The Pragmatists’ Guide For What To Do The Day After You Get Laid Off

YES IT REALLY HAPPENED SO LET’S DEAL WITH IT. You got called in with the HR person and your boss most likely and were told you are being laid off. Maybe its part of a larger Reduction in Force, maybe not, but your tenure at the company is over. Here is a detailed, step-by-step guide for exactly what to do from the time of that meeting until you secure your next position. Follow these instructions to ensure you don’t miss any details that might make your transition to your next job more smooth, less painful. Keep that in mind—that this is simply a transitional period where you will find a new, better, more fulfilling career opportunity. Keep that mindset as you go through these steps outlined below. In this economy, being laid off is no cause for shame. Its not personal. The economy sucks, businesses are scared, and these things happen. Most likely it wasn’t your fault. So don’t take it personally, and don’t be too hard on yourself.

While no doubt that job loss can be highly stressful, especially in cases where the job loss was completely unexpected, especially if you have been employed at the company for a long time in most cases laid off workers have seen it coming for a long time—through the rumor mill or whatever. This guide is written assuming the job loss was some degree unexpected.

Don’t feel discouraged! It’s easy to feel out of sorts when the job search takes longer than you expect. But these days, a lot of people are in the same boat. It’s important to stay persistent though and to keep your spirits up when you’re on your hunt. Tomorrow may just be the day you land something.

Losing a job is a personal, frightening and traumatic experience. Although it’s difficult to know just what to do, protecting your career from ruin and your family from financial and emotional devastation should be first priority. Whether management meets with the employees to discuss possible work changes in the workforce, or it is simply the gossip mill at work, every employee should take heed. Unless a plant or company is closing, not all employees will face termination. It is human nature to deny the possibility that you could actually lose your job; however, it never hurts to be prepared just in case.

Losing your job may feel like the end of the world, but it is not. Recognize that anger and grief are a part of the process. Threatening your employer or losing your temper can only damage your case. Be smart; have a good plan of action and stick to it. Keep in mind that you did not fail your employer; your employer failed to raise enough revenue to support all of its employees.

First thing to do is Don’t Panic! Hopefully you have seen this coming to some extent and may have put some money away or taken other steps any sane person would take knowing a layoff is imminent So hopefully you have some savings. In most cases, you will have at least one more paycheck coming your way, and you may have severance, or unused vacation pay, whatever. If not anything else and in a worse case scenario, you wont starve for at least a couple weeks. You are probably eligible to collect unemployment, so you can count on that money coming in.

  1. Figure out your budget.

This requires an honest look at what you have saved,, what is a must have, and what is a “nice-to-have.” Depending on a number of factors, including your skills, your city, demand for workers in your industry, it may be awhile before you land your next position

• Are you entitled to severance? If so, how much?

• Will you receive payment for unused vacation days? If not, you should schedule them as soon as possible.

• How long will you be entitled to health coverage? And at what cost?

• Likewise, can you maintain your insurance policy? If so, at what rate?

• What’s involved in transferring, borrowing or withdrawing your 401(k) funds?

• Are you entitled to unemployment compensation? If so, what documentation do you need?

You’re not going to starve tomorrow, and hopefully your negotiations went well and you’ll have at least some scratch coming your way. Take a few days for yourself. If you’re anything like I was, for the next week, your mind will be aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention. So use the next few days to compose yourself. Take some time for self-reflection, meditation, and getting completely stinko. Look back over your time with the jerks who just threw you out on the street. Analyze what you did well and what you did poorly. Look at the mistakes you made during your tenure there. Examine how you handled yourself during the layoff period. Think about what you would change and what you would do the same. Learn from your mistakes. Store all of these conclusions away for the future – they can only help you grow in your career and as a person.

How Long Will It Take You to Get Back to Work

You may need three months to get an entry-level position, but landing an executive spot may require a six- to twelve-month search. In fact, one popular rule of thumb suggests you should expect to search one to two months for every $10,000 in salary you want (a $50,000 job could mean a five- to ten-month hunt). Employers are taking their time. In past years, they were willing to fast-track hiring before competitors could snatch up the best candidates. But now employers scrutinize applicants in several rounds of interviews before investing money and manpower to train them.

