Woman in black sleevelessblouse with the back of her head leaning on a window.

Being laid off can be a deeply unsettling experience. You would likely feel a range of emotions, from sadness, grief and anger to confusion and even relief. Many individuals face job loss at some point in their careers. With the right approach, you can overcome this challenge and emerge stronger.

Related: Building your personal brand

How to recover from layoffs and get back on your feet

1. Acknowledge and process your emotions

woman thinking

Job loss can trigger a rollercoaster of emotions. Acknowledge and validate your feelings, whether they be sadness, anger, or even fear. Talking to trusted friends, family, or therapists can provide a safe space to process these emotions.

-Don’t bottle up your emotions: Bottling up your feelings can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms and hinder your ability to move forward. Allow yourself to express your feelings in a healthy way, whether through journaling, talking to a trusted confidant, breaking things in a rage room, or engaging in activities you find therapeutic.

-Seek professional help if needed: If you’re struggling to cope with the emotional impact of job loss, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a therapist or counsellor. They can provide guidance and support as you navigate this challenging time. It is not easy to take the first step to ask for help. If you are not mentally ready for a face-to-face talk, consider calling a counselling service helpline.

Maintain a positive outlook

Though the situation may seem overwhelming and immobilising, it’s important to remember that this phase is only temporary. Keep your sights set on the future, maintaining an optimistic outlook as you navigate forward. Recognise that being laid off, like many workers laid off during economic downturns, is a strategic business decision that could be due to various factors such as the need to cut costs or poor performance elsewhere in the company. It's not a measure of your professional capabilities or worth.

-Reframe your perspective: Instead of viewing your termination as a setback, see it as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. This shift in perspective can empower you to approach your job search with a more positive and proactive attitude.

-Focus on your strengths: Reflect on your skills, accomplishments, and experiences. Recognising your strengths can boost your confidence and self-belief as you embark on your job search journey.

Related: 5 ways to use negative feedback to your advantage

2. Understand your rights and finances

Sitting in front of a chart, a woman in an office setting looks at some paperwork.

Understanding your employee rights and financial standing is crucial after a layoff. With the right approach, you can lay a solid foundation for your next career move.

Review your severance package

Carefully review the terms of your severance package, including any severance pay, continuation of benefits, and outplacement services that could have a significant impact on your financial well-being. If you have questions, discuss them with your HR department or seek legal advice.

-Don’t rush into signing anything: Take your time to thoroughly understand the terms of your severance package before signing any agreements. Seek legal counsel if necessary to ensure your rights are protected.

-Negotiate your severance package: Depending on your circumstances, you may have some room for negotiation regarding your severance package. Consult an employment lawyer to understand your options and explore potential negotiation strategies.

Explore unemployment benefits

Research and understand the unemployment benefits available in your country. Knowing your eligibility and application process can provide financial security during your job search.

-Contact your local unemployment office: The unemployment office in your area can provide information about eligibility requirements, application procedures, and benefit amounts.

-Seek assistance from non-profit organisations: Some organisations offer resources and support to individuals facing job loss. These organisations can help you navigate the unemployment benefits system and connect with other valuable resources.

Related: 13 common job interview questions and sample answers

Create a budget

Assess your savings and expenses to create a realistic budget. Identify areas where you can cut costs and prioritise essential spending to manage your finances effectively.

-Track your expenses: If you haven’t already, start monitoring your spending habits to identify areas where you can adjust your budget. Use budgeting apps or spreadsheets to track your income and expenses effectively.

-Seek financial counselling: If you’re struggling to manage your finances, consider seeking professional guidance from a financial advisor or counsellor. They can help you create a personalised budget, explore debt management strategies, and navigate financial challenges during your job search.

-Find temporary work: While taking time to strategise your next career move is vital, sometimes the need for income is urgent. Finding temporary work doesn’t have to derail your long-term career goals.

While you secure immediate income through temporary, freelance or part-time work, you can continue your job search for a permanent position that aligns with your aspirations. If you’re in this situation, here are some resources to help you find temporary work and bridge the financial gap:

  • Explore the gig economy: Platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer connect businesses with individuals offering various skills and services. From writing and editing to graphic design and programming, these platforms provide diverse opportunities for project-based work.
  • Look for contract or temporary jobs: Staffing agencies specialise in placing individuals in temporary or contract positions. Depending on your experience and qualifications, these roles range from administrative support to specialised technical skills.
  • Utilise online job boards: Major job boards, like our Michael Page job portal, often feature sections dedicated to temporary and freelance positions. Use relevant keywords and filters to find opportunities that align with your skills and availability.
  • Contact your network: Let your professional network know you’re available for short-term projects or freelance work. Former colleagues, clients, or acquaintances may have leads or referrals to provide immediate income opportunities.

3. Redefining your career path: Reflection and exploration

A woman holding a mobile phone and looking out the window.

Before diving headfirst into applications, take some time to reflect on your aspirations and redefine your professional path.

Uncover your “why”

Ask yourself what excites and motivates you in a career. Do you crave the intellectual challenge of a specific field, or are you drawn to roles that offer opportunities for creativity and problem-solving? Identifying your intrinsic motivators will guide you towards fulfilling career options.

Explore new horizons

Instead of confining yourself to the boundaries of your previous role, embrace the opportunity to delve into new industries or fields that spark your curiosity.

By researching emerging trends and pinpointing areas where your existing skills and experience could seamlessly transition, you open the door to many possibilities that align more closely with your interests and aspirations.

-Identify skill gaps: Analyse the requirements of your desired jobs and identify any skill gaps you may have. Utilise online resources, job postings, and industry reports to understand the in-demand skills for your target positions.

