Laid Off From Work? Your Guide to Recovering
Even when you know it’s coming, getting laid off from your job still hurts. And, unless you know it’s temporary, your gut reaction may be to start your job search ASAP!
While getting laid off from a job is not your fault, your job search will, like any job search, take time. Perhaps more time than you’d like. But, before diving in and applying to any and every job out there, take a step back and make a plan. Having a clear plan for surviving a layoff will help you weather this temporary storm and go a long way toward helping you bounce back.
What Does It Mean When You’re Laid Off?
A job layoff occurs due to circumstances outside of your control. Usually, it’s because something has happened to the business, and they need to get costs under control. And, that, unfortunately, means getting rid of people.
In some instances, you’ll have 30 days notice that your layoff is coming, but that’s not a guarantee. If you have advance notice, though, it will give you some time to get organized and figure out your next steps. That might include belt-tightening at home, fixing up your resume, or even going back to school. Even if your layoff happens suddenly, you can still follow the same steps to get back on track.
Being laid off is different from being fired. When you’re fired, it’s because of circumstances within your control, usually for failing to perform at your job. And, while you can recover from being fired, it’s different than recovering from being laid-off.
The Emotional Impacts of a Layoff
It’s normal to feel upset or even angry about a layoff. You’ve lost your job, and you haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, you may have been doing everything right and still lost your job. It’s unfortunate no matter how you look at it.
And, as silly as it may seem, a job loss is a loss, so it’s normal to grieve. You may feel anger, resentment, anxiety, or any one of a number of other feelings, and that’s OK. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you need to feel. However, make sure you don’t let your emotions get the better of you and negatively affect you going forward.
Work Through Your Feelings
It’s important to manage your feelings during and after your layoff. If you don’t, you may say things you don’t mean, and this could jeopardize that good reference you want for the next job. Or, you might sabotage yourself in an interview by badmouthing your former employer.
Give yourself time and space to grieve your job loss and embrace your frustration, disorientation, and worry. If your former employer gives you access to counselors and career coaches, use them! Talking with a trained unemployment counselor can have a positive impact on all of the negative feelings you’re experiencing, and they can point you to more helpful resources.
Talk to Friends and Family
It’s completely normal to feel embarrassed or ashamed of a job layoff. And you might try to put on a brave face, or distance yourself from your closest family and friends, but don’t.
They can act as a support network to keep you positive as you work to find a new job. By being open and honest upfront, you’ll set the stage for a positive job search with the support you’ll need.
If you have a partner and/or children, talk with them honestly about what’s happened. For you and for them, this openness and honesty will make all the changes to come much more manageable. For example, your daily routine will be different, so talk to your kids in an age-appropriate way about searching for a new job and what that means for your schedule and theirs.
When you’re laid off, you might receive a severance package that includes a lump sum payout to help you out until the next job. It might also include payments to help cover your insurance premiums for some time. Or, you might not get any severance and have to rely on unemployment benefits. Find out what benefits you will or won’t receive so you can budget accordingly.
This includes more than just your salary, though. Make sure you find out how much you need to pay for COBRA to stay on your health insurance plan if you need to. If you have any additional but optional insurances (like disability or life insurance), find out if you can stay on the plan and what that entails.
While you can’t know how long your job search will take, figure out what you need to live on from month to month. What can you trim from your budget, and what do you have to keep? Being laid off doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop all spending, but it is wise to cut expenses where you can.
Take Time to Recuperate and Reevaluate
Assessing what you really want in a new position will set you up for a more productive job search, and potentially, a more rewarding future.
Play the Long Game
Once you’ve taken care of the immediate, you need to plan for the long term. That doesn’t have to mean taking the next job that comes your way, though. A thoughtful action plan will help you survive your layoff in a meaningful way.
Evaluate Your Options
After a layoff, you might decide to remain in the same career field. Or you might not. If you want to stay in your industry, it’s important to understand why you were laid off. Was it because your education or experience was holding you back? If that’s the case, now may be a great time to go back to school and gain some additional certifications or trainings.
Is your whole industry undergoing a massive change? While training might help you out, it may be time to consider a career change.
Use Your Time Wisely
Worrying about an employment gap on your resume is normal. There’s a reasonable fear that the longer you’re out of a job, the harder it is for you to get hired. But avoid the temptation to apply for anything and everything. You’ll waste valuable time if your qualifications don’t match the position.
Instead, consider freelancing while you job hunt. You’ll earn some income, accumulate references from satisfied customers, and demonstrate that you’re a go-getter. Likewise, volunteer work can be a way of forging new connections and developing skills that may increase marketability.
