in addition to transitioning that fear into faith (because frankly it takes the same amount of effort with very different outcomes), I have put a lot of work into building, strengthening and pouring into my network.

I have always been passionate about the profession of volunteerism and have always wanted to share what I had learned. My first few years in this profession I spent overcoming obstacles to only learn I was reinventing the wheel. I wanted to be the person to let others know the wheel already exists and guide them to where they can go buy all 4 tires and a spare at the same time! What I hadn’t realized is that by sharing what I learned, I was being strenghthened myself. This realization was made apparent a month ago as I was receiving the news during the phone call notifying me of my situation; I only swayed under the weight of it, but I myself (to my own surprise) did not break.

Was I disheartened? Did I feel defeated? Absolutely. I poured my heart and soul into the position because I am passionate about volunteerism and felt strongly connected to the mission of the organization. I didn’t realize I had done it until I was notifying people in my network that I was let go, and more than one actually told me they felt for me because they knew how much I poured into the position. Was it that obvious? I didn’t think anyone had really even noticed to be honest.

Sometimes, no matter how hard or smart you work, life just is what it is. I can walk away with my head held high knowing that I put forth my absolute best effort and left it all on the table.

Being a part of this organization, I learned to connect volunteers nationwide with a singular mission and it challenged me as a Volunteer Engagement Leader to think outside of the box in ways I never had before. It allowed me to test a whole bunch of theories to see if they worked (some did, some didn’t) and so much more. My growth in the past two years, was exponential in so many areas and I am forever grateful for the opportunity.

So, now what happens next? Who knows? I am seeking full-time opportunities not only in Volunteer Engagement (corporate and nonprofit) but also in training/coaching/development as I love it so. Seeing the lightbulb come on in the eyes of someone who has resonated with something I said and then celebrating in their success when it is implemented is what fuels my soul.

If you know of anyone hiring or you yourself have a position that I may be a good match for, please be sure to pass along my name because in the words of the great Carla Harris, the most important decisions made about your career happen when you aren’t in the room.

In the meantime, I am booking speaking engagements and coaching people on how to create capacity to help them excel in their roles at work, home and in life in general.

I am nervous, encouraged and excited about what the future holds. Perhaps I will share a follow up in about three months, but as of today, right now, I am fully embracing the present, enjoying the breath, trusting and knowing, that in the words of Bob Marley, “every little thing’s gonna be alright.”

Nicole R. Smith Sitting in a chair cross-legged wearing a gray dress, holding an orange purse on her lap, leaning on it and smiling into the camera.

Nicole is a Panamanian-American, workforce development specialist, published author of Game On! Relentlessly Pursue Your Dreams and the 101 Note-taking Affirmation Journal Series, world renowned motivational speaker, bloggerpodcast host of From The Suggestion Box; Navigating Feedback The Good The Bad and the Say Whaaatttt??? and dancer. She earned her Bachelor’s degree via a Division I full-ride track scholarship and after graduating, she founded Step It Up! Inc., a non-profit dance organization that allowed her to perform for audiences nationwide and used dance to teach teamwork to kids in after school programs.

Her experience in sports entertainment, radio, TV, the performing arts and social services has spanned nearly 20 years covering the Chicago, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale/Miami and Orlando markets. She has danced and cheered for four Professional and Semi-Professional sports teams, has prepared more than 800 interns to enter the workforce and has inspired crowds upwards of 2000.

She has been a proud mentor for the Tessitura Network’s Early Career Development program for the past three years which is a free program dedicated to diversifying Arts leadership. She has the opportunity to mentor young arts professionals of Latino, Black and Asian decent to help them not only find their voice, but express it in the board rooms in arts organizations.

She was a contributing writer for The Life of a Single Mom for two years and has been published in several industry journals including The Volunteer Management Report, Human Capital Leadership Magazine and Chronicle Philanthropy Magazine.

As a nod to her belief in continuous education, in 2021 she earned her certification in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace from the USF Muma College of Business.

She has received several accolades to include being named in the Marquis Who’s Who for professionals, receiving an Emerging Leader Award from Alive Impact Awards for Volunteer Engagement Professionals, awarded the Amplifying Voices Award from United Latinas, being listed as one of WLRN’s “Local Women Who Inspire You”and being selected as one of Legacy Miami’s Most Prominent and Influential Black Women In Business and Industry of 2019.

She is passionate about giving back to her community and is a former Board member of Association for Leaders In Volunteer Engagement, Arts and Business Council of Miami and Ageless CHIC Magazine.



Nicole R. Smith

Nicole is a Panamanian-American, single mom, workforce development specialist, published author, dancer, and motivational speaker. Her experience spans 20 yrs.