When you walked into work today you didn’t think it was possible. Everything was happening the way it usually does: You arrived in the morning, got settled in with coffee and breakfast at your desk, you checked emails, maybe shot the proverbial sh-t with your colleagues and set off on a day of meetings and assignments. But out of the blue you receive a call. No, not a call. The call. A call to head down to HR as soon as possible. Dread sets in as you know what’s coming next: You are being let go.
As invaluable a role as you may play, as great of a job as you may have done it wasn’t enough and because of a larger downsizing you are finding yourself out of a job very unexpectedly. Your head is spinning as HR talks severance and next steps and you stare down the prospect of heading back upstairs to pack up your desk. But as much of a blow as this is, both professionally and personally, don’t let it get the best of you. We have some sage advice for navigating the lay-off waters and coming out better and more successful on the other side.
1. Take The Time You Need: Though it’s difficult to look at the bright side of being laid off, it does give you the opportunity to take a break and figure things out. If you’re fortunate enough to walk away with a severance that will afford you a few weeks or months where you won’t have to really worry about finances, then we definitely encourage to make the most of the down time. Visit relatives, take a class you’ve always wanted to take, hang out with friends and most importantly reflect on what it is you really want to do. Often times we’re moving so quickly and are so pre-programmed into our daily routines, seeing the forest through the trees isn’t a luxury that we have. So give some real thought to what it is you want out of your professional life and vow to follow that path now that you have the chance to do so.
2. Don’t Panic: Now we know it’s a lot easier said than done to say “don’t panic” when you’re facing bills and other financial responsibilities without the income you’ve been used to receiving, but we stand by our suggestion. The worst thing you can do after being laid off is to completely freak out. Of course you’re going to be sad, angry and frustrated. And you’re entitled to feel that way. Allow yourself to feel those emotions. But don’t let them persist and evolve into a panic where you make poor and rash decisions just to find a new job. Trust us, it won’t work out in the long run, leading us to …
3. Don’t Jump At The First Job You See: Look, sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do and you’ll need to take a job that isn’t your everything, but is enough for the time being. But if it’s possible, please don’t take the first job you see because it’s a job. Don’t be willing to take a mediocre job just because it’s being offered to you if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for. Feeling panicked and desperate could leave you stuck with a gig that isn’t at all what you’re looking for and won’t be the progressive step forward you need in your career. As difficult as it might be to not feel this way, don’t feel as if you’re the lucky one to have found a job. You should approach every application, every interview as that company being lucky that you are on the market. With that said, however, if financial necessity is leading you to be a little less picky on the job hunting front and you have to take a job that isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, still keep your eyes open for other opportunities. Don’t rest easy at your new gig if you’ve had to settle and instead keep reaching for your dream job.
4. Reach Out To Trusted Friends and Colleagues: While we get that you may want to lay low in the immediate aftermath of being laid off, once you feel ready and able to, reach out to people in your industry who you trust and respect, especially if you’ve been at a certain company for a while. You might not be as familiar with the broader landscape of your industry and intel from colleagues could prove invaluable in pointing you in the right direction. Professional development aside, there is something comforting about being able to really talk about what you’re going through with someone who understands the dynamics of your job. Your friends are great, but unless they work in a related industry it might be difficult for them to really see the whole picture or help you chart a course forward. Regardless of who you reach out to, though, know that you’re not the first person to experience a career setback and that brighter days are ahead.
5. Get Back Out There, Superstar: After you’ve taken the time you need to get your mind right and to decide how you want to move forward, it’s time to get back out there. Polish up that resume, set up some formal and informal talks with hiring managers and HR folks you might know and pound that pavement. While for a lucky few, a new opportunity might present itself quickly, for others it might take a little longer. You might even have to turn down a few opportunities just to find the one that makes the most sense for you and leads you to where you want to end up down the professional line. But you should feel empowered and comfortable doing that. At the end of the day, being laid off can afford you the opportunity to re-chart your career destiny and the last thing you want to do is simply settle for another role like the one you had if that path isn’t making you happy.