Figure Out What You Need
One of the best ways to figure out what you might need to get hired for the next job is by looking for a job! Note the skills, education, and experience for positions you’re interested in. Then make a list so that you’ll know which ones are the most important. Understanding what a potential employer is looking for can help you structure your time and can give you a plan of attack.
Start Your Job Search
You’ve figured out your next career move and are ready for the job search. Whether you’ve been out of work for a month or a year, looking for work requires a job search plan to keep you organized and on track.
Track Your Progress
To help overcome your job layoff, keep a job search document or spreadsheet where you write down your goals and record your progress. This can be as simple as a document or spreadsheet.
A job search record will help you see how much work you’re doing and the progress you’re making. And it will also help you figure out if you’re spending too much time in one area of your job search, and not enough in another.
The most useful tracking documents will include tasks and info like:
- Jobs you’ve applied to
- Company names and contact information
- Interviews you’ve done and reminders to follow up
- Job search websites or job placement agencies you’ve set up accounts with
Set Monthly Goals
Setting monthly goals for the first three months of your job search gives you a game plan that helps you see the big picture. With any luck, you won’t need to go much past the first month. But, it’s always good to have a big-picture plan just in case
For the first 30 days, you can set goals like fixing up your resume and cleaning up your social media accounts. It’s also a great time to update or set up a LinkedIn profile. And, if you’ve decided to change careers or need additional training, start looking into where and how to do that.
In months two and three, goals could include things like expanding your professional network and analyzing what you’ve done to see what’s working and what isn’t.
Set Weekly Goals
A good job search should involve a combination of the following: reaching out to your current professional network, making new network contacts, and searching for open jobs. Create weekly goals that help you accomplish these tasks.
Your weekly goals should include things like:
- Applying to five jobs
- Emailing five current networking contacts
- Finding one in-person event to attend
- Searching for volunteer opportunities to stay active and help build your resume
Prepare to Address Your Layoff
Whether in an interview or cover letter, eventually, you will have to address the fact that you’ve been laid off. While explaining a layoff should be easy, make sure you’re choosing the right words and phrases when you do.
Put Your Best Self Forward
It’s easy to say it was the company or industry’s fault. But, that doesn’t speak highly of you as an employee. While you’ve done nothing wrong, make sure you aren’t harping on the fact that you lost your job through no fault of your own.
Betsy Andrews, career coach at FlexJobs, points out, “Layoffs happen across all industries. Hiring managers understand that an applicant’s layoff isn’t reflective of their capabilities but rather a ‘business decision.’ This allows the applicant the ability to focus on their experience and qualifications that they can bring to an employer, rather than feeling that they have to defend themselves.”
In your cover letter, add one to two sentences providing straight-forward information about the layoff. Use words such as “downsizing, merger, acquisition, or restructuring.” The same goes for an interview when you’re asked: “Why are you looking for a job?”
If you have strong references from the company, be sure to incorporate this as it will reflect to the employer that you handled the layoff in a positive manner.
When It’s Been a While
Sometimes, the best-laid plans go astray after a layoff. And that’s OK. Keep working and reevaluating your job search plan and look toward the future.
As more time passes, though, you may find that you need to adjust your response about why you aren’t working. Andrews explains, “If it’s been a while since your layoff, explain that you decided to take some time to reflect about what was important in your next position and have been strategic in your search. Then explain why you chose to apply for their company. This is a great time to really pinpoint your qualifications, as well as why you were drawn to them specifically.”
Make Finding a Job Your Main Job
It’s a bit cliché to say, but when you’re looking for a job after a layoff, treat your job search like it’s your full-time job.
Devote a large part of each day to job searching. And list the things you want to accomplish that day to get closer to accomplishing your weekly goals. This will help you avoid procrastinating because you’ve made it very clear what needs to get done.
Consider conducting your job search from someplace other than home. Head to the coffee shop or even the local library for a change of scenery or to help you maintain a routine. If nothing else, it may help reduce the urge to binge-watch shows all day every day—not that you can’t take a day off from your job search every once in a while to do just that!
Recovering from a Job Layoff Takes Time
Surviving a layoff is difficult. But, a layoff can be harder since the job loss wasn’t your fault. Take some time to process your feelings, then bounce back into your next job. Or, maybe, a whole new career. If you view the layoff as an opportunity rather than a hardship, you may find this turbulent time a little easier to manage.
Ready to start your job search? Our listings for flexible and remote jobs might be the perfect next job for you.
Beth Braccio Hering and Brie Reynolds contributed to this article
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
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Beth Braccio Hering, Writer, Freelance Jobs
Beth Braccio Hering has been a freelance writer for 20 years. In addition to extensive contributions to various Encyclopaedia Britannica products, her work has been published by outlets such as CareerBuilder, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter, Walt Disney Internet Group, and…Read More >
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