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What to Do if You've Been Laid Off

By Maurie Backman - Jul 9, 2017 at 6:34AM

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Layoffs can happen to the best of us. Here's how to recover.

Sometimes, even the most diligent, hard-working employees fall victim to downsizing. Between 2009 and 2014, for example, an estimated 20% of the U.S. workforce wound up getting laid off. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having lost a job through no fault of your own, here are some key steps you need to take.

1. Cancel the pity party

A layoff can be upsetting and downright shocking, and it's natural to spend some time afterward wallowing in self-pity. But the sooner you pick yourself up and start taking steps to find a replacement job, the less financial upheaval you're likely to experience as a result of your layoff. So while it's fine to take a couple of days to get over that initial blow, don't lose too much valuable time sitting at home in pajamas bemoaning your fate.

Laid off employee with box of belongings


2. File for unemployment benefits

Most workers who aren't fired for cause, but rather lose their jobs due to downsizing or internal factors, are eligible for unemployment benefits. And it pays to file for those benefits right away, especially since it can take a couple of weeks for them to kick in. Though your unemployment benefits won't replace your old paycheck in its entirety, they can serve as a critical source of income while you embark on a new job search. And if you don't have emergency savings, it's especially important that you secure those benefits the moment you're let go.

3. Dust off your resume

The resume you used to obtain your most recent job is not the same document you should be sending out to prospective employers today. Even if you were only employed for a short period of time in between, chances are you picked up some valuable skills at the office that should be highlighted on your resume. Before you apply for new jobs, take some time to review and spruce up your resume so that it reflects your knowledge and performance to date.

4. Start networking aggressively

Though there are numerous job sites out there that can help you find work after a layoff, perhaps the most effective way to land a new job is to network your way into one. A study published on LinkedIn last year found that 85% of all jobs are obtained through networking, so once you have your new and improved resume in order, start reaching out to various contacts, friends, and neighbors to see if anyone knows of an opportunity or can help you get your foot in the door. And if you don't have a LinkedIn profile already, create one immediately.

5. Beef up your interview skills

If you were at your last job for several years before that dreaded layoff occurred, then you may be a bit rusty on your interview skills. That's why it pays to read up on ways to nail your upcoming interviews, and even enlist a friend or two for a couple of trial runs.

Along these lines, you'll need to be prepared to answer what might be the toughest interview question you'll face given your circumstances: Why did you leave your last job? Though it's never pleasant to acknowledge a layoff, you're better off coming clean about what happened than lying or pretending you left on your own. Most hiring managers will understand that just because you were let go doesn't mean you were a bad employee, so just be honest about your circumstances. Furthermore, don't get defensive when talking about your layoff, because that might lead interviewers to think you were somehow to blame for your job loss. Instead, relay the circumstances matter-of-factly and then prepare to move on.

Getting laid off is never fun, but knowing how to handle the situation can help soften the blow. Follow these tips, and with any luck, you'll soon be on your way to a better job than the one you lost in the first place.

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