Laid Off: 16 Ways to Make the Best of a Bad Situation

Updated: June 17, 2009

A layoff can be one of the most stressful events in a person's life. If your number comes up during downsizing, it can feel as if you have lost your reason for being. During this traumatic time, there are some steps you can take to ease the pain and make the best of things.


1. Keep your emotions in check. The first reaction to being told that you are being laid off is fear of loss, and fear is always followed by protective anger. But anger will not do you any good and can harm your exit strategy. Keep your cool.

2. Listen carefully as severance benefits are explained. Your mind may be on what you are going to do next, but what is being offered to you now is just as important. Ask about severance pay, COBRA insurance, your 401(k) plan and so on.

3. Ask about references. It's reassuring to know that you can get one from your former supervisor.

4. Make sure that you collect all of your personal things. It is unlikely that you will be allowed back in the office once you leave.

5. Go home and grieve for a few days. Grief is a natural reaction to being laid off and is the first step in the healing process. You have to stop denying that the layoff happened and accept it. That is what grief is about.

6. Don't blame yourself. Employees are selected to be laid off for reasons that are often beyond their control. Don't look for reasons why you may have brought the layoff upon yourself.

7. Commit to the change. Once you have accepted the layoff's reality, make a commitment to drive the change in your life instead of letting it happen to you.

8. Make concrete plans. Create to-do lists, schedules and action plans so that you can keep your life structured and measure progress toward your goals.

9. Apply for government unemployment benefits. Do this immediately, and participate in retraining and job-placement programs.

10. Keep to a schedule. Get up at the same time as you did when you had a job. Treat your job search as if it was your new job and show up for it on time every day.

11. Take advantage of outplacement services, if they are offered. Such services include training in job-search and interview skills that most people seldom practice. Outplacement services can also provide support and encouragement during this troubled time.

12. Get out of the house. Go out and exercise at the time you would normally leave for work. Some people treat a library or a job-training center as if it was their new office. The change of scenery can focus your mind on job hunting and help you avoid depression.

13. Polish up your résumé. Taking stock of your achievements will help ease the pain of the layoff, and setting a new career objective will help you focus your job-search efforts.

14. Take stock of your contacts. Make a list of everyone you know, and don't avoid them. It's tempting to hide sheepishly when you have been laid off, but this is the time to renew your acquaintances and let them know that you are available for work.

15. Update or create your Facebook or LinkedIn profile. Employers are using social networks to look for employees these days, so make these sites work for you.

16. Revise your household budget. Make painful cuts now to avoid even more painful ones later. Never assume that unemployment is going to be brief.

Being laid off is never easy. Taking these steps can help ease the pain and get you back on track to a rewarding new job.

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