5 Things to Do Immediately If You Get Laid Off

The American economy is in the middle of yet another period of uncertainty, with some industries still experiencing labor shortages and others beginning to see significant layoffs. No matter which kind of job you have, it’s a smart idea to think proactively about an action plan should you be laid off. The road to your next job will be much smoother if you know what steps to take immediately after a reduction in force (RIF).


1. Stay professional in the immediate aftermath

The day of the layoff, your number one goal should be keeping your cool. Even if you had a good inkling the RIF was coming, and even if your company follows layoff “best practices” to the letter, the experience will still sting. You may be escorted out of the building and asked to return at a later time to collect any personal belongings—a humiliating experience, to be sure.

Staying as calm and collected as possible is important because your relationship with this company does not end the day you are laid off. You will need answers to questions about your severance, health insurance options, and any employment assistance that will be provided. You’ll also want to ensure you remain eligible for rehire even if you think you would never consider it, and sometimes future potential employers will ask if you’re eligible for rehire when conducting background checks. If your position is eliminated, you’re being let go due to the company’s financial issues, not for cause, so keep it that way.

2. Give yourself some time to process

Being laid off hurts. You’ll experience grief at the loss of your job. You’ll need to give yourself a few days to come to terms with this reality, but work to find the sweet spot where you’re giving yourself enough time to process without developing bad habits.

Once the surprise wears off, start thinking about what’s next. Is this the catalyst you need to change career directions? What does this free you up to pursue? How can you make lemonade out of lemons?

3. Make sure your financial bases are covered

The terms of every layoff are different. Severance packages can range from two weeks to several months of pay, depending on the industry and your tenure with the company. You may have access to several months of health insurance, or you may be given instructions for continuation of coverage either through COBRA or through a state continuation plan, depending on how many employees your company has. Ask as many questions as you need to understand the severance package. In accepting a severance package, you will likely be asked to sign an agreement waiving your rights to sue the company.

You may be eligible to apply for unemployment. Investigate your state’s unemployment program as soon as possible to find out how to sign up and what you must do to maintain eligibility. State unemployment programs typically require beneficiaries to regularly demonstrate their efforts to find work.

4. Set a schedule for your job hunt

Finding a job takes a lot of time. It’s a good idea to set a schedule for yourself. Figure out how many hours a week you’ll spend looking for and applying for new positions, and stick to it. Once you’ve satisfied your self-imposed job-hunting requirement, use the rest of your time wisely. This is the time to volunteer, finally clean out the garage, or learn a new language. You don’t have to turn this into “funemployment,” but you might as well make the most of your time.

5. Let your network know

When you are ready, let your network know you were laid off. You could do a LinkedIn post, send some emails (using bcc, of course), or set up some coffee dates. Remember: There’s no shame in being laid off. It can happen to anyone. Let your network know because you never know who might have a perfect position for you.

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