When I was laid off at the end of September 2008, I was worried and confused about what to do. I didn’t know if I should tell potential employers that I had been laid off, or if I should try to keep that fact concealed. I decided that I would only divulge that information if asked. However, at this point (late 2012) there is no reason not to tell people you’ve been laid off. With the economy in the proverbial commode, and unemployment hovering around 9%, layoffs are to be expected and don’t really reflect poorly upon you. However, there is a silver lining to this economic downturn: with all the layoffs there is now a great support network for people who’ve been laid off. There are literally thousands of people out there blogging and tweeting about what it’s like to be laid off and what to do if it happens to you. Get connected to that network – they may be helpful in finding your next job.

By this time, you should be ready to start back up with your job search

“You’ll find out who your true friends are when you search for a job. Your true friends will tell you about every opportunity employment they find. Use them.”

  1. Polish Up Your Resume.

Keep these few tips in mind when you update that killer resume:

Only include relevant and significant achievements.
Don’t ramble, keep things concise.
Use numbers and statistics if possible, they are powerful indicators
Describe those things that make you different.
Hire a professional resume writer–it’s money well spent and probably tax-deductible.
Present your accomplishments in a positive light, but don’t lie!
Detailed information on creating a powerful resume is beyond the scope of this article, but there are literally millions of resources out there devoted to just these topics. Tap into those resources. Use your network to let people know you were laid off and are seeking a job. Get on the Facebook, the Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites. Start talking to headhunters – let them do the work for you. Don’t give up. It’s tough, but it’s completely manageable if you break your tasks into small, manageable chunks.

Sometimes a paper résumé is just so 20th-century. Thanks to hosting sites like,, and, you don’t have to be tech-savvy to create a digital résumé or e-portfolio. And you control access, unlike with a personal website. Start with your résumé, then add supporting information-examples of your work, sales charts, published articles, letters of recommendation, images, or videos.

  1. Work your network.

If you’ve got great relationships with your colleagues and ex-colleagues, you may have a leg up with your job search. Get in touch with them through social sites like Facebook or This is one more reason why it’s important to stay in good terms with your work chums. Contact your former bosses and co-workers and let them know you are available.

Write a thank-you note to your former boss. It can’t hurt, and if your boss hears of openings elsewhere, you’re now that much more likely to get the referral.

Submit your resume directly to the target companies where you’d like to work (via their website, public email address, snail mail and/or drop it off in person).

  1. Send your resume directly to the recruiters or hiring managers at your target companies (via LinkedIn), referencing any specific positions which interest you.
  2. Join some LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your career path. LinkedIn now has a Groups Search Engine to make this process very simple. Use the Discussion and Job boards to network with your fellow group members. They may know of a relevant opening that’s perfect for you.
  3. Network, network, network – LinkedIn is a wonderful resource. Link up with as many former coworkers as possible and ask them if they know of any relevant openings or contacts who might be able to assist you with your search. Recent grads, be sure to leverage the power of your alumni network, either through the university or via LinkedIn networking. Most alums love to help out fellow grads from their Alma mater!
  4. Post your resume everywhere possible (Monster, Dice, HotJobs, CareerBuilder, Craigslist, etc.), confidentially if you prefer. There’s no shame in it and it gets your info out to your target audience (recruiters and hiring managers).
  5. Consider working with external recruiters – they’re free to you since it’s the company that pays if/when they hire you. (Don’t know any agency recruiters? Find them via LinkedIn.)
  6. Leverage Social Media. In addition to LinkedIn, be sure to use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. to establish yourself as an expert in your space / profession / industry. Follow recruiters, hiring managers and employees at your target company. Build a following and network with your followers. Go to your pages on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc., and let people know you are available for new projects. While you’re at it, proactively send out notes to your trusted associates that you are looking for work.

Notify your references, including past employers, that you’re job hunting.

