Laid Off? 7 Essential Things To Do Immediately After a Lay Off

Estimated reading time: 8 mins

If you’ve just been laid off, or are in the process of it, you’re probably shocked and worried. If not, maybe you know someone who is. The probability of either case is growing. Yikes! What if I could give you some some practical steps to turn the situation around? Here are 7 things to do to turn your situation around and get yourself right back into employment.

1) Firstly, don’t panic! This is very important – here’s why. When panic sets in, all sorts of things happen. People in panic behave irrationally and do strange things. This is a time for a level head and some calculated action. The worst outcome is to make matters worst by doing something you will later regret. I’ve known several people go into a panic state; one friend of mine booked himself onto a training course at the cost of $4,000 (paid out of his severance pay check) – he didn’t need the course and it was a waste of precious funds. Another got herself onto a pyramid selling scheme and lost over $10,000! Both of these people are typically rational people (much more than myself!)

2) Next thing to do is to take a break. I don’t mean a coffee break, but a proper leave from the shock of your layoff. You’ll need this time to set some things into action, but also not set too high expectations of yourself. You’ve had a trauma and you really need some time to get over it. You should give yourself a week or two.

3) At the start of your break, go get a lined, hard-backed book. A leather-bound one would be a nice investment. You will need this to write down your to-do list, and notes you will need to take, and journal your next journey.

4) Now you need to give yourself some actions to take over your break. There are some housekeeping activities to undertake, as well as beginning your job-search. Here are the tasks you should aim to complete before you move on:

  • Notify and negotiate with any debtors you own money to, such as your mortgage company. You need to get your debts under control, and it starts with informing those organizations about your new situation.
  • You’ll need to work out how much of your severance (if you received one) you will be committing to paying off debts, and how much you’ll reserve for running capital. My advice is to always pay off as much debt as you can afford. There is a simple financial fact that debts are always more expensive than your gain in savings. So if you can, pay off credit card bills and short-term loans. Get them out of the way so you can budget for your next phase of job-seeking. I also advise to reserve enough capital for 3 months.
  • Write up a list of other domestic jobs you have been putting off. Why? Well this list will be your back-up of tasks if you run out of time, energy or inclination to apply to your job-search. What you’re looking to do is to not be idle! A sustained completion of your domestic jobs will keep you busy, avoid moping, and boost your confidence when the jobs are complete.
  • This is the more nitty-gritty stuff now. You should now be looking at your next term of employment, and what you want (and don’t want) from it. I urge you to write a list of things you like and didn’t like about your previous job (being as objective as possible) and add on a list of things you do want, and don’t want, from your next job. Once you have this list, sit on it for a day or two and revise if necessary.
  • Looking at your want and don’t want list, now consider if you want to continue doing the same type of job, or if a different job is more suitable. Write a list of job types/roles you are keen to do next. This is a great opportunity to take a ‘course-correction’ in your career and pursue the roles that will bring more fulfilment and happiness. You could consider taking on freelance work and the lifestyle that goes with it, or conversely, go permanent following a stint of freelancing.
  • Once you have your list of roles, consider alternative roles that are on the same vein. For example, if you are keen to continue your role as a Unix administrator, could you turn your hand to becoming a Microsoft administrator? Although the technology is different, many of the management practices, processes and activities are very similar. Try to avoid pigeon-holing yourself into a technology, but instead consider what job-family you want to join. Much less percentage of ‘work’ is done on a specific technology than you might think.

5) Before you begin your job-search, you need to make sure your personal marketing is top-notch. You’ll want to capitalize on every opportunity that comes your way! The kinds of things I mean are:

6) The next step to take is to engage your network of contacts and tell people that you’re available. Tell as many people as you can! This step can really pay off as it’s much easier to get counsel and a sniff of job opportunities from people you know. Don’t just look at this as a means of learning about job opportunities; instead use your network to get feedback on your experiences, opinion on the kinds of roles you are suitable for, and general support and wisdom about beginning your job search. Why is step at #6 and not earlier? Well the reason is that if you do get wind of an opportunity from your network, you need to be ready to pounce on it. And to be ready, you need to have prepared yourself using steps 1-5. You’ll need your resume, your profile, and a firm understanding of the roles you are looking for, and not looking for. Otherwise, you could lose those opportunities, and worse still, piss off a contact.

7) The sooner you get on with your job-search, the better. But only once you are ready! The approach you will take depends on how much time you can buy yourself financially. If you have a couple of months, then I suggest you start with a very targeted campaign. To begin with, I thoroughly recommend you use the method I discussed in my post ‘How To Search The Invisible Job Market’ to find the jobs in the companies you want to work for. This takes a little longer but the outcome will be far better. If time is of the essence, then you have to get your foot back into the workplace as soon as you can, and build your career back up from there. Therefore, I recommend you follow the method I described in my recent post ‘7 Essential Steps To START an IT Career in a Recession’. Sure, you’re not STARTING your career, but you are starting from a similar position of needing to get gainful employment. This isn’t a desperate tactic – it’s a means of laying solid foundations to build from. Does this go against advice I gave above? I don’t think so. Sure, you might take a job on that isn’t in a role you want, but the job is an opportunity to get there. So I strongly suggest that if you do take on a job that isn’t ideal, that you talk to your employer BEFORE you accept the job about your plans and ambitions, and check that the path of progression is a viable option.

Here ends the list. Follow these 7 steps immediately after your layoff and you’ll be giving yourself the best chance of getting right back on your career track.

Before you go, I just wanted to share a comment from a good friend of mine, Andy Shultz, who was laid off three weeks ago from his Web Developer job:

When I learned about my layoff, it was a shock. I can remember the adrenalin rush and to disbelief. It took me over a week to come to terms with the feeling off loss. It wasn’t just losing the job or the income – I lost friends at work and the feeling of belonging to something. I had to turn it around, quickly, as I am heavily in debt with my mortgage. Thankfully I hooked up with Simon and he helped me work a plan which has turned my attitude and feeling of loss around, and now I am looking to a bright future! – Andy

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