-Explore online learning platforms: Numerous online platforms, such as Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning, offer courses and certifications to help you acquire in-demand skills. Many platforms offer free trials or introductory courses, allowing you to explore their offerings before committing.

-Focus on practical application: Don’t just focus on theoretical knowledge; actively apply your newly acquired skills through projects, volunteering, or freelance work. This practical experience will enhance your learning and make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers.

-Consider alternative learning methods: Volunteering or taking on freelance projects can provide valuable practical experience to complement your online learning.

Related: Top 12 benefits of networking: Why networking is important

Clear your mind

A well-defined objective streamlines your job search. Instead of applying to every available position, focus on opportunities that align with your newfound direction. This targeted approach saves time and increases your chances of landing a fulfilling role. Self-reflection is not a one-time event.

As you progress through your job search, revisit your goals and aspirations regularly. This ongoing evaluation ensures your actions align with your evolving vision for the future. By prioritising introspection and exploration, you can transform a challenging experience into a catalyst for personal and professional growth.

4. Prioritise your mental health and well-being

An elderly man in a work suit with red tie dancing with eyes closed, while wearing headphones.

Whether you prefer to do light yoga or run regularly exercise, eat nutritious meals or check off your list of new restaurants to try, create habits that can contribute to your overall well-being and resilience during your job search. The key is to go at your own pace. Some might jump into a job search a few days after being laid off, while others need more time.

Seek support

Emotions can hit you anytime, not just at the beginning of your layoff. Talking to someone you trust can help you manage stress and navigate the challenges of losing your job.

-Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Techniques like meditation and yoga can help manage stress and anxiety during your job search. Explore various mindfulness and relaxation techniques and find what works best for you.

-Seek professional help: Sometimes, talking to a professional therapist or counsellor can be a more comfortable starting point than speaking with close families and friends. They are trained to listen and provide support without judgment. This can also alleviate the fear of burdening loved ones.

-Join support groups: Connecting with others who are going through similar experiences can reduce the sense of isolation and the burden of sharing. Peer support groups offer a safe space to express feelings and share coping strategies.

-Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that it’s normal to need help and ask for help. Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, concern, and support you’d offer a good friend.

Related: 5 steps to creating your career plan

5. Leverage your network and announce your job search with confidence

A group of 4 adults chatting, smiling and sitting around a wooden table with their laptops on the table.

While updating your resume can wait, updating your LinkedIn profile is crucial before publicly announcing your job search. While acknowledging layoffs can be challenging, the landscape of job searching has shifted significantly.

Career transitions are increasingly commonplace in today’s economy, driven by factors like business restructuring, technological advancements, workforce budget cuts and unforeseen events like the recent pandemic. This widespread understanding has led to a normalisation of openly expressing your “open to work” status on platforms like LinkedIn.

Don’t shy away from expressing your feelings about the layoff situation authentically on LinkedIn. Honesty and vulnerability can resonate with potential future employers, and connections. Some may choose to say they have been laid off while others may not want to.

Do what is comfortable for you. Here are several pointers to consider when writing your LinkedIn post:

-Focus on the future: While acknowledging the past, emphasise your excitement for new opportunities. Showcase resilience and optimism, qualities valued by potential employers.

-Express gratitude: Thank your former colleagues and express appreciation for your time at the company. This demonstrates professionalism and respect.

-Clarity is key: Clearly state your desired role, including details like industry, level, location, and desired work arrangement. This helps connections identify relevant opportunities.

-Utilise professional language: Maintain a professional tone throughout your announcement, avoiding negative remarks about your previous employer.

-Call to action: Encourage connections to share relevant opportunities or make introductions, expanding your reach.

Sample LinkedIn post template

Here is a LinkedIn post template for your convenience. Feel free to copy, paste, and modify it to suit your needs – remember to personalise it before sharing.

“I recently completed my journey at [Company Name] and am now actively seeking new opportunities to leverage my skills and experience in [mention your areas of expertise]. I’m grateful for the valuable experiences and connections I made during my time there.

I’m particularly interested in [mention your desired role and industry], ideally in a [location or remote] setting. My passion lies in [briefly describe what motivates you in your work].

If you know of any relevant opportunities or are willing to connect me with individuals in your network, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your support!”

Related: How to reject a job offer by phone or email (with example emails)

6. Craft a winning job search strategy

A woman looking positive into the distance while holding a tablet.

After taking some time off to process what just happened and grieve as needed, you can start to work on your job search. The first step is to update your resume.

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

Even if you intend to find a new job later, it is always recommended to keep your resume updated so it would be up-to-date if someone requests it.

Naturally, when you update your resume, do the same for your LinkedIn profile. If you decide to start your job search, be sure to tailor your resume to each application, highlighting relevant skills and experiences.

-Use keywords strategically: Identify keywords commonly used in job postings for your target positions and incorporate them in your resume and LinkedIn profile. This can improve your visibility to potential employers who use applicant tracking systems.

-Quantify your accomplishments: Use metrics and data to quantify your achievements on your resume. This will demonstrate your tangible impact in previous roles and strengthen your candidacy.

-Proofread meticulously: Ensure your resume and LinkedIn profile are free of typos and grammatical errors. A professional presentation is crucial for making a positive first impression on potential employers.

Layoffs, while challenging, are opportunities for growth and self-discovery. By following these steps, taking care of yourself, and maintaining a positive outlook, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate this transition, be ready for future employment, and find a new role that aligns with your goals and aspirations.

Read more:
3 effective questions to guide your first 90-day agenda
10 important career lessons most people learn too late in life
Why do I need to tell recruiters and employers my last-drawn salary

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