I got laid off from Google in my 50s and juggled 3 jobs at Trader Joe's, Lyft, and Starbucks. It was a humbling experience. (2024)

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with 55-year-old Kyongsook Kim, also known by her English name Lois Kim. She was laid off from Google in 2023 and worked three part-time jobs for about a year. The following has been edited for length and clarity. Business Insider has verified her current and past employment.

I was in shock. For the past 30 years, I always felt I had job security. I also felt angry, disappointed, and frustrated because five years ago, I moved from Korea to the San Francisco Bay Area when Google offered me a global communications director position.

It felt like a boyfriend had broken up with me and I got dumped. It made me feel depressed and question what I was going to do and what my value was.


The weekend after I was laid off, I went through five stages of grief. Then I came to a point where I thought, 'You've worked for 30 years in the corporate world — isn't that enough? What else do I want to do?'

So I sat down and started writing about the kinds of jobs I've always wanted to do. Within 30 minutes, I came up with a list of 10 things, such as working at Trader Joe's as a cashier, driver, bartender, and librarian.

Writing this list gave me a burst of energy and I wanted to action it straight away. So just 10 days after getting laid off, I started a part-time role at Trader Joe's.

Juggling jobs

On my first day, I was worried about how people might perceive me because I was once a Google director and now worked at a grocery store. In Asian culture, it is quite common to take face-saving actions, but I soon got past that.


After getting the job, I applied to become a Lyft driver and weeks later I started driving. Soon after I started working as a part-time barista at Starbucks too.

I started with 20 hours a week at Trader Joe's and between 15 and 20 hours at Starbucks, and another 15 or 20 hours with Lyft. For the first few months I was working about 70 hours a week. After six months, I was promoted to section leader at Trader Joe's and increased my hours there.

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I would work three morning shifts at Trader Joe's, Starbucks in the afternoons and drive for Lyft in between.

Working three jobs at once was not a financially motivated decision. It was difficult and not sustainable in the long run, but something I chose to do as a way to cope and overcome difficult times.


I got laid off from Google in my 50s and juggled 3 jobs at Trader Joe's, Lyft, and Starbucks. It was a humbling experience. (2)

Working at three different places opened my eyes to another world. It taught me a lot, gave me a lot of confidence, and I got to meet some amazing people.

One of the biggest things I've taken away from this experience is learning more about myself. Learning how to do a job from scratch is a humbling experience.

I considered myself to be a high performer in the corporate world and thought I was good at everything — but I wasn't a great barista. After almost a year I quit my job at Starbucks and I was promoted to a manager role at Trader Joe's.

Your job is not your identity

Another big takeaway from my gap year is the realization that the company you work for or your job title does not represent who you are. Outside that, you can be yourself and be appreciated and recognized by others.


If you find yourself in a similar position as me, getting laid off after a long career, treat your next steps as a project. It can be for three months or six months, but having a project can make you feel energized because you can shift your focus and open yourself up to new experiences.

Also, continue to meet people. Usually when you lose your job, you can feel disconnected from people. But continuously speaking to friends and old coworkers can lift your spirits, or even help land you new opportunities.

I made a point of remembering 100 people's names at Trader Joe's within my first month. The gap year allowed me to meet people I ordinarily wouldn't have in the corporate world.

I didn't set out to embark on a gap year project away from the corporate world, I just knew I wanted to find a way to keep myself busy.


About three months into the journey, I realized how much I was learning and enjoying it, so I decided to do it for a full year, share my experience with others, and start writing a book.

Have you taken an alternate career path after getting laid off? Contact this reporter at jmann@businessinsider.com

I got laid off from Google in my 50s and juggled 3 jobs at Trader Joe's, Lyft, and Starbucks. It was a humbling experience. (2024)
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