You just got called into the human resources office. You have a surreally-calm conversation about your departure from the company.
Your stomach abruptly drops to somewhere near the vicinity of your practical work shoes. Your palms are wet but your mouth is dry, and you know it should be the other way around.
You are absolutely positively not going to cry, but it’s hard to keep the lump out of your throat.
This is like being broken up with, but you’re being dumped by your career, your livelihood, your health insurance, your ability to make car payments or support your kids.
Here’s a box for your stuff.
Here are all your coworkers watching you pack. You can see fear and pity on all of their faces.
You float out of the building like a balloon with a cut string, helplessly pulled into the thinning atmosphere. You get to your car or your seat on the bus or subway, and something about sitting down makes it really hit you.
You lost your job today. The tears finally come.
Try not to panic. Easier said than done, especially when you already have anxiety, like I do. But remember that being laid off is not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. This might even lead you down an amazing new path. Take some time to mourn, then regroup. If you’re angry, which is totally normal, use that anger to fuel your action.
After I got laid off and had a good cry, these are a few things I did to help keep my world from going to complete shit.
1. Asked for a letter of clarification. I asked for a letter saying I was part of a staff reduction, and not eliminated based on performance (they did not give one, but plenty of other companies do, and it doesn’t hurt to ask).
2. Got a second opinion. I had an HR manager from outside the company go over my severance letter before I signed it — if you know someone in this field, definitely ask them to check over anything before you sign it.
3. Looked into potential unemployment benefits. I found out about unemployment eligibility and filed as soon as I was eligible to do so. Note: Getting a severance package rendered me ineligible for unemployment, so don’t count on it as income if your company gives you any kind of package (but definitely still file, because you never know).
4. Made a spreadsheet. I started a spreadsheet of jobs I was applying to, which listed the job titles, date of application, company info, and any relevant information that would help keep me organized. When you’re laid off, finding a new job becomes your full-time job, and if you’re sending out dozens of applications, a spreadsheet really helps keep things straight
5. Increased my volunteer work. I was already volunteering every week as a Planned Parenthood clinic escort, but I doubled my hours. I love this work, and being able to do more of it is the best silver lining of being laid off. It also gives my week more structure.
Getting laid off was profoundly crappy, but in the month since I lost my job, I have done things that fill my life with joy. I take my dog to the dog park. I started seeing friends again that I hadn’t seen when I was working. I saw how many great jobs are out there, and realized there are so many amazing things to do and wonderful companies to work for.
I also sat down with my own privilege: I’m in a financially secure enough position that I don’t have to take the first job that comes along just to keep the wolf from the door. I’ll be able to guide my career based on options rather than desperation.
If you are employed and think you might get laid off, due to the current environment at your company or anything else, here’s what I would recommend doing:
- Get your emergency fund in place. Anything you can save will help.
- Secure references or LinkedIn endorsements from coworkers and managers at your current job.
- Update your resume (even if I’m happy in my job, I like to update my resume at least once every quarter). Find or make a visually engaging page that puts your skills front and center.
It won’t make everything suddenly okay if you do get laid off, but it will make the aftermath a little easier to deal with.
Veronica Goin is a writer and editor living in The Hudson Valley. Her work has previously appeared on XOJane, Eco-Chick and her blog. She currently works as a marketing copywriter and is working on her first novel.
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