Nobody wants to experience the shock and stress of being terminated from a position of employment. But times have changed, economic forces influence employers more than ever, and rarely does an employee spend a large chunk of his or her career at one single organization. Being laid off is a scenario that most of us will encounter some time in our careers. There are definite DOs and DON’Ts to follow when this situation hits. Follow these tips to lessen your stress-level, decrease the impact on your professional reputation, and quickly get on the path to the next step in your career.
Shock, anger and hurt feelings are natural first-reactions to the news of being let go. Unrealistic thoughts of never working again may enter your head. Realize that many good people have gone through this before you and came out just fine (or even better than before). Keeping calm will help you quickly move on to developing a plan of action for your next steps.
Don’t Burn Any Bridges
It might give a momentary feeling of satisfaction to email blast the details of your firing and describe everything that’s wrong with the company… but keep those emotions in check! Remember that it’s more important than ever to protect your reputation and impress your colleagues with your professionalism.
Don’t Apply for a New Job Immediately
It’s natural to feel anxious about finding a new position quickly, but take some time to assess where you stand before applying willy-nilly to any slightly relevant position. Read the DO’s below for steps to help you move seamlessly into job-hunting mode.
Don’t Immediately Sign a Severance Package
Take some time to carefully look over the agreement. Consider running it by an attorney. You may be able to negotiate for a higher payout.
Get Your Finances in Order
Verify that your 401K, stock options, etc. are in order and understand how they will be processed. Review and tighten up your personal budget for the next few months in case job hunting takes longer than hoped. A realistic viewpoint on your financial status will help you establish guidelines for your job search timeline.
File for Unemployment
File as soon as possible, as benefits can take awhile to start up. You have been paying into the system all your working years, so don’t feel guilty for taking advantage of these social benefits.
Understand Health Insurance Coverage
Consider scheduling any medical appointments you have been putting off while you are still definitely covered. Consult with HR about extending health care coverage through COBRA.
Ask for a Reference
Clarify with your supervisor or HR how your departure from the company will be described and what information they would provide if they are contacted for a reference. If there are basically good feelings about your work, ask specific managers if they would be willing to serve as a reference for you as your job hunt.
Prepare to Describe Your Departure
Before you start interviewing, carefully consider how to describe the circumstances. Write down a few carefully composed sentences and practice them. The emphasis should be on what you learned from the situation — not accusatory or complaining.
Brush Up Your Resume and Your LinkedIN Profile
Make sure you are expressing the message you want to send to prospective employers. It is OK to indicate that your previous position has ended and state that you are looking for a new opportunity. Keep you descriptions to the point and relevant to the industry in which you want to work.
Reach out to ones you have worked with in the past or ask colleagues for recommendations. Inquire if your organization will offer career placement services as part of the severance package. Read more about recruiters and the process in our article “Working With Recruiters: Smart Tips for Maximum Success.”
Reach out to contacts from your previous position and in positive terms describe the situation and express your hope to work with them again in the future. Beyond co-workers, make a list of clients, vendors, etc. who may play a strong role in your networking efforts. We give some tips on where, when and how to network here and here.
Being let go may feel like the worst thing that could ever happen; but many successful people will tell you that a firing was just the push they needed to take their career in a new and better direction. Use this opportunity to reassess your career and lifestyle goals. A qualified and experienced career coach like Merrfeld Resumes & Consulting can be a fantastic asset at this time in helping you define your goals and taking the right steps to start this new and exciting chapter of your career.