It’s the words you never want to hear from your boss, “We have to let you go.” Unfortunately, company layoffs happen more frequently than you think and reached a six-month high in February 2016 particularly in the retail and energy sectors, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Massive budget cuts, loss of business, or a new company acquiring your employer are several scenarios where layoffs occur. More often than not, these situations are unavoidable and impact even the best employees.
During the toughest years of the last recession, I experienced three layoffs during my career. While each situation was difficult, I’m happy to say I’ve survived and became a stronger woman because of it. Based on my experience, here are survival tips to getting through a layoff until you land your next job.
Let It All Out, Then Pick Yourself Up
While it’s important to stay strong and start looking for a job ASAP, give yourself a day or two to internalize what happened. Losing your job is never easy, even if you weren’t happy. You may feel angry, sad, frustrated, or scared. These are all normal emotions to have based on the circumstances. It’s perfectly okay to cry it out, drink some wine, talk it out with your friends, or whatever you like to do to let off steam. Let it out, girl!. However, don’t wallow for too long. The only way to move forward is letting go of what cannot be changed. Again more often than not, being laid off was beyond your control.
Apply for Unemployment — ASAP
For those lucky enough to receive a severance package, you’re one step ahead of those who are without a steady paycheck. However, whatever your situation is, I highly recommend applying for unemployment ASAP.
The federal/state unemployment program provides benefits to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Each state has it’s own unemployment agency or department with different requirements and benefits. For most states, it takes a few weeks to process your claim and paperwork before receiving your first benefit check, which is why it’s imperative you apply ASAP. While typically unemployment benefits do not equal the amount you previously earned, it’s the best way to help you pay for mandatory living essentials (rent, utilities, food) until you find a new job. While it may be worthwhile to find a temporary job to help pay the bills, just know that it lowers the amount of unemployment you receive and may even disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits completely. Think about what works best for your situation.
Re-evaluate Your Expenses
Even if you qualify for unemployment benefits, your monthly budget has likely taken a hit. Now is the time to re-evaluate which living expenses are essential vs. nice-to-have treats. It may seem hard at first, but I promise you’ll survive if you get rid of cable TV or stop going to your bi-weekly mani/pedi appointment. Now is the not the time to buy new clothes or go on a trip. Find ways to save money like cook at home and do your own beauty treatments.
For certain expenses like your gym membership, you may be able to place your account on hold for no charge. This keeps your account open, so you do not incur new sign-up fees once you’re able to start it up again.
Also for those with student loan payments, check with your loan provider to see if you qualify for a forbearance due to temporary financial hardship. Under, forbearance you may be able to stop making payments or reduce your monthly payment for up to twelve months. While interest will continue to accrue during this period, a forbearance can make a substantial difference in surviving a layoff until you’re able to get a new job.
Update Your Résumé and Social Networks
Now that you’re back in the job market, it’s important to take the time to update your résumé. Make sure you highlight your biggest contributions to your former employer and proofread your resume for any mistakes. You want to start applying for jobs ASAP, but don't send in sloppy applications in a rush.
Also, don’t feel ashamed to let recruiters and your network know about your circumstances. Unfortunately, layoffs happen pretty often, so they will understand the situation you are in. In fact, it may work to your advantage so people don't think you were fired or have no sense of company loyalty. It will also let them know you’re available to start work immediately. Just remember to not to speak badly of your former employer or relay too many complex details of the layoff situation. Speaking poorly of your previous boss only makes you look bad and will make future employers think twice about hiring you.
While getting laid off may be difficult at first, it may lead you to bigger and better career opportunities. Stay strong and work hard in applying for jobs, networking, and acing job interviews. After surviving three layoffs, I can attest that I am exactly where I’m meant to be now. Destiny’s Child said it best after all . . .
I'm a survivor
I'm gonna make it
I will survive
Keep on survivin'