You might unfortunately be familiar.
That feeling of dread when you get a call from human resources stating they wanted you to come over and talk.
In the back of your head, something is telling you that it won’t be good news, but still, you go anyways. Then you get there, and the meeting starts. And that is the last time you step into that building as an employee.
You are laid off from work.
They explain how the company is experiencing budget constraints and a shift in business strategy, so your role is being eliminated. They tell you how much they value your contributions and how sorry they are. The HR person reviews your severance package. You’re asked if you have any questions, and if not, the meeting ends.
Suddenly your brain goes into overdrive.
You start thinking about all the different things that need to be done to maintain your lifestyle, pay your bills, and how you will continue funding your expensive coffee addiction.
Being laid off from work can be a complete shock, and it sucks.
You recently had a steady source of income, and suddenly it vanished. How do you cope? It’s normal to start to wonder who else was impacted and why they chose you over your coworker, who you’re sure is underperforming in some form or fashion.
Uptick in Layoffs
Since the start of COVID, layoffs have been on the rise with a significant bulk of them occurring in the tech sector due to over hiring at the start of the pandemic. We are now starting to see the long term effects of that play out.
You may feel like a failure and question what went wrong in your career that led up to this moment. And although it may seem like an insurmountable challenge at first, there are steps that anyone can take to get through this difficult time and start anew on the other side—which we’re going to talk about right now.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to create a soft landing.
Be patient, but honest, with yourself about your situation.
- Be honest with yourself. It’s important to be honest about how you’re feeling when being laid off from work and what you need in this difficult time. More importantly, be patient with yourself as you work through each stage of acceptance.
- Don’t sugarcoat it or try to hide your emotions from others because that can make things worse in the long run. Ask for help from family and friends if necessary; they will likely be more than willing. Also, be willing to ask for space if you need time to process being laid off from work. Often times coworkers want to extend a their empathy not realizing it’s overwhelming. Find direct, but kind ways to distance yourself from anything that isn’t good for your mental wellbeing.
- Don’t be afraid of admitting when something is too much for you by saying “I don’t know” or “I need help.” The more we admit our weaknesses, the less power they have over us–and the more likely we are able to overcome them.
Evaluate Your Severance Package
You likely won’t have retained much said during the exit conversation, that’s okay and should expected. While taking notes can be helpful, request that follow up information be send after the meeting so you can focus on engaging in the conversation (to the extent possible). Once you receive your severance package, find out how much time you have to sign and return it. Be sure to carefully ready and review every single element of your severance package and determine if you think it’s something you can live with.
It’s worth mentioning that most parts, if not all, portions of your severance package aren’t negotiable, but it doesn’t hurt to ask especially if it’s important to you.
Understand that once you sign your agreement, you are accepting the terms laid out.
*Pro Tip: If you truly feel you need another set of eyes of your severance package after being laid off from work, consult with an employment attorney who can walk you through the fine nuances details or negotiate on your behalf.
Time to Get Tactical With Things
There are just things you will need to tackle:
- Get the details on your final paycheck. Will your vacation time, any bonuses and reimbursements be in that check. Some states have strict laws on when the last paycheck can be issued. Get familiar with your state law to ensure your employer is being compliant.
- Ask about your health insurance coverage or COBRA. You should have your current healthcare benefits for the duration of the month.
- Roll over your 401K.
- File for unemployment in your state. Some states have lengthy wait times so the sooner you file for unemployment after you’ve been laid off from work, the better.
Focusing on what you can control is key.
Up until this point so much has fallen out of your control.
At this point, the decision to eliminate your position has been made. The severance package is what it is. And there’s no turning back or reevaluating any established decisions — all of these things are out of your control. This is the time to redirect your attention to the things that affect you moving forward, the things actually within your locus of control.
It’s ease to over index on the obvious loss of secure employment, for very obvious reasons. You need to work to shift your focus and priority on what you need. Take a moment to think about what you need from your employer, manager, or coworkers to ease your transition.
