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A Step-by-Step Guide to Handling a Layoff

By Daniel B. Kline - Oct 12, 2017 at 6:02AM

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Losing your job is tough, but you can make finding the next one easier.

Getting laid off can rock your world. In many cases, you don't see it coming and it has nothing to do with your job performance.

Sometimes a layoff truly comes out of nowhere. A larger company might decide it now wants to outsource your department or budget cuts might come down even at a successful business. At a smaller company sometimes the loss of a single customer can force a layoff.

Even when you see the layoff coming ahead of time, it's still not fun when it happens. Despite the shock, misery, and anger losing your job may bring, it's still important to make the right moves after the fact.

A woman points at a computer search box which say "find a job."

When you get laid off, finding a new job should be treated like a job. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Prepare your materials

Once you get laid off, assuming you plan to go back to work, you will need to have a resume and cover letter template prepared. If you have not looked for a job in longer than a year, it's important to research what the correct format for your field is.

For example, in journalism, my chosen field, for a long time resumes were supposed to be limited to one page. In recent years that has changed and multiple pages are now acceptable.

You will want to personalize your cover letter and to a lesser extent your resume for each job you apply for. But, you should prepare a sort of baseline set of documents you can work from each time. Have these copy edited by a professional and checked by someone who works in your field.

2. File for unemployment

Some people who get laid off are embarrassed and they wait too long to file for unemployment, costing themselves money. Unemployment is not a handout. It's insurance that you paid for with payroll deductions. Take what you are entitled to and take it as soon as you can.

3. Go public

Shame can also cause recently laid off people from telling others they lost their job. That's a mistake because it eliminates an important source of potential leads.

Your personal and professional network may be your best asset when it comes to finding a new job. Tell people you are available and make it clear you'd like help in finding your next opportunity.

4. Create a search plan

After you lose your job, finding a new one becomes your job. To make that easier, create a list of job websites you plan to search multiple times each day. Don't forget to include company websites and industry sites where jobs are listed.

Check your list at least twice a day and when an opening gets listed, apply right away. Sometimes the early bird does get the worm, so speed matters, and sometimes being early can be the difference between getting an interview and going in the "maybe" resume pile.

5. Work every angle

Job listings may help you land a new position, but they should not be your sole effort. You should also reach out to human resources or department managers at companies where you would like to work. Let them know that you are available and offer to come in for an informational interview.

You should also attend industry events when possible and do whatever you can to let the people who may soon have an opening that you are looking. Sometimes this type of outreach can help you jump the line and get an interview for a job before it even gets listed.

Be calm and confident

While a layoff can shake your confidence, it's important to move past that. As you look for a job the people doing the hiring will want to see a calm, confident person ready for the next thing.

Even if you don't feel that way, you have to act confident. Focus mentally on all the work successes you have had previously, not the fact that you lost your job. Take a deep breath, be prepared to sell yourself, and treat every day as an opportunity to get where you want to be. 

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