How to handle a layoff like you knew it was coming

Because of course, you didn’t. Maybe you had an inkling downsizing was headed to your workplace, but you couldn’t possibly be among the expendables. Me? Never! Believe it or not, this can be a good thing. Being surprised by a layoff most likely means you understood your value to the company, or were more focused on successfully completing your work than gossiping about potential pink slips. These qualities will help you be successful once again. But let’s have some real talk.

You need a plan. Having a plan even if you survived the last round of layoffs is critical. Have a plan even if you don’t think you’ll need it. The world tends to turn upside down when we least expect it.

So how should you handle an unexpected layoff?

Here are some survival tips: Deep breath.

Let’s talk finances. Put the feelings of betrayal and panic to a corner of your brain. You’ll get to them. Your first move should be negotiating a severance. Persistently remind your employer of your circumstances; who relies on your financial support, whether you have children on the way, or your husband recently lost work. File for unemployment. Consider what savings you may need to tap into. You have plenty of challenges to work through in the coming weeks and months – money shouldn’t be one of them. Take care of it early to avoid issues later.

Now, unplug. Take a break from social media and turn your attention inward. The temptation may be strong to trash your employer or air your grievances. Save that for your closest friends and family. Give yourself time to grieve your job, your relationships with colleagues, and the commitment to your career. You’ve just been through a truly traumatic experience. Take advantage of any resources you feel would be helpful, including therapy and meditation. When you do tell your contacts about the change of status (from employed to unemployed), and we hope you do, it should be with clarity, confidence, and renewed courage to get back out there. Plus, you’ll need to address all those nagging thoughts if you hope to move forward and really thrive. Just remember, it takes time to get there.

Reach out. More valuable than your resume or experience you’ve gained, is the list of contacts you’ll take with you from this job. Approach those people who either worked with you directly or benefited from your skills about the opportunities ahead of you. Ask for references, letters of recommendation, or leads on career opportunities. A personal connection is a currency that does not depreciate.

Rebrand yourself. Finally, consider the possibilities that lie ahead for yourself. Your career does not have to end here. In fact, there’s a very real possibility you are opening the window to a new world of business ventures you never even considered before. Perhaps your contacts have turned you on to an enticing career jump. Or, working through your troubling feelings about former jobs has illuminated some deep desire to take new leadership positions. Bottom line: a layoff can be an opportunity. No matter how badly it may have hurt to get to this point, you still hold the power to take the next step with passion. Make a list the workplace qualities that make you happy, satisfied, and hungry for more. Carefully consider what’s important to you. Are you at a point in life when spending quality time with your family takes priority? Seek out flexibility.

Do you thrive off leading others? Maybe it’s time to aim higher up the ladder.

Securing an ideal career may take more effort than you’re typically used to putting into a job search. So, consider working with a life coach, which can help you look at applying to jobs from a new perspective. For instance, who says resumes need to follow the same chronological format we learned from a high school guidance counselor? Format your experiences based on relevant professional skills. Look for unique, exciting ways to tell the stories of your successes and challenges. A life coach can help you find those opportunities.

Finally, when you do start your next professional chapter, don’t expect all that fear and anxiety to magically subside. No matter how closely you bonded with your life coach or how many Facebook friends flooded your inbox with support, it’s entirely normal to struggle to find job security. The old adage, “it’s not personal; it’s business” is still just as obnoxious as ever. But here’s the difference this time around: you’ve proven your worth, your resilience, and your potential.

Onward.

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