Chances are, you or someone you know has experienced a layoff at some point. No matter how stable and safe your career might seem, getting the so-called pink slip can happen to anyone, especially in today’s economy. Getting laid off is never fun, but there are ways you can prepare yourself both financially and emotionally, just in case you find yourself having that talk with your boss. Layoffs can be incredibly stressful, but they can also lead to successful career reboots, life changes, and entrepreneurial enterprises.
Keep Your Resume up to Date
If you are busy with work, it is easy just to file your resume away and forget it even exists for years at a time. Why would you search for a new job if your current position is fulfilling, lucrative and stable? Because you never know what is around the corner, and it’s always better to be prepared, just in case. So no matter what your job situation is, keep your resume up to date and keep an eye out for new opportunities. It never hurts to look, and it will help ease your stress if you do get laid off, knowing that your resume is in order, and you’re already keeping an eye out for opportunities.
Start a Just-In-Case Fund
Whether you are just starting out in your career or you are a seasoned veteran, it’s wise to have a just-in-case/savings fund. Ideally, you should have at least eight months worth of savings, in case you do get laid off; however, the goal is to set aside as much as feasibly possible to cover your essential expenses in the event of a layoff. And whatever you do, do not invest your savings in stocks or gamble it away thinking it will get you out of a sticky situation. Save your money and set it aside – don’t blow it to make a fast buck.
Read the Fine Print
If you do have that talk with your boss or HR, make sure you request and read all of the contracts and employee documents you signed when you were hired (and any documents or company policies that went into effect after you were hired). Make sure you are getting paid out for any benefits accrued, unused vacation days, or money owed (for example, if your contract states that the company pays you a certain amount for each project completed, things like that). Also, check on your ability to apply for COBRA health benefits or unemployment benefits. You might be surprised what you find if you take the time to comb through your paperwork.
Find out what your company policy is for severance packages. If possible, see if you can also find out what other people who have been laid off have gotten. Do not be afraid to sit down and negotiate some sort of severance package. If your company is folding due to financial issues, that might not be possible. Chances are, though, if you bring your negotiating skills to the table, you could walk away with a little bit of a cushion to help you through the next few months. It never hurts to ask, and you will probably regret it later if you don’t at least try.
Like keeping your resume current and staying on top of new opportunities, networking is something you should be doing whether you are gainfully employed or newly laid off. Invite contacts to coffee or lunch, attend events and meet new people, and make sure you are keeping your name out there, just in case. You never know what opportunities could come out of a conversation you have at an event. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Continuing to network will give you a leg up if you find yourself laid off and looking for work.
Losing your job can be a traumatic experience. Your financial stability is in question, your future is unknown and searching for a new job might seem daunting. One of the most important things to remember when you are newly laid off is to take deep breaths, don't panic and remember that it will get better. Set up a schedule for yourself, so you don't feel adrift during the day, stay busy applying for jobs and networking, and take some time out to remind yourself that as long as you are looking for work, something will come along.
A layoff is a great excuse to take stock of your life and choices and reassess your career. Have you always wanted to live in a different city? Now you’re free to look for work there. Have you been dreaming of a career switch for years? Pursue that. Is becoming an entrepreneur your life’s mission, but you haven’t been able to make it happen because your job kept you so busy? Now is the time to take a good, hard look at your life and go after what you truly want. The results can be better than you imagined.
The Bottom Line
Getting laid off from your job can be an incredibly stressful experience, but there are steps you can take to make the transition a little less rocky. Make sure you have some savings, keep your resume up to date, reach out to your contacts and negotiate severance pay if possible. Remember that a layoff is a great excuse to take stock of your life and go after what you’re truly passionate about.