How to Survive a Layoff

March 20, 2009
by Rachel Balik
If you’ve been laid off recently, you’re certainly in good company. While that might provide some small consolation, you still want to set a target for yourself and start working towards future goals. You’ll want to make sure you leave on good terms, start looking for a new job in productive ways and also stay sane.

Be Prepared

When job cuts mean that your own days at the office are numbered, you may just want to laugh the whole situation off. During the layoffs of 2001–2002, a writer for reported that he and co-workers cracked jokes every day about the visit from HR, until the representative actually arrived. While finally getting the news may be a relief of sorts, there are several technical details that you’ll want to remember in the event of your layoff.

For example, do you need to discuss your stock options with your employer? Will you keep the money in your 401K for your retirement or take it out now? Do you have any vacation pay that’s owed to you? Is it possible to negotiate for a bit more time on the company health insurance? If you’re expecting a layoff, these are things you can think about in advance, but make sure you have time to ask questions, or can contact your employer at a later date.

When the moment arrives, a Fortune magazine columnist advises you to stay composed and clear-headed at all costs. Try not to take your situation personally, and you’ll be able to focus on negotiating the best possible severance deal.

Review your personal finances. Gail Marks Jarvis, investment blogger for the Chicago Tribune, offers preparation tips for a possible layoff, as well as the first moves you should make post-layoff. Start by revising you budget, bearing in mind that it might take a while to find a new job. You still need to keep trying to pay off your credit cards, so it’s a good idea to stop using them if it all possible. You may also have to sell some of your possessions. (Be honest, how badly do you really need that Wii?)

Finding a New Job

Your first instinct after being laid off may be to hit the bar with some coworkers, and that’s fine, but once you’ve had time to process the news, it’s time to get cracking on the employment hunt. The Scobleizer blog reminds you to spend at least 30 percent of your day, every day, searching for a new job. And that means more than just scrolling the pages at or Craigslist. Before you even start sending out resumes, you can start to identify yourself as a great candidate. You’ll need to be aggressive, and creative. Start a blog that demonstrates the skills you have. Use your blog to connect with others in your field.

A posting from the SF Microsoft Office Examiner claims that 80 percent of jobs come from networking. While it’s not a great time to be begging people for jobs, there’s never a bad time to ask someone to meet with you and talk about what they do. The more informational interviews you go on, the more you learn and the more connections you make. When jobs do surface, you’ll be at the forefront of people’s minds, putting you at a serious advantage.

If you work in media or technology, display your qualifications online. That means deleting pictures of you and your drunk friends from Facebook and ensuring that “your blog is your calling card,” the Scobleizer blog advises. You may want to cultivate a Twitter identity that makes you look like a thoughtful, professional and then follow potential employers on Twitter. When you’re offline, attend events in your field.

Keeping Your Sanity

There is no way to skirt around the fact that getting laid off is traumatic. Although you shouldn’t treat a layoff like a vacation, you can take some time to become a more well-balanced person. Try becoming more physically active—even if the layoff means canceling your gym membership. There are plenty of ways to get fit without paying gym fees. Play with your dog, do some crunches while watching TV or take up a team sport.

You might be surprised to learn that you can improve your health a great deal by gardening. Plus, joining a community garden will save you a bit on groceries. The American Community Garden Association can help you locate a nearby garden, or even start your own.

If you don’t have a green thumb, try another kind of volunteer work. Chances are, the talents you used at work will be invaluable to a charity organization, and you may even find you have a knack for something you were unaware of, such as mentoring a child. Use the findingDulcinea Web Guide to Philanthropy and Nonprofits to help you locate volunteering opportunities.

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