Dealing With A Layoff

A layoff can occur unexpectedly, without warning and be a scary ordeal. You may be asking yourself, “Why me?” Getting laid off is never easy and it’s certainly never a good feeling. Beyond the initial shock, concerns over your short and long-term financial security and stability can make a difficult situation worse. It’s important to plan ahead for worse-case scenarios and have an established reserve fund (refer to my post Planning For A Rainy Day) to fall back on and help mitigate some of the immediate impact. Don’t rely on severance and/or unemployment benefits as your only fallback. Severance isn’t guaranteed (ex: if the company doesn’t offer severance, if you don’t meet the company’s requirements for severance or if the company abruptly folds) and unemployment benefits will only provide partial wage replacement for up to twenty-six weeks. If you don’t currently have an established reserve fund, make it a priority to start building one now.

When you’re informed that you’re going to be laid off, listen and focus on the information provided to you and be sure to ask questions if you don’t understand something. While it may be an emotional period, it’s important to compose yourself and gather as much pertinent information as it will be extremely vital when it’s time to figure out your next steps. The person(s) taking you through the process (ex: HR Manager) should go over a variety of areas including, but not limited to: the layoff effective date and your official last day, standard procedures when an employee is let go, severance (if applicable), final payroll and wages, health insurance coverage termination date, eligibility for COBRA, 401(k) distribution paperwork (if applicable), who to contact for additional questions or inquiries and so forth.

You may given a termination letter or related documents pertaining to your layoff. Again, review the information carefully. Ask questions. Get copies of all relevant documents for your records. Be sure you know who to contact if you have additional questions or need to follow-up on outstanding matters. You may also be provided with information so that you may apply for unemployment benefits. Be sure to check with your state’s Unemployment Office for eligibility requirements, how and when you should apply for benefits. You’ll want to apply for benefits as soon as reasonably possible once you become eligible as your first unemployment payment may take a few weeks.

Do not burn bridges with your employer! Avoid the knee-jerk reaction! Stay professional! You may need references from your former employer, managers or supervisors and burning bridges won’t help the situation.

If you haven’t kept your resume and portfolio (if applicable) up-to-date, get on it right away especially if you plan to get right back into the workforce. You’ll want to get your resume and portfolio (if applicable) updated, polished and out there for prospective employers to see. There are options available for job seekers including posting resumes online and searching through job boards (ex: monster.com, indeed.com, careerbuilder.com, ziprecruiter.com, etc.), working with hiring consultants and/or staffing firms, attending networking events and traditional word-of-mouth, just to name a few. You may also want to consider looking at freelance, project or part-time work that offers you short-term income until you can find a permanent, full-time position. Keep in mind that temporary or part-time work may affect unemployment benefits so check with your state’s Unemployment Office for further information and guidance.

Capitalize on this period of unemployment. Learn new skills or brush up on existing skills, take some classes or seminars, reconnect with friends and network, pursue a side hustle and take some time to focus on your own health and wellness. This is also a good time to reflect on your short and long-term goals and objectives. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a career change or explore starting your own business. Don’t let a layoff knock you down! Turn this negative situation into positive opportunities!

A Job Interview Is A Two-Way Street!

Job interviews can certainly be nerve-racking. While they may open the door to potentially great opportunities and hopefully, to a long bright future, they can unquestionably make you nervous and feel uneasy for good reason. Job interviews are an opportunity to showcase your credentials, demonstrate credibility and make an impression (hopefully, a very positive one) that will resonate long after you leave the interview. If the job interview is for that “dream job” that you’ve searched long and hard for, a great interview could land you that “perfect job” while a poor interview may leave you feeling defeated and devastated.

That said, it’s also important to understand and realize that job interviews are a two-way street. Yes, it’s your opportunity to showcase your credentials, make a lasting impression and statement about why you should get the job; BUT, it’s also an opportunity for YOU to evaluate the job opportunity to determine if it truly is the right match for you.

Use the job interview to assess the job opportunity thoroughly beyond the basics like job function/duties, compensation and benefits.

What is a typical work day like?

You’ll want to try to get a feel for what a typical day in the life of this job would be. Yes, no two days are alike but what are some of the things that you can expect each day from basic to moderate to extreme. Is it a fast-paced, be quick-on-your-feet type of job? Is it a seasonal type of business? Are there peaks and lulls? Is it a 24/7 type of business where you’ll be constantly on-call or is it more of a “9 to 5” or “8 to 6” type of job?

Does this job offer a good personal/work life balance?

While you’re certainly willing to put in 110% towards the job, it’s vital to have a good personal/work life balance to manage stress and avoid burnout. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be effective or efficient in what you are doing. During the interview you’ll want to try and get a sense of what the personal/work life balance will be like in this job. As eager as you may be to get the job, you also don’t want to regret it immediately thereafter.

What is the culture, atmosphere and environment like? Do you like and feel comfortable with the culture, atmosphere and environment?

You’ll be spending a good amount of time in this job, so this is very important. Be sure to look around the office and try to gauge the atmosphere. Pay attention to how people act, behave, respond, interact, operate and so forth. If you meet with multiple interviewers or other company employees, it’s a great opportunity to gauge your interaction with each interviewer and employee. You can learn a lot from just having conversations with various people within the company. Also look around the office, how it’s setup, organized and arranged. The look and feel of the office can say a lot about the environment, atmosphere and culture. Rely on your senses and instincts.

What are the opportunities for growth & development? What is the outlook for the future?

You want to get a sense of what the future will look like for both you and the company. Obviously, if this is a job and more importantly, a company that you hope to spend many years with, you’ll want to have room and opportunity to grow and develop. If the outlook is that it’ll take 3-5 years before you can make a move within the company, you’ll need to decide as to whether this is the right fit for you personally and career-wise. Sometimes you may take a position that isn’t quite in your area of interest but has the potential to get you into your area of interest with the caveat that it will take several years. You need to decide whether taking this job is the most appropriate course of action or whether it’s better to seek a different opportunity. How does this fit into your short and long-term personal & career plan?

You’ll also want to get a feel for where the company stands currently and where it is going. If you walk into a company that appears to be on its last leg, you’ll seriously need to take this into consideration because you know that within a certain period, you could be on your way right out the door. On a similar note, if a company is in the process of a merger or acquisition, there is the potential for downsizing or elimination of duplicate roles or job positions. While mergers and acquisitions are a way for companies to grow & expand rapidly and may result in benefits for some employees, there is always the potential for job losses.

So, the next time you go on a job interview, keep in mind that it’s a two-way street. The interviewer is exercising his or her due diligence and so should you!