Here’s Exactly What to Do if You Get Laid Off
How to cope and get back on your feet after being let go from a role.
Downsizing, restructuring, corporate outplacement, offboarding—whichever euphemistic way you slice it, being laid off from a job is a downright bummer. Is it the absolute end of the world? No, but it’s hard not to take it as a professional gut punch. What did you do wrong? How will you get back in the game and find a new job? How are you going to pay the bills?
If you find yourself, panicked and confused, on the receiving end of a severance package, it helps to know what to do next—and how to deal with the fallout. Here to walk through every step, from "oh, god—what now," to "OK, I got this," is Kim Perell, an entrepreneur, angel investor, national bestselling author, and tech CEO.
Allow time to process, but not too much time.
Being laid off is zero fun, whether or not you saw it coming. It’s perfectly OK, even encouraged, to take a day or two to just be. This gives you time to grieve, so to speak, and accept the reality of it. "Acknowledge there’s been a change and a loss," Perell says. "Allow yourself a few days to feel sorry for yourself and do what comforts you. That can mean getting ice cream and getting into bed early, or going home to watch mindless television. But the next morning, wake up ready (and excited) for your next chapter."
Think of it as an opportunity—not a setback.
This sounds easier said than done—but it can be done. Layoffs are often a consequence of internal company changes out of your control, but it’s still a bitter pill for anyone to swallow. You can stay mad and get really down on yourself—or you could try to see it differently. “Always think of getting laid off as an opportunity to start new,” Perell says. “Change can be scary, but it can often end up being the best thing to happen to you."
Think of this odd career upheaval as a blessing in disguise. Perell urges anyone in this position to "use this time wisely." Because when was the last time you truly had free time to think about your career in the bigger picture?
"Regroup and shift the focus from where you were when you started at that company to where you are now. Take the new skills you acquired [there] and dream bigger for your next chapter," she says.
Start at the beginning: your resume.
When you're ready to start taking practical steps toward finding a new job, begin by updating your resume and LinkedIn profile, if you have one. "Focus on highlighting your skill set and [fix your] settings to say you're interested and open to job opportunities," Perell says.
Meet with cool people you're connected to.
Whether through friends, school alumni, LinkedIn, an old coworker, or a family connection, it's time to initiate some informational interviews. "Focus on your network by setting up a lunch or coffee with someone whose career or expertise you admire," Perell says. These can be as informal as a quick phone call or coffee date, but they're such a fantastic way to connect with people who can help influence your next steps—even find you an open position you never knew about.
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"I got laid off!" is a strange thing to shout from the mountain tops, but trying to rewrite history won't do you any good, either. In other words, don't lie or pretend it never happened. "You should expect references to be verified and checked, so it's very important to be honest," says Perell. "Employers are very understanding of circumstances, so bring it up briefly, provide details, share what you learned, and then move on."
Don't burn bridges.
After being laid off, no one's a big fan of their former employer, but it's best to curb bitterness and move past it. "In general, in order to ensure you maintain the best professional reputation, you should never speak ill of your prior company, and always be gracious," Perell says. You never know how word will spread or whose help you'll need going forward.
Want to go above and beyond? "Write a letter to a former supervisor or leader who was inspiring to you along the lines of, 'I am so grateful for all I've learned working with you and the company and I wish you all the best in the future…'" she says. "If you do this, I promise you, you will stand out. This could be your chance to receive referrals from past colleagues and bosses, which will help you tremendously when interviewing for future roles."