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!