A former Nike, Gatorade, and Equinox exec shares the biggest lessons she learned from losing 2 jobs in her 20s

Sarah Robb O'HaganSarah Robb O’HaganSarah Robb O’Hagan.

Imagine being in your twenties and losing two jobs, back-to-back.

Now imagine being a foreigner, being laid off, and in danger of being deported.

That’s exactly what happened to Sarah Robb O’Hagan, a 42-year-old New Zealander who was fired from her marketing job at Virgin in 2000 — and then laid off from Atari Interactive, where she was a VP, just two years later.

“I had to go through the experience of packing my desk into a box and walking through the office with everyone looking at me … twice,” she recalls. “It was awful.”

She was in her late twenties at the time, “but I literally thought, ‘I am over,'” she says.

But she was far from it.

Shortly after her stint at Atari, she landed the role of Marketing Director/General Manager at Nike. Six years later in 2008 she became president of Gatorade. And in 2012, she was named president of Equinox. She left that role in February to launch her own startup, ExtremeYOU, which is a content platform that features inspirational and educational articles about fitness.

However, looking back, she attributes much of her success to two important lessons she learned from getting laid off and fired, she tells Business Insider: How to have a s
trong sense of self-awareness, and how to be resilient.

Being let go from a job forces you to take a long, hard look in the mirror. This, in turn, helps you develop a better sense of self-awareness, which is an important key to success.

As far as learning to be more resilient goes, she says: “When you’re in those situations, you learn that you have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to fight for. It teaches you to have this real sense of grit.”

Robb O’Hagan says the funny thing is, though she’s had quite a few twists and turns in her career, she’s ended up exactly where she wanted to be. “But it was all of the many things that I didn’t anticipate that became far more important in my career journey,” she concludes.

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