Have an exit plan in place for your finances — or make a new budget
Hopefully you have an exit plan in place before you are laid off from work. If the possibility of losing your job is on the horizon, start preparing for it now by having a budget and sticking to it. This may not be the best time to take the annual girl’s trip to Mexico, or purchase that Chanel bag you’ve been eyeing. Start being more prudent with your finances.
If you’re already living paycheck-to-paycheck, or if there’s no money left over at the end of each month after paying all bills, then this may be harder than it sounds for you.
In that case, do what needs doing: consider a second job until things improve; start that side hustle; move into cheaper housing (or share with friends); change cell phone plans so that they’re more affordable; cancel cable TV subscriptions as well as other non-essential expenses like gym memberships (which can add up quickly). Cut back on the manicure and lash appointments until you feel more financially secure.
Get an objective opinion from someone who’s been through it before
If you’ve been laid off from work, it’s important to talk about your situation with someone who has been through a similar experience. You can ask for advice from a friend or family member, but if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it with them–or if they don’t have the expertise to help in this situation–consider seeking out a therapist or counselor instead.
Seek Out Help
These professionals will be able to give you objective advice on how best to handle your situation based on their own experiences.
If none of these options appeal to you (or if they do), consider contacting HR at your company directly and asking if there are any resources available through them that could assist with finding new employment opportunities. Most companies offer some sort of exit or severance package when employees leave involuntarily. This could include items like resume review services and career coaching sessions.
Make sure you’re taking care of yourself physically and mentally
When you’re working, it’s easy to forget about self care of physically and mentally. When you’re laid off from work, it’s even more important that you do so. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Get enough sleep and establish a good morning routine. It may seem like a luxury when your time is spent looking for jobs. However, getting enough rest will help keep your energy level up making it easier for you to deal with the stress of being unemployed.
- Eat healthy meals regularly (and don’t forget snacks). Make sure that what goes into your body is good fuel. That can make all the difference between feeling great or dragging through each day feeling tired and unproductive.
If possible, try making meals ahead so they’re ready when hunger strikes. Having food ready ahead makes eating healthier much easier than trying to resist temptation at restaurants or fast food places.
Exercise regularly–even if just for 30 minutes at home three times per week. Take a walk around the block which can do wonders for your mental health as well.
Figure Out Your Next Steps
Once the dust settles, and you got through the tactical things, focus on your next steps. It might be worth considering taking a break from the workplace if you can manage financially.
It’s not a bad time to do things you normally wouldn’t have for. Travelling, home projects, or finally getting that business off the ground are all viable ideas.
If you do need to get right back to work, that’s okay too. But don’t underestimate the importance of downtime and the quiet before starting a new role.
In either case, the time in between jobs can actually be a good time to sanity check your life.
Dust Off Your Resume
Regardless of the circumstance, it’s always a good practice to keep your resume up to date. But I get it, sometimes it gets away from us.
The perfect opportunity to reevaluate all-things-your- career is after being laid off from work. Why not explore a career change? Think about that certification course you never had time for. You can finally get around to reading that book your college professor recommended to four years ago.
Start with your resume to think holistically about your next career move. It should accurately reflect your past experience, but also position you for your next role.
Refresh your Linkedin profile. There’s tons of helpful resources on how to leverage Linkedin so you’ll stand out from the rest of the pack.
Dive Into Linkedin
You’re probably familiar with Linkedin as the largest professional networking site in the world. That means you have access to millions of professionals you wouldn’t normally have access to. If you aren’t active on Linkedin, or you’re more of a passive user, reconsider how you engage here.
Again, It’s Not the End of the World
It’s fair to say this period time of time introduces a lot of doubt and uncertainty. Be patient and remind yourself that you will find a new job that is perfect for you. You can thoughtfully approach what you do next with intention and purpose, a luxury not often provided to most of us.
Find your confidence and keep moving.
You got this.