Nothing quite shakes up your life like being told you’re suddenly out of a job. Should the unthinkable happen and you find yourself the victim of a company layoff, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. In today’s competitive business economy, major corporations and small businesses alike are announcing layoffs in record numbers across the country. All of which results in a sea of displaced workers who wake up one day with nowhere to go.
Some say you should look at this unfortunate event as a golden opportunity in disguise, a chance to stop, catch your breath, and figure out what you are doing with your life. But the reality is that few people who find themselves suddenly out of work have the financial resources to turn their unexpected vacation into a meditative exercise in self-exploration. Usually, the most important task of the recently unemployed is to find a new job as quickly as possible.
Unlike the average job seeker, however, a person who has been laid off has not only the substantial stress of job hunting with which to deal but also a very wide range of potent emotions including sadness, rage, confusion, and despair. By all means, have a good cry, but don’t let the pity party go on too long — keep in mind that most layoffs are not personal and are based on financial business decisions. Nobody was out to get you personally. And while you shouldn’t discount the roller coaster of emotions you may be feeling, it’s up to you to pull yourself together quickly and shift into high gear — to be determined to meet the challenges ahead.
First of all, make sure that you collect everything from your former employer to which you’re entitled. This may include unemployment compensation or health insurance coverage through COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). Remember: Companies with group health plans are required by law to provide COBRA coverage to terminated employees. Also make sure to negotiate your severance pay. Some former employers will even pay for outplacement services to help terminated employees find their next job.
Like you would for any change in business, strategize to minimize the damage to your finances. Draw up a plan to manage your household expenses. This might be a time to reduce extraneous “luxuries” like cable TV or daily lattes. Some monthly expenses, such as an Internet connection or mobile phone, remain invaluable job search tools and should not be cut.
The best way to start your new job hunt is to formulate an effective search strategy. Realize that it is up to you to take care of yourself and to find your next position. This is not to discount any possible systems in place to help you. These may include a company-sponsored outplacement service, a government-managed dislocated worker program, a community-based support group, or even a private job placement agency. By all means, take advantage of all the help you can get.
The key to surviving and thriving during this time is to fall back on your network. Let the world know that you’re free and are looking for exciting opportunities. Send an email to all of your friends, former colleagues, and relatives. They can often be a kind, supportive network that will immediately swing into action to help you in a variety of ways. Don’t be embarrassed to send a note about your situation, detailing what kind of work you are looking for. Attach your updated résumé so it can be easily forwarded. You may be surprised at just how fruitful this “cry for help” can be.
Your former employer’s main competitor should be one of your first calls in your job search. While your résumé is making the rounds, consider picking up a part-time job, an internship, or even a volunteer position. Freelancing or consulting are also good options and can open the door to other opportunities. A lot of companies don’t want to hire full-time employees right away and prefer to bring people on as contract workers for an initial period. Jobs such as these can often lead to full-time positions.
The most important thing during this tumultuous period is to be patient and keep a positive attitude. Stay physically active, as exercise can be a great stress reducer. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones. Be kind to yourself. Even if it takes a little while, you’ll bounce back. And a few months down the road, you may just find yourself in a much better place than you could have imagined at the start. Maybe it will turn out to be a “golden opportunity in disguise” after all.