Tips for Living Through a Layoff
From polishing your resume to networking, here's how to get through—and prepare for—tight job markets.
Jill Gugino Panté had tried to warn her husband, Jonathan.
Update that resume. Get some more training. Bolster your skills.
In other words: Be prepared.
You probably know what’s coming next: He didn’t listen. So when he and his colleagues were called into an emergency meeting and notified that they might be laid off, a siren finally sounded, loud and clear.
The good news? He still has his job. The better news? The resume he neglected for almost 10 years has since been freshened, and he is actively sharpening his professional skills.
Panté’s husband is now executing what most experts consider to be the smartest layoff-survival strategy. By planning ahead for the unexpected, he is preemptively minimizing the fallout of any job upheaval in the future.
Of course, preparation alone will never eliminate the stress of a layoff. But it sure does help.
FIVE STAGES OF LAYOFF GRIEF
Denial and isolation: The classic first reactions to a layoff typically aren’t pretty. “Are you kidding me? They’re laying me off and not Bob in accounting? Unbelievable! Just wait until they try to continue on without me. That place is doomed. They’d better not even think about calling me for details on the Baker account. I’m gone.”
Anger and spite: After the initial shock wears off, it’s natural for disbelief to turn to fury. “They had it out for me ever since I brought healthy snacks to that staff meeting. What a bunch of losers! I should give the competition a bit of information they’d love.”
Bargaining: Once faced with the reality of the layoff long enough, you start figuring out small ways to get back on track. “I could work part time for Linda on a project basis. I really liked working for her. And perhaps they’ll need some extra help when they land that new contract. I should let them know that I’m here."
Depression and procrastination: It’s hard to rev the engines every morning after a layoff. “What’s the use of getting up? I don’t actually have anything to do. I’ll just lie here for another half-hour. Then I’ll get up and start looking for a new job. Wait, what time is it? Noon? Oh, well—might as well wait until tomorrow.”
Acceptance: You wholeheartedly commit to finding a new job. “Layoffs happen. Nobody is immune. I can apply for unemployment. I’ll fix up my resume and update my LinkedIn profile. I hear there’s a conference nearby that I can attend. Time to get to work.”
“If 2008 taught us anything, it’s that people were very unprepared when layoffs came,” says Panté, director of the Lerner Career Services Center at the University of Delaware. “We are in a very high employment cycle right now. Eventually, it’s going to fall.”
So what else should you do while you’re employed?
First, make sure your resume is in good shape and ready for immediate distribution. Second, join as many industry groups as you can: In the event that you need to find another job, you’ll have better access to information about other companies. Third, take advantage of any available training opportunities. Increased certification always makes you more marketable, especially in tight job markets.
But what if a layoff happens?
Stacey Laing, director for the Division of Employment and Training at the Delaware Department of Labor, recommends applying for unemployment compensation, which pays laid-off workers in Delaware for 26 weeks. She also advises making a trip to one of the Employment and Training offices to learn about available resources, as well as visiting the state’s online employment database at joblink.delaware.gov.
“The website matches workers with jobs throughout the state,” Laing says. “You just create an account, post a resume and start to look for work. There are a lot of career exploration tools there. It’s one of our best-kept secrets.”
Networking is also vital: Attending events, meeting new people and reconnecting with existing acquaintances are often the best ways to learn about openings.
Laing suggests making sure all your social media accounts are up to date and as professional-looking as possible. She also emphasizes that a layoff is the best time to investigate a new career. “You can look for a job you are passionate about,” she says. Volunteering is also important, she notes—it’s a good way to show future employers that you are serious about keeping busy.
In the end, don’t let a downsizing get you down. And remember: If you prepare for a layoff before it happens, Panté says, “it won’t be so jarring.”