Laid Off? Now What – 5 Things to Do

You have just been laid off.  Now what?  This can be a confusing and stressful time, and sometimes well-meaning friends don’t know what to say or how to help.   Don’t worry!  Your fellow readers Tamara, Ajantha, Judy and I have some great tips for you.  The best way to move forward after being laid off is to stay active.  I categorized the tips into five sections: Immediate, Practical To-Dos, Determine Your Path, Motivate Yourself, Start Job Search, and Enjoy Yourself.

Immediate, Practical To-Dos.

  1. Your work files are company property, period. This means that you should leave these files alone. However, if your employer gives you some time to transition out of your role, or tidy up business, you should copy your contact list. These are relationships that you carry with you, so you should let them know that you’re leaving.
  2. Apply for state unemployment, which you can easily do online. Each week you delay, the less money you’ll receive from the government before your time period is up. When I was laid off during the dot-com crash, I used my unemployment insurance — and its first extension — to supplement my travel budget before I focused again on job-hunting. It was great. However, employers are not legally obligated to provide a severance package, so don’t count on this option.
  3. Review changes to your HR and other benefits. Some deadlines are extremely important and can affect what happens to your health or retirement plans. In addition, you may need to transition your retirement account. All of this is relatively easy to do; it just requires paying attention to some key details.
  4. Check all your spending habits, and bring your monthly expenses down quickly. Calculate how much cash you have, or can have, available to you for at least the next two months. This is smart planning. Unless you have another source of funding, such as a trust fund, I suggest temporarily canceling those extra perks — such as spa treatments, fancy dinners, etc

Motivate Yourself

  1. Remember — you are who you are, despite being laid off. Being laid off does not reflect anything about you as a person. Don’t take it personally!
  2. It’s not what happened already, but how you respond to it that makes the difference. Being laid off can get you down.  Don’t let it.   See this video – fall seven time, stand up eight.  It inspires me every time.
  3. Make sure you maintain the trusty positive attitude that has served you well in the past. If you’re laid off, keep in mind that a large portion of the country (and the world) is facing this situation. Consider this to be a great opportunity that allows you to explore other possibilities. Whatever happened, happened for the best.
  4. Reconnect with your support community, which means family, friends, and even friends of friends. These folks can help review your resume, keep an ear out for possible job opportunities, and help celebrate and commiserate when you need it.

Determine Your Path

  1. Determine how long you can sustain your current lifestyle without that primary source of income from your job. That should be one of the factors to identify how quickly or leisurely you should try to find your next position.
  2. Figure out if you are looking for a job or the perfect job. This will determine the scope of your search.  Also see article:  Job Search vs. Career Search
  3. Learn from others and adopt their survival tips, where it makes sense to do so. You may find it helpful to check out a recently published book called Rebound: A Proven Plan for Starting Over After Job Loss (FT Press). There are many resources out there.  Also see this article – Survival is the Name of the Game.
  4. Consider retraining. Some folks like to escape to business school or other programs post-job-loss. For the right reasons, a layoff can be a great trigger to learn new skills and gain new expertise.

Start Job Search

  1. Take the time to reassess your career path. One of the best ways to do this is to write down the 10 things you loved the most about your previous job experience. You can then integrate these points into your new resume.
  2. Make a career search plan detailing your efforts as well as your metrics. Be specific, like how much time do you plan to spend a day searching, etc.  Here is a job search checklist that can help.
  3. Prepare your resume. It is quite easy to forget some of the work you may have done in your previous job. The important thing is to get a good list of all the projects/work that you may have done. Later, you can pick and choose which one is worth mentioning in your resume (or prioritize your experience based on the job for which you are applying).  You can download a free, highly effective resume template here. 
  4. Talk, talk, and talk. It doesn’t matter to who you talk to, but do snatch every opportunity you get to let someone know that you are in the market, up for grabs. You never know… that friendly person chatting you up on the train might be hiring.  Here are 5 useful networking tips
  5. Ensure that your LinkedIn/Doostang/other professional networks are up-to-date. Don’t be shy about reaching out to a contact even if you have not maintained contact in a while. Even contacting strangers on these networks is just as helpful. I once had a complete stranger call me from Spain (I was in Chicago then) because I had requested time to speak with him about his company.
  6. Cold calling works! This comes from personal experience. First, ID a job that interests you. Some companies post their HR team’s phone numbers on their site. If you can spot this, call and leave a message that is good enough to just tease their interest. This will not only give you the potential opportunity to speak to a live person in the company, but will also set you apart from other candidates because you’ve gone a step further in attempting to reach the company.
  7. Keep yourself open. A job that seems unlikely to match your expectations or skills might end up being ‘the one’. When I was in touch with a potential hiring manager for my current company, I had convinced myself that (a) this wasn’t the industry for me, and (b) I wasn’t qualified enough for the job. The truth was quite different. As much as you may have loved your previous job/industry/responsibilities, you never know what adventures await you in the next one.

Enjoy  yourself

  1. Enjoy your free time, whatever this means for you. This could be reading, hiking, practicing new food recipes, or anything inexpensive. Once you start your next job (or school), your vacation is over. 🙂  Don’t punish yourself for being laid off – enjoy your free time.
  2. This might be a good time to have that coffee with those friends that you have been unable to meet with due to other commitments. A low-down on their organization and the hiring situation for the department that you are interested might be a very handy tool to have. This is especially true, given that it comes from an insider, as well as someone who is interested in helping you find your next job.
  3. Get out of the house! Continue to be involved in helping your local community, non-profits, and any other organizations you’re part of. The more you give, the more you’ll get back. The more new people you meet, the more connections and possible job leads you might find.
  4. Go shopping for a suit. As silly as this might seem, if you have been in a job for a while, and your position did not require wearing formal clothes to work, you might find yourself called in for an interview tomorrow without a good/comfortably fitting suit. When I got an interview call once, I realized that I had to either lose 5 lbs in one day, or buy a new suit.
  5. Make the  job search fun for you. For me, that means a yummy cup of joe/chai and my favorite music while I am doing my job search

Do you have more tips on what to do after being laid off?  Post a comment.   Good luck out there!  I am always in your corner!

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– Lei

2 thoughts on “Laid Off? Now What – 5 Things to Do

  1. Pingback: #1 Secret to Career Success

  2. Moran

    Lei – excellent article!

    I would add in the “get out of the house” part/ start searching for a job –

    go to local meetup groups to network and talk with people from your industry. In these times it’s super important to create relationships and get to know people that do what you are interested in doing.

    This is how I found my job….

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