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You just got laid off. Now what?

BusinessEdward KiledjianComment
Image by Keoni Cabral used under creative commons license

Image by Keoni Cabral used under creative commons license

In most companies, layoffs are seen as an "easy" way to cut costs. The process for the terminated employee and HR is anything but easy.  In this article I will be discussing what to do if you are laid off. 

The truth is that most employees that get laid off are caught off guard. Very few of them actually expected it and the immediate feeling most will experience is a feeling of losing control. As an employee that just got laid off, you feel powerless. 

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
— Epictetus

Your emotions are normal

As mentioned above, most terminated employees are flooded with an immediate sense of losing control. They feel weak and powerless. Every emotion you feel is normal and you should allow yourself to feel these emotions and work through them.

You may feel extremely upset. You may feel betrayed. You may feel wronged. All of these are perfectly normal reaction but you should control them when still at work. Remember that others may misinterpret your emotions and over-react. You don't want to burn any bridges. Remember that often times your manager or director may not have been the ones making the final termination decisions and they may be able to help you find another job. You may need their reference. 

Once the axe has come down, try to temporarily contain your emotions (while in the office). Try to stay calm, cool and collected. Collect personal email addresses from friends and colleagues. Collect your personal belonging and walk out. Everything you do will be closely scrutinized for taking that stappler may not be a good idea.

Many companies will make external consultants available to help employees cope with the grief of job loss. I strongly recommend you use these services if available to you. You will be working on some very strong and often new emotions. Everything you feel is ok but eventually you have to come to grip with them which is the only way to move on. 

Information is king

During the termination process, your HR rep will likely provide a wealth of important information. It is important to actively listen and write down any information not already provided in printed format. I'll say this again. Write down anything important not already provided in printed format. During times of shock, your memory will not be the most reliable tool.

What is the severance you are being given. How do you claim it? What is happening to your insurance (medical and life)? Will the company provide any assistance with your job search. As hard as it may be to sit still and listen, try. This is vitally important information you need.

It is also acceptable to tell the HR rep that you are too preoccupied right now and ask if you can call him/her at a later date to discuss this information. Just remember that some benefits have expiry dates so don't wait too long.

Having laid off employees in the past, the most common question people have is "How do I tell my significant other?" In some cases companies will help by providing grief counselors onsite. Other times they will make support services available via appointment at your convenience. 

It's all dependent on your attitude

You are allowed to be sad and feel sorry for yourself. You should allow yourself to grieve and move on. But you will need to move on if your life is to continue. Sadness shouldn't be allowed to turn into depression. 

There is a technique called reframing that most therapists will play with. It is a technique to change your perspective on the situation.

Imagine you are a young man or woman and you start dating this absolutely fantastic person. You believe this is the one. The perfect person to spend the rest of your life with. Then all of a sudden you wake up one morning to find out they are gone. You can sulk and drink yourself to death or you can can reframe the situation and say "Obviously this wasn't the perfect person for me. Now that he/she is gone, there is room for the right person to enter my life".

Try to see the positive in the situation. During a layoff, you are sad and concerned about how you will provide for your family. It is also an opportunity to take stock of your life, decide if you are on the right path and maybe make a course correction. See it as an opportunity to ensure you are heading in the right direction.

I know many tech employees that completely switched careers after being laid off. I still stay in touch with many of them and most are extremely overjoyed that they used this as an opportunity to pivot their careers and their lives.

Use your network

I have written about the importance of having a strong and healthy professional network. This is a good time to use it. Let everyone know you are looking for a  new opportunity. Be clear and concise on what type of opportunity you are looking for. Remember that a good percentage of jobs aren't publicly advertised and one of your contacts may be the key to unlocking that next amazing opportunity for you.

Tell friends and family you are looking. You never know where the next opportunity will come from.

Learn something new

As time passes, you may start to feel powerless and pessimistic again. Some people find new jobs immediately while others unfortunately struggle a little bit longer. The longer it takes the more likely you are to feel sorry for yourself. 

I recommend you use this time to build (or strengthen) your skillset. I have discovered that people who learn new skills stay positive and optimistic longer. These new skills may help you get a better (higher paying job). If the local economy if down because of massive layoffs, these new skills may make you more marketable than the others you are competing against.

Remember that you are not your job. Your value isn't measured in dollars or titles.

Being laid off isn't easy

Nothing I say will make being laid off easy. It may make things easier though. Ultimately you will need a strong network of supporters to help push you through this difficult time. Make sure you are surrounded by people that have unconditional love towards you and that will stand by you when you need them most.

  • Remember that your value is not defined by your job, your pay or your title.
  • Asking contacts for help isn't begging or a show of weakness. today someone helps you, tomorrow you help someone. It is the circle of life.
  • Be honest about your situation. Don't go out and buy that new car just to (temporarily feel better).
  • Trust that the universe has a plan for you, even if you don't see it right now.