There’s no getting around it, getting laid-off can be really hard. You’ve invested a lot of yourself into your work, and to have it end with no say in the matter can feel similar to the end of a really meaningful relationship. And we all know how it feels to have a relationship broken off by the other party with no say in the matter.
Whatever the circumstances, it does not feel great.
Fortunately, it’s not uncommon for successful professionals to testify that getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to them. Yes, you might need a bit of time (and ice cream?) to get over this, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t find the same to be true for you and your career.
So without further ado, read on for our tips, tricks, and advice for navigating your lay-off and coming out the other side stronger than ever.
1. It’s not you, it’s them. And the world. And just unfortunate timing.
It’s important to know that this genuinely is not personal. In fact, your employer is probably as broken-hearted as you are. No one wants their company to ever be in the position of having to lay-off employees. If they have to do it, know that it’s because they really have no other choice. It’s not about you. It’s about the fact that they don’t have what they need in order to support you. Whether that’s their fault, or the fault of these crazy COVID circumstances, one person who definitely isn’t at fault is you.
2. Get your (financial) ducks in a row
a. Know your rights
While you may feel at the mercy of your employer or the economy when it comes to the stability of your job, there are actually laws to protect you and regulate if lay-offs are allowed, and how they need to be conducted. For instance, did you know that if you work in a company with over 100 employees and over 50 are being laid off (or the entire business is shutting down), the company needs to give you 60 days notice?
To be completely honest, in the U.S., there admittedly aren’t a huge amount of protections, but it still could be worth looking into if you feel there has been some sort of ill or unfair treatment. In Canada, there may be a bit more protection for you, depending on your situation. Check out the resources below for more:
b. Last Paycheck
It’s completely fair for you to ask when you will be receiving your last paycheque, and how it will be delivered. You should also ask about accrued vacation, overtime, and sick time, and find out how you will be compensated for that. You may even request to receive your paycheck immediately (you might not get it, but you can ask). All this will allow you to more accurately budget and make a plan for how long you can manage without a job, or help you determine what lifestyle adjustments you need to make.
Additionally, you may receive a severance package. While this is not mandatory in lay-off situations, check in about it anyway. Who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised at what your company is willing to offer.
c. Insurance and Benefits
If at all possible, this is not the time to scrimp on health insurance. After being laid off, it’s natural that some corners will probably need to be cut. Make sure this one stays a priority. If you have benefits, it’s important to talk with your HR department about what will happen to them.
Some companies are keeping employees on for 1 day a week just so that they can maintain work benefits. While this option is best discussed proactively when lay-offs still loom ahead, what have you got to lose by bringing it up in lay-off negotiations? Plus, if it works, it will likely mean you’ll get to go back to your normal position once this whole thing is over.
But if you are laid off, for Americans, COBRA is the health insurance program intended for exactly these situations. However, know that it may not be the most prudent financial option. To look into alternatives and figure out the best route for you, check out this post.
For Canadians and other countries, you should still check with your HR department about what options are available for continuing your coverage. You may have the opportunity to continue your existing plan, but of course now you will be footing the bill.
d. References and recommendation letters
Just because you’re leaving a company doesn’t mean there has to be bad blood between you. Make sure to request recommendation letters from higher-ups, and ask if you can use any superiors as references in future job interviews. Also get a letter from your HR department stating that you’re leaving the job due to lay-offs, and not being fired. This can be useful in future interviews.
e. Keep connections
While you will need to be careful about the legalities of this (depending on the market and situation) make sure to keep names of contacts you’ve made throughout your work that may be helpful for your future career. Did you have a colleague that you clicked particularly well with? Maybe you can imagine partnering up and starting something new? Make sure you know how to get in touch! In this day and age, most of the time you can reach out over LinkedIn or some other social network, but it’s still a good idea to make sure you have what you need to maintain any connections that may be advantageous towards getting you back on your feet.
3. File for unemployment and find out what services are available to you
Filing for unemployment can be a hit to the ego. But try not to let yourself think about it that way. Just like you’ve paid into your health plan so that you can reap the benefits when you get your teeth cleaned, you’ve paid into unemployment insurance so that you can reap the benefits when you need them. You’re simply opening up a vault that you yourself have been contributing to for exactly this rainy day.
Furthermore, the reasons for filing for unemployment go beyond financial support. Once you’re registered, you’re often eligible for extra services to help you regain employment, often including career coaching and supplemental education. Take advantage of what is offered to you to turn this temporary hiccup into something that boosts your career higher than ever before!
Check out this post for information specific to unemployment benefits during COVID-19.
4. Take a breather, but don't get in a rut
Okay, so you’ve taken care of the immediate aftermath, and the dust has started to settle.
Give yourself a moment to catch your breath.
