Being laid off seems like the worst thing that could possibly happen to any professional. And while that may be true in certain cases, losing your job can offer newfound freedom and that’s otherwise impossible to attain. So if you find yourself in this situation, here are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate this uncertain time:
- Calm down. It’s okay to be emotional about being laid off, but don’t let those emotions override your practical judgment. Don’t take to social media to rant. Don’t badmouth the company to everyone you meet. Instead, take the high road. Let yourself experience the emotions you’re feeling, but do so in private and with as much perspective as you can muster. For some, calming down may take a while or simply a quick 15-minute rant in the car in your garage. Everyone processes experiences at their own pace. Just know that letting your emotions get the best of you may do more harm than good.
- Collect your belongings. Sometimes you won’t have much time to gather your items, but if you do, make sure you take personal data off your work computer. (If the company has policies regarding intellectual property on computers, collect what you’d like to take with you and have IT verify that you aren’t taking proprietary or confidential information.) Make sure you gather items that can attest to your skillset, such as articles you’ve written or designs you’ve created.
- List your achievements and skills. Not only is this beneficial for updating your resume, it also relieves any self-doubt you may be experiencing after being laid off. Lynn Joseph, a psychologist and author of “The Job-Loss Recovery Guide” said it’s more for your self-esteem to take a hit. “Logically and intellectually we know that (we may have been part of a mass layoff), but emotionally we take it personally,” Joseph said in a Washington Post article. Detailing your accomplishments, as well as what you can offer your next employer, will give you the boost you need to start searching for a new opportunity.
- Start networking. Once you’ve settled down and have emotionally processed the layoff, you need to reach out to people. Be professional about explaining what happened and keep the message positive and upbeat. Whether you’re connecting through social media, texts, phone calls, or face-to-face communication, you want to exude professionalism and optimism, not pettiness and defeat. If you’re armed with that list of achievements, you’ll have no problem connecting with people who may be able to steer you toward some promising opportunities. Consider groups you could join (or attend as a guest if your budget doesn’t allow for new memberships) to help bolster your professional network.
- Locate references. If someone from the company you are leaving can be trusted to give an honest account of your contributions, consider enlisting him or her as a future reference. If not, seek people from past jobs or professional associations who can attest to your skills and strengths. You may even consider asking your soon-to-be-former employer for a layoff letter; ask the HR director to provide an official but brief document stating you were part of a larger layoff and were not fired for performance-related issues. If the company’s layoff is public, you may not need the letter, but it never hurts to have it with you just in case.
- Be realistic about your finances. Being laid off is tough, especially for your bank account—and no amount of optimism will increase the dollars being deposited there. That’s why you need to take stock of your financial situation following a layoff. Assess whether you need to make adjustments in your budget considering the new situation, and take the necessary steps to file for unemployment. You may need to look for a temporary job to keep bills paid while you search for your next full-time gig. Don’t rely on credit or tap into retirement accounts; if you must, experts recommend calling call your creditors to buy yourself more time to pay bills.
If you ever find yourself in the unenviable position of having been laid off, take heart. You will survive. And, if you keep your emotions in check and take a logical approach to your next steps, you’re more likely to find yourself looking back and realizing that being laid off was actually a good thing.