JMC alumna Megan Herren on being laid off, authenticity and open-mindedness
Megan Herren is a 2015 JMC graduate and former strategist at NYC advertising agency Laundry Service. She moved from Manhattan, KS to New York without a job secured, eventually landing a social media coordinator role at Laundry Service, earning four promotions in three years. Herren updated her LinkedIn network about her recent lay-off, also sharing that she’s not giving up. This open and transparent post landed her a feature in AdWeek. Dr. Danielle LaGree, assistant professor in the strategic communication sequence, had a conversation with Herren about her experience.
Danielle: Tell us about your experience at Laundry Service.
Megan: I was there for three years and received four promotions during my time there. I absolutely loved it there and the culture. I worked so closely with my team and the creative department. I’ve been involved with a lot of different projects for a variety of clients and so...I had so much fun. So being laid off was kind of shocking, to be honest with you.
D: Can you describe some ways that you grew both personally and professionally during your time there?
M: Of course! So, how teams are set up is you have a social media coordinator, a strategist, an art director, and someone in the accounts department. Well I immediately fell in love with the strategy department. I had this attitude of, I’m such a great worker, I deserve to be promoted immediately... and I kind of got a kick in the face by my mentors. They were like, “Ok, relax. You’re not that great yet. You have a lot of growing to do.” So I learned to be more humble. And I worked really hard and finally got the promotion to strategist two years ago. And I remember thinking, “Wow, two years ago there was no way I was ready to be a strategist!” Basically, I learned that there are skillsets that you need to develop at each level—those experiences are so important for your professional development.
D: I want to fast forward now to your experience with being laid off. I’m sure you were experiencing a ton of emotions when you first heard that news. What were some things going through your mind?
M: Umm... I was shocked. I didn’t really know what to say. I wasn’t expecting it at all because I was literally prepping for a two-hour client presentation that upcoming Monday. I was pretty much silent the entire conversation. And, it was kind of uncomfortable. My boss was laid off, too, so I was having this conversation with someone I wasn’t very close with.
D: So your initial reaction was shock. What was it like after those feelings set in for a few days?
M: I think my biggest emotion was confusion. My account still had so much strategy work to do. And I was a little bit angry. People in the agency world don’t last very long... they tend to bounce around from agency to agency. But I gave three years of my life to Laundry Service. People there knew may name; I had earned respect. I was trying to piece together why it would have been me to try to justify it.
D: It seems like you identified with your role at Laundry Service extremely well. Did you experience any feelings of loss?
M: Yeah. I had to take a week off to just disconnect because I just loved this agency so much and it felt like an identity was taken from me. And, I was really sad. The other hard thing about all of this is the pandemic... I didn’t even get to have a last day in the office and say goodbye.
D: So you experienced confusion then anger then sadness... but then, you have this awesome LinkedIn post. What was it like having all of those negative emotions, to then shifting your perspective to an optimistic one?
M: I actually wrote that just to update my network and my friends and family. Taking a few days to process everything helped, too, because I let my emotions settle down and was able to think more clearly. At the end of the day, this is happening to a lot of people and it’s not Laundry Service’s fault. I think it’s that hopeful mentality I’ve always had, “I can do this without Laundry Service; I’ve done it before.” I was trying to act as an encouragement to people and show that I’ll be fine. This isn’t going to defeat me.
D: So you made that update on LinkedIn and the likes and comments start coming in. People start reaching out. What was that like?
M: I was so overwhelmed, but in a good way. I checked the post the next morning and it had blown up. Recruiters started reaching out and then the AdWeek article came out. My face was in AdWeek! I just couldn’t believe it. It was shocking but it was such a good feeling to have that support.
D: You obviously didn’t filter what you said in your LinkedIn post. What does this say about being transparent with how you represent yourself online as a professional?
M: Being transparent is so key. We would actually tell this to our clients all the time. People today want authenticity and they want to know the person on the other end is real. At the end of the day, people want human connection. It’s okay to be vulnerable, as long as it’s in a way that’s not overly emotional. There definitely has to be balance but transparency is the way to go now.
D: So, we have a lot of seniors graduating and other students looking for internships. The job market is a bit turbulent right now. What advice do you have for them?
M: Well, I can’t even imagine how they’re feeling right now. As I look for a new job myself, I’ve been trying to use this time to tap into other creative aspects of myself—that’s key to growing as a professional. I’m learning things about myself that could help me when communicating with future employers. I’d also tell them to try not to focus on the negative and put your effort into positive energy that can help you grow. Being open-minded is key during this time. I’m sure so many grads are eager to land their dream jobs. But I think they need to be honest and transparent. Show their eagerness and willingness to work hard. Positions that they wouldn’t normally consider could end up being their dream job.
Follow Megan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganherren/