10 Things NOT to do if you get laid off

One day you're getting up and heading to the office like any other Monday. A few hours later, you've found out that you're being laid off, that your position is being eliminated, or that the company is outsourcing your department's positions to off-shore workers.

After almost a year at my first real full-time job, I found out my position (and entire department) was being eliminated. As part of a staggered layoff, I still had a month and a half to get a job lined up, and I ended up finding a job better suited to my creativity, passion, and skills anyway.

Getting laid off is a very scary reality that many of us might experience. Looking back, I think I handled it as gracefully as I could. It paid off. So I thought I'd share what I learned with you:

1. Don't Mentally Check Out
If you have a future end date, keep working until that date. It's tempting to slack off – especially when you see others doing just that – but the bottom line is that you're still getting paid to do a job. Getting laid off doesn't mean you can't get fired. Giving up on doing your work might also mean giving up on your severance package, a good reference from your manager, or even another employment opportunity. Now more than ever, it's important for you to be poised, polite, and professional. Channel your negative energy into preparing and educating yourself. Go to HR with your questions. Continue to do the tasks at hand. And be present.

2. Don't Rush into the Hunt
Your initial reaction to getting laid off may be to dive headfirst into job boards. Whether you were laid off alone or with 100 others, it's a tough market out there and you might think a jump start on the competition gives you an edge. So you let job apps and resumes fly left and right – along with typo-covered cover letters. Just stop. Before you dive in, take some time for some R&R&R – revamp your resume, refresh your LinkedIn profile and online portfolio, and rethink your web presence. Use a spreadsheet, journal, or calendar to track job details: who the company is, what the job entails, where it is located, and why you're interested. It will keep you organized and informed when your calendar hopefully fills up with interviews.

3. Don't Stress About Dress
The stress of getting laid off seems like a perfect excuse to make an excursion to the mall in search of new interview attire. Don't fall for it. You shouldn't be dropping big bucks if you're currently or soon-to-be jobless. If you reeeeally need it, buy one basic piece that is versatile and timeless – a blazer, a great pair of trousers, or a pencil skirt. To avoid the stress of figuring out what to wear for those hopeful interviews, put a few outfits together ahead of time. Something business casual, something corporate, and something creative. The night before a big interview, you'll be spending less time tearing apart your wardrobe and more time researching and preparing for the big day.

4. Don't Be Caught Unprepared
Stock up on some job search basics so that you're ready for any spur-of-the-moment or looming interview. Pick out a set of thank you cards. Buy some stamps. Design and print some business cards. With this arsenal of interview and networking material, you won't have an excuse not to send a thank you note after a last minute interview or not to hand someone your perfectly designed contact information at a networking event. The more prepared you are, the more confident you'll be. That confidence will shine through.

5. Don't Let Yourself Go
Being laid off is stressful. It's not difficult to exhaust yourself mentally and emotionally, which ends up taking a toll physically. You can stress yourself sick, so find ways to handle layoff stress in healthy ways. Save your wallet (and waistline) by avoiding the cafeteria and vending machines – put the extra effort into packing a healthy lunch each day instead. Get enough sleep – especially the night before an interview. Don't look for your next job at the bottom of a liquor bottle – or "deal" with your stress through drugs and other unhealthy methods. Exercise and get fresh air. Make it a goal every single day to look your very best. When you look good, you feel good. It goes back to confidence again. That extra confidence could make all the difference whether you're going about your daily life, attending a career fair or networking event, or interviewing for a new job.

6. Don't Bottle it All Up
You'll be experiencing a lot of different emotions and that's okay. When you're at work, focus on work as best you can. check with HR – there might be a support hotline available to laid-off employees as a free wellness service. When you're not at work, take care of yourself emotionally. Talk with friends and vent to family members. Have a little cry when you need to. It's healthy to go through these feelings and you'll need to do so in order to heal. Try to avoid negative engaging in gossip or rants with current or former co-workers. You don't need the bad vibes. And you don't need to get caught up in something that might hurt your reputation, job prospects, or even just your feelings.

7. Don't Move On without a Step Back
As difficult as it may be to here, a layoff may be a blessing in disguise. If you were unhappy with your job or an aspect of your life before, here's a chance to turn it around. Take the time to reevaluate what and who and where you want to be. Now's the time to create a fresh start if you want one. You can take your career in a different direction. You can move to that city you've always loved visiting. You can go back to school for your master's. You can take some time off and travel overseas for a new perspective on, well... everything. Try to shape the bad experience of a layoff into a growing experience for yourself.

8. Don't Waste Your Time
Seize new-found spare time to sharpen your skills and indulge in long-lost hobbies. While you've been focusing on the tasks at hand at your job, other skills may have fallen by the wayside. Pick them up again. Whether it's mastering Photoshop  following trends in social media, or speaking a foreign language, brush up on your skill set. No matter your budget, there are options for you to continue your professional education. From online webinars and Lynda classes to college courses and learning from a friend who happens to be a "pro" at something – take this layoff downtime as an opportunity to build your resume with revived and relevant skills. Don't forget about your passions, too. Do things you love that you didn't have time for while working. Read more books, paint more pictures, hike more mountains. Make the most of every minute.

9. Don't Shut Yourself In
It sucks to introduce yourself as unemployed, underemployed, laid-off  or soon-to-be jobless. It might suck when you have to take a part-time job (or two) to make ends meet until you can get back on your feet. Get over it and get yourself out there. People open doors. If you shut them you, you'll be shutting out potential connections and job opportunities. Lean on your friends and family for support. Get together with co-workers – talk about wine, celebrities, news... anything but work, drama, and layoffs. Attend networking events where you could get your foot in the door at a new company. Make new connections and maintain old ones. Make new memories and make a name for yourself.

10. Don't Give Up
It's a tough market out there. Whether you're competing with recently laid-off co-workers or soon-to-be graduating college seniors or professionals with more experience than you... press forward. Network, learn, socialize, and ask for help when you need it. When you invest in yourself, take care of yourself, and believe in yourself, you become your best self. And who wouldn't want to hire someone like that?

Finally, I want to end with a quote I saw today. Though it's directed to the workers at Microsoft, I feel that it applies to anybody getting laid off:

"To Microsoft's FIRED employees... I urge you never, ever to give up. It's completely understandable if tomorrow night you go home and cry, scream, throw up, or break out in a cold sweat. Take the whole weekend and freak out, if it helps. But Monday morning, recognize that Microsoft's misjudgments are not your failure. You do not have the luxury or the right to let this corporate decree extinguish the light that burns inside of you. 
You are not your job. You are special, and what you do in the days and weeks and months ahead will prove it. You will prove it."  
Bruce Kasanoff, The Human Side of Microsoft's Layoffs

Have you been laid off before? Comment to share your tips and insight!

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Anonymous said...

Yes, I have and it is not fun at first. But I had to remember that all things happened for a reason. It really allowed me to figure out what I really wanted. Every job is a part of your job history, but it doesn't have to be a part of your career.

Marie said...

Great post, Jessica, thank you! I've never been in that situation, but I think a lot of your tips can be applied even to "normal", regular unemployment, which has been my situation for far too long now. This is exactly one of those inspiring pieces that I like to read to get my mind back from the hopeless and into the focused, in control state. Just trying to make the best of whatever is at hand.
Good luck to all people looking for new jobs or new directions in life! :)

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