Life can present unexpected obstacles and disappointments, like losing a job you love — and it can feel totally crushing to be let go, especially when you’ve just started your career. Since we love a good success story, we recently caught up with Lauren Danziger, an inspiring boss who used her experience of being let go to carve out a totally different career path than the one she was on. Today, she serves as the executive director of the Meatpacking Business Improvement District (BID) in New York City, as well as a Lululemon Ambassador for her work on Sweat Sessions, a community fitness program she created in her role. Read on for more of her inspirational tale, along with the heartfelt advice she shares with anyone going through a similar, unexpected career challenge.
Brit + Co: Losing a job can be devastating, especially when you love your coworkers, company, and what you do. How did you deal with the unwanted change when you were let go earlier in your career?
Lauren Danzinger: I actually knew it was coming when I was first let go, but I didn’t expect to feel so deeply lost. Though you might think I would’ve felt alone, this all happened following the market crisis, so it was odd if you still had a job. I didn’t know what my next steps were going to be, and that was a bit frightening. I came to realize it was about more than not having a job — it’s also about health insurance, paying bills (and managing other day-to-day responsibilities), and being in control of your finances. This also affects your social life; when you have no income, you definitely have to make sacrifices. Because of this, I felt a ton of self-imposed pressure to find another job, fast.
B+C: Pressure to find a new job fast can be really intense and stressful, especially in a competitive job market or industry. Rather than letting what happened weigh you down, can you tell us how you turned your feelings into something ultra-positive?
LD: In the beginning of my search, I had a great moment of clarity — I realized that in order to move forward, I had to take a step back to evaluate what I was looking for in my next job. I knew I wasn’t happy working in events, especially in finance; it bothered me that I didn’t feel a sense of fulfillment during my 60+ hour workweek. I decided to try my hand at something I knew I enjoyed, which was cooking. I took my understanding of gluten-free food (I have celiac disease) and my previously never-used culinary degree, and founded a gluten-free baking and catering company. Although I was able to produce excellent food, “Lauren’s Kitchen” still wasn’t providing the stable income and reliable hours I wanted.
I was searching the internet for new anything that peeked my interest when I found an ad on Craigslist for a local Chamber of Commerce. I was compelled to apply because I really wanted to positively affect change in a hyper-local way. Eventually, I made my way to my current position with the Meatpacking Business Improvement District. If I hadn’t taken the time to connect with what would really drive me in the beginning, there’s a chance I could’ve continued down the event planning path or taken some other job in the financial industry.
B+C: We love it! At BID, you started Sweat Sessions, a series of ultra-popular fitness classes. What drove you to start the program, and how have you grown it?
LD: The program was originally called “Classes on the Cobbles” because we held it in Gansevoort Plaza, which is currently under construction (coming back summer 2018). I was managing the public space and was tasked to tap into the community in new ways to get Meatpacking to be more than just a nightlife destination for New Yorkers. I love fitness and I loved that I could get some of that right here in the district, so I wanted to provide a public platform to showcase the businesses that were already offering wellness activities.
Sweat Sessions has grown exponentially. Today it serves about 4,500 people each summer, and the Meatpacking District is now thought of as a place to get access to many different types of activities — including fitness!
B+C: We love that even Lululemon has recognized your hard work, naming you an ambassador. What’s your favorite thing about the work you do now?
LD: My favorite thing about my work now is the great and important ability to use the neighborhood to provide access to free programming for people across the age spectrum, to educate to share the depth of business here with the world. I love that I get to work for a company and on behalf of a community that I am proud of, alongside a team of amazing individuals. It’s truly humbling and motivating.
B+C: What an incredible journey. What specific advice do you give to someone who has just been fired or let go from a job they love?
LD: The most important bit of advice I could give someone is to pause and take a deep breath. I can say with 100 percent certainty that sometimes, the worst things turn out to have the best consequences. Take time to look at where your career path is headed and decide if it’s the industry or job that makes you happy. Know what about what you do feeds your soul, rather than looking for someone that just provides you with a means to fill your belly. Many people are let go from their jobs in their lifetime, so remember that you’re not alone, and it’s really not the end of the world.
Once you fully understand what industry, career path, passion, and direction you want to move toward, use the internet to gain some knowledge. Do your due diligence on companies that inspire in you in that industry or direction, set up informational interviews with people in your network, and ask questions. Like most worthwhile things in this life, you have to make the effort — so put yourself out there and get after it.
Have you ever been fired or laid off from a job you love? Tell us how you turned lemons into lemonade on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photo via Lauren Danziger/Meatpacking Business Improvement District)