• Update your resume, quantifying your accomplishments whenever possible (e.g. exceeded sales goal by 18%).

• Register with employment agencies and/or search firms. (Ask in advance if they charge for their services).

• Say yes to every interview, even if it isn’t the job you want. It’s good practice.

• Familiarize yourself with the companies you’re interviewing with. Being prepared will go a long way with prospective employers.

• Follow up on your interviews with a thank-you e-mail or note.

  1. If you’re not local and all else fails, move first and then look for a job. (That’s what I had to do… Back in the day, no one would seriously consider me until I had a local address on my resume).
  2. Leverage online job resources.

This one is pretty obvious…. I’ve found many jobs online — either by contacting recruiters in my area or by making inquiries at particular job boards and job sites. Depending on the type of work you do, certain sites may work out better for you than others, as far as generating job leads. Pounding the pavement for work has been trumped by pounding the keyboard. But with 50,000 career-related sites to click on, where’s a wage earner to start?Some well rated sites include:

  1. Seek support.
    Some people may feel uncomfortable sharing their job loss with their families. Ever hear of those laid off folks who continue the charade of getting up to “go to work”, hiding the fact that they’ve lost their jobs to their families? Well, if instead you decide to seek out support and share your predicament with others, the better your chances of finding a replacement job, as others may pitch in to help you with your search. Plus, it usually feels better (at least it is for me) when people are commiserating with you over your situation.
  2. Go to start-up fairs

Wherever people are pitching new businesses, be there. They’re all hiring. If not now, then soon.

  1. Get project work

You may not have a daily gig, but you still have your skills, and there are people who need them. Head over to a project marketplace like oDesk or eLance and pick up some work.

  1. Learn some new skills

No, I don’t mean to learn Rails if you’re a Java guy. That’s obvious. I mean cooking, rock climbing, riding a motorcycle–something that you didn’t have the time to do while you were a FTE.

  1. Answer some questions

Scan Twitter for people asking questions in your areas of expertise, hang out in message boards on things you know stuff about. You’ll see what’s going on in the industry, you might be able to help people out (always worthwhile), and you might also land a tip for a gig.

  1. Take some time off

Next, take some time off – real time off. The kind of time off where you block out anything related to work, resumes, job skills, networking or synergy. I can’t state this enough: use this time to completely unwind. Just because you were laid off doesn’t mean you can’t have a mini-vacation, as long as you’ve got the funds – and even if you’re low on funds, there’s always unemployment – courtesy of your former employer and the gubment. Catch up with friends you’ve been too busy for. Do some non-work related things you’ve been meaning to get done. Finish reading How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Invest a little and travel to a seaside town in Mexico, even if it’s just a few days. Mexico is easy to get to, it might be cheaper to live there, and lying on a beach is certainly not a bad way to contemplate what you want to do with the rest of your career. At the very least, you’ll see people who get by on a lot less than we make.

  1. Volunteer

“It can build new skills (like leadership), a new portfolio. Someone capable of making their kid’s Boy Scout troop turn a profit suddenly looks a lot more proactive than the schlub who catches up on reruns while waiting for Craigslist to pay off.”

  1. Start your own company

If you have some savings and can afford to work for peanuts (or less), it’s a great time to start a company. Without the annoying distraction of a booming economy, you can focus on providing a service or solve a problem you know people will have again when the economy loosens up. There is still funding, even, for early-stage companies. What should you build? We leave that as an exercise for the reader.


First thing I’d do is pick up the blogging pace. Start writing about things you know and the areas you want to establish your expertise in. Don’t have a blog? Go to

  1. Go to conferences. Local ones are cheap, but even ones out of town are affordable if you can use frequent flyer miles and get a discounted conference fee.
  2. Go to events. There are probably all kinds of industry association events—formal and informal—in your area. I would go to as many of these as I could and start getting to know people. Offer to speak, take tickets, whatever. Be involved.
  3. Write a book. You’ve got some time, make you name by writing about what you know. You’d be surprised what writing a book will do for you as far as employment goes. It immediately establishes you as an expert.