Got Laid Off? Here's What to Do Now

Press Release from Idealist

Got Laid Off? Here's What to Do Now

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni Jan 23, 2023 11:00 AM Illustration by Marian Blair

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

Thankfully, there are resources that can help you through this time when planning your next career move. Continue reading to learn our best practices and tips to navigate your way through job loss—and getting your next one.

What to do when you are laid off

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 disappointment and sadness.

Then, switch your focus to what you can do in the immediate aftermath. This may include:

  • Asking why.  If it comes as a total surprise, ask your manager why you’re being let go and make notes. It will be helpful when you’re job searching and need to explain why your position ended.
  • Finding out what you’re entitled to.  When you’re laid off, you may be able to receive severance pay, but you will also want to find out if you still have access to any of your benefits. Depending on the circumstances, you should look into whether you qualify for unemployment.
  • Getting recommendations.  Depending on the terms of your termination, you will want to secure recommendations—for either future employment or education opportunities—from your supervisor and any of the people you worked closely with. If you’re not in the right frame of mind to do so immediately, make sure you have your co-workers’ email addresses so you can contact them later. 
  • Creating a networking plan . Make a list of people you can connect with. Once you’re ready to kickstart your job search, you can work from that list to see if anyone can help you find your next role.

If your employer conducted mass layoffs but did not provide you with 60 days notice, they may have violated the WARN Act. Find out whether your employee rights were violated by researching the WARN Act and seeking legal counsel.

What not to do

You cannot predict exactly how you’ll react if you are laid off, but here are four tips you should keep in mind regarding what not to do:

  • Don’t leave the office without your personal items.  This includes any personal files you may have saved onto your work computer and physical items at the office.
  • Don’t refuse to help with the transition.  You may want nothing more to do with your employer, but being a team player 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 being laid off, so there’s no urgent need to let your entire network know your employment status until you’re ready.

Prepare for the job search

When you feel ready to dive into the job search, the first and most obvious task is to update your resume. Make a list of the skills you utilized on the job and the contributions you made, then thoughtfully figure out the top three to five points that are most relevant for the jobs you’re looking for—you want to make sure your resume reflects these positive points.

While it’s natural to feel discouraged—and even upset—about being let go, you’ll want to be careful about how you talk about the experience in future conversations with potential employers. To prepare, practice having an honest and concise answer that can lead into more fruitful conversation, such as how your strengths make you an ideal candidate. 

Take care of yourself

As insecure as you may feel, put your experience into perspective so that you can take your next steps forward. Being laid off isn’t unique to you—in fact, the monthly layoff rate in 2022 hovered around 1% of the US workforce, representing 1.4 million people.

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 make sure to 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.


Have any tips for dealing with getting laid off? Share them with us on Facebook.

      Subscribe CAREER PLANNING Nisha Kumar Kulkarni Jan 23, 2023 11:00 AM

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni is a writer and creative coach in New York City. She helps women living with chronic illness and mental health challenges to pursue their passion projects without compromising their health.

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