Today we’re going to talk about what to do after being laid off. I know this has been a big topic lately and I wanted to add to the conversation, especially since I’ve also been laid off. In addition, I find it to be a grim reality that every year around this time, I have calls with my clients who are worried about being laid off around the holidays. It feels like this is a heavy feeling over the past several years that’s just persistent. And this year, there’s talk of layoffs, cutting back, reduction in promotions and raises, and speculations about a recession in 2023. So, today let’s talk about what it means to face a layoff and how to prepare if it happens to you.
I was laid off from my job in 2001. They were massive layoffs at the company and it happened two months before September 11, 2001. So, a lot was changing for me, and a lot was changing around me at that time. A year later, in 2002, we did enter a recession. So, it definitely feels like a lot of the same downsizing vibes are in the air these days. There are two things that I’m finding particularly evident. One, companies are coming up with creative ways to fire people so they don’t have to admit to stockholders that they need to dramatically cut headcount because of poor strategic planning. This is a huge emotional burden on the managers and directors I work with. They are struggling with the impact of the methods that are on the table. I’ll go into some of that later. Two, the manner in which people are being laid off (I’m looking at you, Twitter) is quite disruptive and pretty insulting to the employees on the receiving end of it. I’ll go into that as well, because I was also laid off in a crappy way. With that, here are four things you need to do right away once you’ve been unceremoniously laid off from your job.
Number 1 — Understand your options
So, I was laid off and here’s what happened to me and to my colleagues. I’m sharing this to highlight that there are a few creative ways to deal with the blow if it happens to you, but in the end, if you’ve officially been laid off, you should read EVERYTHING they give you and you should immediately take advantage of any resources they offer you. In the US, that would include a health insurance plan, if it’s applicable to you.
So, I was in the middle of transferring from one department to another and my potentially new boss came in the office one day to meet with me. So, I thought I was being let go. She went home and no-one said anything to me. A week later, I could not get on my computer and I was having problems using email but I chalked it up to the servers not working that day. At 4pm, my friend called me and said she saw that my name was on the list of people whose employment had been terminated earlier in the week, and I was stunned, because I was physically in the office. I walked over to my HR rep’s desk and he knew. He said that they were working on getting my headcount transferred over but there was a problem and he had been watching the lists (that’s how many people were being laid off, there were daily lists of names). So, I’ve said this before, my response was not typical because it was horribly obvious that I had worked at the company, the security desk let me in, and I was working that day where I was no longer employed. So, I was mad and all I said in response was, “You better figure this out, and you owe me compensation.” And his response was, “We’ll do what it takes to get this resolved in your favor.” They knew they were in the wrong.
And that’s the point, they offered me a contract the next day to pay me for the work and continue the work relationship because I still had value to them and they wanted to continue working with me. That contract lasted for years and was very lucrative for me. Here’s another example. My friend was also laid off from the same company. She had worked there about 20 years. Her boss knew she was going to be laid off so he put in paperwork to give her the next level position. A promotion to manager. When the layoff happened, she was given a manager’s severance package. They took care of her because she was well liked.
Here’s my point. If there is even a small window of opportunity, ask where you have options. They may be very limited and dependent on how much the leadership likes you, but if you can think creatively, you might be able to squeeze out a better deal for yourself.
Number 2 — Update your resume and LinkedIn status
Within days of being laid off, you need to assess your resume, rewrite it for a new job opportunity, and update your LinkedIn profile. You can add as much information in LinkedIn as you like. Elaborate on the role, add your wins, explain how you add value. Figure out the keywords that will catch the algorithm. LinkedIn can be a valuable asset. Also, if you have a severance package that includes resources for a placement agency, read all of that material and make a call to the agency to see what resources are available to you. They may have a coaching program, a resume writing program, or a real placement agency that will make calls on your behalf. Whatever it is, take a look at it, figure out how long you will have that resource, and see what you can use as you start your search for something else.
Number 3 — Take stock of your network
This was a tough one for me. I took stock of my network and found that it wasn’t as strong as I thought it was. On the other hand, I have a friend from college who recently told me that the company where he works is merging with another company in a buyout. He thinks his position is going to be eliminated by the end of the year. Fair enough. I asked him what he’s going to do. He said, well I have a friend who has referred me for jobs in the past. I reached out to him and he told me to let him know when I’m available. He said, “No problem. I have at least three companies I can think of who would love to hire you.” Wow. Is your network that strong? If not, ask yourself who you know who would advocate for you at that level. If you don’t have at least one connection like this, start working on building your power network.
Number 4 — Give yourself a timeline and be aggressive
Here’s what I mean by this. I get people who want to talk to me all the time about how to find a new job. I always ask them what their process is. When I was looking for a new job, I was actively spending a specific number of hours per day doing outreach, sending letters or emails, cold calling, having meetings, and going on interviews. Yes, it took months. Yes, it was deflating and frustrating. Yes, I wanted to give up, especially when the companies I really wanted to work with didn’t want to interview me. It took seven months for me to find a really good job that made me feel like I was finally on the path to building a career for myself. Give yourself a timeline. If you need a part time job in between, then get one. Decide how many hours you’re going to dedicate to it every day. Never say no to an interview, even if it’s with a company you would never work for (it’s the interview experience that’s the key here). Use all the resources available on LinkedIn and work that network, as well. Practice your interview answers. Lean into the fact that you were laid off and not fired. Make sure you use the correct terminology. Focus on your successes at the company and talk about what you liked about that job, even though it might be hard.
Also, give yourself time to grieve the loss. You’ll feel bad. You’ll ask yourself why you were let go. Moments like this have a big impact on people’s lives. Like the many people I talk to, you’ll start strong, feel deflated, and then take a break. Do everything you can to avoid taking a break. Every action leads to momentum.
Christina Holloway is an executive coach and career strategist. She has been named the #1 Executive Coach in Chicago by Influence Digest. She helps executives grow their companies faster, create results-driven teams, and increase profitability. She has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Addicted2Success and Fast Company. If you’re interested in working with Christina, take a look at her strategy sessions and contact her to get started.