Losing your job sucks. It really sucks. It’s natural to feel disoriented, exhausted, and just really, really sad. You’ve lost something that gave your days and weeks structure, security, and purpose. You’ve lost your daily rhythms. Relationships that may have meant a lot to you will now be different. You lost a place where you got to exercise and feel your value. A place that may have been a big part of your identity.
These are all very legitimate reasons for taking some time to grieve.
But know that every ending is also a beginning. Every setback is an opportunity.
If you are financially able, take some time for yourself or family. (Note: If finding a job ASAP is the priority, skip to this section). Figure out what you would actually do if you had an entire day off to do whatever you wanted. Get to those projects you’ve been putting off. Play some board games. Go for a walk (when you’re allowed to). Take up a hobby. Read books. Join a virtual book club. Learn a new instrument. Research something you’ve been curious about. Write. Rearrange the furniture. Watch that show everyone’s been talking about. Try a new recipe (or just try cooking at all). Look up a YouTube tutorial for something random you’ve never done before and give it a go. Do a fun YouTube workout video. Sit and talk with whoever you’re isolated with. FaceTime someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Do a personality test by yourself. Do personality tests with friends and discuss your results.
Or just do nothing for a while. You’ve been given a block of time and it’s up to you to use it however you like - how often do we get that luxury in life? Try to see this time as an adventure, or holiday from regular life. Sure it’s a strange time, but the normal 9-5 will be back before we all know it. Take advantage of all the freedom and opportunities available to you now that your regular rhythms have been taken off your plate.
And while this doesn’t need to be your first priority, pay attention to what activities you gravitate towards. Are you finding something surprising in the ways that you most enjoy spending your time? Maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself, and even change the course of how you choose your next career.
Are you feeling like you don’t even know what to do with yourself, and aren’t sure where to start? Try thinking back to the kinds of things you liked to do as a kid and try to figure out how you could spin them into something to do or learn now.
5. For when you need a job NOW
Understandably, not everyone has the luxury of being able to go weeks or months on end without a job. Admittedly, it may not be the most amazing time to find your dream career, but there are options to keep you afloat until all of this is over.
There are a few industries that are actually upping their business at this time. Or at least, some departments of businesses that are upping their work. Customer service departments and call centers are two examples.
Furthermore, many places that had job listings before all of this went down have left their listings up. For example, places like universities, that still plan on running remotely through all this, still often have their listings up. Check your local job listings to find the opportunities available in your area.
Finally, though hopefully things don’t get to this point, if money runs out, know that there are lots of services out there to get you past this setback and put you back on your feet. As was mentioned above, filing for unemployment offers many benefits, financial and otherwise. Furthermore, Salvation Army’s and YMCAs still have support services, local churches and community centers often have benevolent funds and programs to help, most food banks are still stocked, banks and loan services are adjusting to give clients some grace during this time, and governments are working feverishly to open up relief funds for people needing assistance. Check emails from your bank and visit their webpage to see what they’re doing. Google organizations within your community. And check out this post for governmental resources for Americans, Canadians, Kiwis, Brits, Singaporeans, Australians, and those in the EU.
6. Brush up your skills, or learn something new
If you are going to have a gap between jobs, consider spending some of that time upping your game - or switching to a new one.
Or even better, sign up for a free Vendasta account and get access to the ConquerLocal Academy. Vendasta offers all the knowledge and tools you need to start your own agency, plus the ability to partner with small businesses in your community to lend them a hand. Check out all the ways we’re helping small businesses and agencies here, and learn more about starting an agency yourself here.
If you want to expand into new territory, check out The Great Courses Plus (free trial), Udemy (not free, but very reasonable), Shaw Academy (free trial), or Masterclass (this one is more of an investment, but you’re being taught by celebrities and the leading global experts of each field).
And if nothing else, never underestimate the tutorials that are available for free on YouTube.
7. Get back in the saddle
Okay, it’s time to get back out there.
You have two options: get back on the same track, or try something new.
There’s no shame in sticking with what you know. If this is you, your next step is to update your resume. If you’re in a creative field, or want to do something to make your resume stand out, consider using a tool such as Canva. Next, look into your connections, network, and prepare for interviews. Check out this post and this one for more tips.
If you want to try something new, go back to the last step and see if you can take some online classes in what you’re interested in. Next, see if you can contact some professionals in this field to learn a bit more about the industry, and how they cracked it. Then follow the usual steps: update your resume, network, and prepare for interviews.
Yes, getting laid off can be tough and scary. But it has the potential to bust you out of a rut, give you some time to evaluate yourself and your goals, and stretch you beyond your comfort zone. So take the time you need to take, gather all you can from your old position, and charge ahead, confident that we’re all going to pull through this challenging time together.