Certain experiences are common, but that does not make them easy to manage. Being laid off is one of those problematic yet common experiences.
The tech sector has had some notable downsizings, so many people were laid off from Shopify, Meta/Facebook, and Twitter in 2022 and 2023. We’re at the halfway point of 2023, and there have also been significant layoffs at Bell Media (1300 jobs so far), UK-based telecoms firm BT (55,000), and Vodafone (11,000 roles to be phased out over the next three years).
In this blog, I’m offering some ideas to support the thousands of people who are dealing with being laid off.
Some Tips for Coping with Being Laid Off
1. Try Not to Take It Personally
When you’re laid off, it’s usually due to the employers’ finances or other external factors and not because you’re not a good employee or valuable (if you were fired for poor performance or another cause, they would not call it a layoff). So try not to take this situation too personally. Instead, and I don’t say this to trivialize the experience, try to forge ahead with “radical acceptance,” which can be defined as accepting situations that are outside of your control without judging them, which in turn reduces the suffering that is caused by them.
2. Take Some Time — But Not Too Much Time
Job loss is among the top five most stressful things we can experience. In fact, with the first being the hardest, the other four include the death of a loved one, divorce, moving, and a major illness or injury.
If you’re lucky enough to have significant savings, a partner who can cover your expenses or a generous severance package, you can probably afford to take some time to recover emotionally. All of these things take some time to process and recover from. If you don’t have deep financial reserves, you may only be able to take a few days or up to a couple of weeks before you need to start taking action to get some funds flowing again.
Even if you have money that will keep you afloat, it can be very hard to get back on the job-search horse. It can be easy to fall into a state of inertia. Take time to rest and recover, but be wary of letting it drag on to the point where it’s too hard to get started again.
3. Take Stock of Your Transferrable Skills
This is a good opportunity to make a list of your transferable skills that may be useful in a future role – even if the future role may be in a different industry and type of position. For instance, if I were to contemplate a new role (and for the record, I am definitely not!), then I could include certain skills like training, teaching, writing, editing, public speaking, and business development that I could use in different roles and industries.
4. Make a List of Your Key Accomplishments & Milestones
When you are writing your cover letter and updating your resume, it will be helpful if you have a list of the things you have accomplished over the past two or three years. These accomplishments will help you to demonstrate what you are capable of doing in very concrete terms rather than empty phrases. These are things you should try to bring up during job interviews.
5. Identify What Kinds of Work You Want to Do Going Forward & What You Want to Avoid
Sometimes, being laid off is an opportunity to reset. There may be things that you were doing in your previous role that you’d prefer not to do going forward. If those things are reflected in your resume and LinkedIn profile, this is an excellent time to adjust both so that there’s a nod to what you’ve done in the past, but you’ve framed both documents in ways that are aspirational and focused more on what you want to be doing in the future. So, for example, you might describe how what you have done in the past is an excellent foundation for what you want to do going forward.
6. Consider Getting Professional Support
Sometimes, I work with clients going through very difficult times in their professional lives. One of the psychometric tests that I like to use in my coaching practice shows clients how their normally good performance at work can be undermined or go off the rails when they are distracted, exhausted, under pressure, etc. The fallout associated with being laid off could easily trigger the feeling of being under financial duress to find new employment, a distraction from the big task of finding new employment and feeling drained by the whole experience. None of this puts you in a position to show your “best self” while networking or interviewing for new roles. For this reason, if you have insurance benefits covering therapy or counselling, it’s a good idea to use it. Likewise, if your former employer has offered to pay for coaching or outplacement to help you get reestablished in a new role, I recommend taking advantage of it.
Once these foundational pieces are in place (or in progress), you must start looking for opportunities through your network and online. In the early days, even if all you can muster is one to two hours a day related to your job search, eventually, you’ll build up a tolerance to spending more time, and hopefully, you’ll build some positive momentum.
If you’ve recently been laid off, I hope this blog has been helpful. If you know someone who has recently been through this, I hope the ideas in this blog will give you some insights about how you might support them. Maybe you can be a sounding board to discuss and frame accomplishments, milestones, and tasks to include or avoid in future positions.
Did this article spark any career-related questions, plans or concerns?
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If you enjoyed this blog, you might also enjoy How to be Resilient in Your Career: Facing Up to Barriers at Work, available in print, as an eBook, and soon available on Audible!