Got Laid Off? Here’s What to Do Now

Got Laid Off? Here’s What to Do Now was originally published on Idealist Careers.

Unexpectedly losing your job is an incredibly stressful experience. While you worry about your job prospects and meeting your financial responsibilities, it can feel difficult to stay positive and focused on your self-care.

As the country (and world) continues to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, many American workers are facing layoffs and job loss. Continue reading to learn our best practices and tips to help you navigate your way through losing your job—and getting your next one.

What now?

When you get the news that you’re being let go, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to breathe. Don’t panic. Before your mind goes into overdrive, allow yourself to feel your disappointment and sadness. Then, switch your focus to what you can do in the immediate aftermath. This may include:

  • Getting recommendations. Depending on the terms of your firing, you will want to secure recommendations—for either future employment or education opportunities—from the people you worked closely with. It may not be appropriate to make that request in the office, but make sure you have their email addresses so you can contact them privately.
  • Creating a networking plan. Make a list of people you can connect with in your network. Once you’re ready to kickstart your job search, you can start working through that list and connect with people who know you and your work, and who can help you find your next role.
  • Asking why. If it comes as a total surprise, ask your manager why you’re being fired and note what you’re being told. Later, when you’re in a better frame of mind, figure out what lessons you can learn and apply to your next job.
  • Find out what you’re entitled to. When you’re fired, you may not have access to severance pay, but you need to know if you still have access to any of your benefits. And depending on your circumstances, you may also want to look into whether you qualify for unemployment benefits.

If, upon reflection, you feel you were treated unfairly and wrongly terminated, you may want to seek legal counsel to know what your options are.

What not to do

You cannot predict exactly how you’ll react if you ever get fired, but here are five tips you should keep in mind regarding what not to do:

  • Don’t make a hasty decision. If you are given the option to resign rather than being fired, ask for a day to look into the pros and cons of both options before disclosing your final decision.
  • Don’t leave the office without your personal items. This includes any personal files you may have saved onto your work computer. If you’re currently not in the office due to social distancing, make sure you have it in writing from your employer that you can return to the office to retrieve your belongings.
  • Don’t refuse to help with the transition. You may want nothing more to do with your employer, but being a team player even now can help you later (e.g. positive recommendations).
  • Don’t talk negatively about your employer. This may be very tempting—even if you have legitimate reasons for criticism—but don’t get into the habit of disparaging your manager, co-workers, or organization. This can hurt your reputation both with the people who have worked with you, as well as a future employer.
  • Don’t immediately share the news. You will likely need time to process your own thoughts and feelings about your firing, so there’s no urgent need to let your entire network know about your employment status until you know how you want to talk about it.

Prepare yourself

When you feel ready to dive into your job search, the first and most obvious task you have is to update your resume. You want to do this as soon as you can after your firing because the work you have done and the results you produced will be fresh in your memory.

To get started, make a list of the skills you utilized on the job and the contributions you made, then thoughtfully figure out what are the top 3-5 points that are most relevant for the jobs you’re looking for and make sure your resume reflects that.

As for how you address your firing, you will want to practice how you talk about it. Employers are not legally barred from sharing information about the conditions of your exit, so the best you can do is prepare how you will respond to an interview question that asks why you left. Practice having an honest and concise answer, but refocus the conversation on what you have learned and how that ties into why you are a strong job candidate.

Take care of yourself

As insecure and difficult as being let go feels, put your experience into perspective so that you can take your next steps forward. Being fired isn’t unique to you—in fact, in 2018, 21.9 million people were let go from their jobs. But a study in the same year shows that being fired doesn’t have a bearing on your ability to attain a leadership position in the future: 91% of executives followed in a study took a job of equal or greater seniority after being fired.

As you look for your next job, don’t forget to take some time to care for yourself. It’s easy to spend hours upon hours perusing job postings online and sending out feeler emails. But in the midst of that, schedule regular breaks where you actively do something good for yourself. Your next job will happen—you want to make sure you’re in the best physical and mental shape to take it on.


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