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You've Been Laid Off. What Now?
You've Been Laid Off. What Now?

Okay, based on our previous posts, now you know why companies lay employees off and what to do (and not do) if you have to implement a layoff.

This article, the third in the series on Layoffs, reviews what to do if you lose your job due to a reduction in force.  

Don't Panic or Take It Personally! Feeling disoriented and victimized is a natural reaction when you lose your job. Manage those feelings by telling yourself this is a setback, not a permanent change. As we have seen in my previous articles, companies decide to lay off employees for many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with your performance. You should never take the layoff as a reflection on you as a person or employee! Many people have been through this before and have had successful careers. Always reframe this event as an opportunity and not a setback.

Return All Company Equipment. Before you leave, you have returned company access cards, parking permits, credit cards, computers, phones, or other electronic equipment to the company. Be sure that HR and any remaining co-workers have updated information on how to reach you after you leave the company. (Layoff Checklist for EMPLOYEES: Everything You Need to Ensure Your Paycheck and Other Benefits During a Layoff, n.d.)

Complete COBRA Health Insurance Paperwork. Visit with HR and obtain any state forms you need to file unemployment and that you have arranged for the transition to COBRA if a company plan currently covers you. Review what will happen with 401k investments or any voluntary benefits like group life that COBRA may not cover.

Update Your Resume. An updated CV will be helpful when you start applying for new jobs. Make sure to include any relevant skills or experience that you have. If time permits, run your updated resume past your supervisors and co-workers for comment. Ask these people what they think you're good at and what direction you should take in your career. After all, they will be the people recruiters will call when you apply for a new job. Be sure to update your LinkedIn profile and any other profiles related to your industry or area of expertise on the major job boards. Ensure you connect on LinkedIn with co-workers who can provide a reference or help you in your job search. Use LinkedIn's Open to Work feature to signal that you are looking (Homegardner, 2022).  

Network. Another crucial step if your employer lays you off is to network! Reach out to current and former co-workers, friends, and family members inside and outside the company. Use the excuse of giving them your updated email and phone information to discuss the layoff and what opportunities may interest you moving forward. Be sure also to call old classmates from college and high school. They can help you find a lead or connect you with someone who can help you get your foot in the door.

Ask For Recommendations. Before you leave your employer or immediately after, reach out to contacts from your former employer and ask them for recommendations. Make it easy for them by listing your activities at your former employer and telling them what roles you will be looking for next. People are usually happy to help. 

Check into Unemployment Benefits. Although unemployment policies vary by state in the US, you will likely qualify for state unemployment because you were laid off. Check the state unemployment office website for what paperwork you will need from your employer to apply for benefits. Ensure you receive this paperwork before you leave and start applying for benefits immediately.

Create a Job Search Schedule. Once you're out of your former workplace, becoming disoriented and losing focus is easy. (Lyons, 2022) Leverage the benefit of free time to create an at-home work process. Apply this structure to your job search by creating a schedule like the one you had in your previous work. Make it a daily schedule with start and end times you can adhere to. Then, start applying for jobs. Try to find and apply for one job each day (or every other day.) At the same time, develop a list of people to contact. Grab yourself by the scruff of the neck and keep yourself accountable for reaching out to contacts and networking your way into jobs you want (Lyons, 2022). Don't allow yourself to be discouraged if you aren't immediately successful. Just because one employer decides you aren't a good fit doesn't mean the next will not. As a senior recruiter once told me, "Recruiting is a numbers game on both sides of the application process."

Leverage Educational Opportunities. Additional education can make you more attractive to potential employers and help you get your desired position. If you have a college degree, consider online courses in your functional area or expertise to hone essential skills. Study the job listings for opportunities that interest you but turn you down. Think hard about what skills you may not have. Online providers like Coursera or EdX often offer affordable courses in those fields. Many employers seek certifications in particular knowledge areas. Think of these courses as an economical way to add the knowledge (and keywords) you need to put your resume and LinkedIn profile at the top of the resume pile.

Check Out Electronic Job Boards. Many online job boards can be an excellent resource for a new job. These websites often have listings for jobs not advertised elsewhere. You can search for jobs based on location, skills, and experience. Be sure to upload your resume to job sites like Zip Recruiter and Indeed, which use search bots to identify candidates for employers. This technology can put your resume in front of recruiters without knowing it! Here again, be sure to include keywords in your resume that are relevant to the work you want to do in the future. Products like can scan your resume and compare it to a target job. The software automatically recommends optimizing your resume for the keywords at the positions you seek.

Talk to a Career Counselor or Recruiter. If you have trouble finding a new job, consider contacting a career counselor. Many are available to alums of colleges or local employment boards. A career counselor can help you assess your skills and experience and determine what kind of jobs would suit your skill set. Professional recruiters often provide a service of sharing your resume with their network of potential employers for a fee.

Consider Starting a New Business. Have you ever wanted to start your own business? My friends have taken downsizing as the opportunity to do something they have never had the chance to do! Friends have started an AI software company, a guitar store, and a food truck catering business. Many of my professional friends have left larger firms to hang out their shingles to form their management consulting, law, accounting, or insurance sales businesses. Two friends wrote books, leading to writing and public speaking careers. The world is your oyster! A severance often provides the seed capital you need to get that business going and a layoff the impetus to start something new.

As we have seen, layoffs are a part of business life. Losing a job can be the end of something, but quite often, it is the beginning of a new career and life! Take the layoff as a positive event. Remember that this opportunity sets you free to do something bigger, better, and more fun. Having this attitude can improve your mindset and lead to success!  

My father provides a great example. At 62, he was forced into retirement by his then-employer of more than 30 years! His employer felt that allowing him to retire with a pension equal to his current salary and benefits was a great arrangement. But I remember him being depressed for weeks about losing his job. He was no longer part of something that had been so central to his life for so long. But he was also resilient. He didn't let it get him down. Two months after the layoff, he started an insurance benefits company with a friend with whom he played gin rummy! A short decade and a half later, he had built up the company to a point where he could sell it to a large publicly traded insurance company. He retired very comfortably in his late seventies!


Homegardner, T. (2022, February 8). How to use the Open to Work feature on LinkedIn.

Layoff Checklist for EMPLOYEES: Everything You Need to Ensure Your Paycheck and Other Benefits During a Layoff: (n.d.-b).

Lyons, M. (2022, November 9). What to Do After Being Laid Off. Harvard Business Review.

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