Laid off or fired? You’re not alone (Part 1 of 4)

Eight experts offer advice on what to do when you’re let go

19844648_sSome people say the job market is improving. Others say not so much. But, whatever the state of the economy there’s always the possibility of getting let go. And whether you’re laid off or fired the experience is traumatic.

I still remember the first time I lost my job. The economy was down and business was slow. While I was in bed with the flu they decided they didn’t need me anymore. To add insult to injury, I was laid off over the phone. Talk about trauma.

Have you ever lost a job? I’ll bet the answer is yes. For this reason, I reached out to several experts with the hope of providing a few tips on what to do when you’re let go. What I got back was a ton of great advice. Everyone’s take was a little different. And I didn’t want to leave anything out.

Hence the one-off article became a four-part series covering the broad topic of ‘what to do when you’re let go.’

In part one, our eight experts answer my first question, ‘What are the first three things you should do when you are laid off or fired?’ Here’s what they had to say.

Bruce A. Hurwitz, Ph.D. - President and CEO
Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, LTD.

Losing a job is like losing a loved one. We identify ourselves by our careers. ‘What do you do?’ is usually the first question we ask a stranger. So the first thing you should do is take stock of what just happened and accept it. You can’t move forward if you are focused on what you consider to be the injustice of your situation.

The second thing you have to do is to take stock of reality. What is your financial situation? Knowing the answer will either put you at ease or light a fire under you to get that next job quickly. Once you have done that you can come up with a coherent plan for securing your next job.

And the third thing is to take a break. Do something for yourself. Take a weekend vacation. Buy yourself a present. Do that one thing that you have not been able to do because you have been working. The point is not to spend a lot of money, but to invigorate yourself by doing something for you.

Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht.
Speaker/Author /Psychotherapy/Clinical Hypnosis

The first thing to do upon receiving this unfortunate lay-off is to allow yourself to “freak out.” Validate your feelings. If you try to suck it up” and put on a happy face too soon, you’re denying reality. Give yourself permission to vent, and then pick a reasonable time to normalize.

Second, normalize by getting up at the same time every day and keeping your body and mind in the same rhythm as when you were working. Your new job is finding a job, unless of course you are fortunate enough to be able to take some time off and travel or just rest. Normalizing also includes taking care of your health(exercise, sleep, proper nutrition).

Third, do something nurturing for yourself’.such as a massage or flowers. You must send a clear message to your ego (which undoubtedly suffered a blow to some degree) that you are there for yourself, and will get through this.

Frank G. Risalvato, CPC
Certified Personnel Consultant/ Recruiting Officer

Give yourself time for remorse, grief, guilt to air itself out. You should not begin interviewing until all your frustrations have vented. A week is a good amount of time.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine
Partner, SixFigureStart’

If you are still in the office and have just received notice of your termination:

Save your contact list (not company clients as they are property of your former employer but your personal list that may have gathered on your office computer). Get the personal contact info of your colleagues so you can keep in touch. You need your network;

Save any work that is not confidential and can be used as samples for your portfolio;

Read your company’s severance policy so you know what you can expect to be offered as severance in the termination meeting. If your company does not have an official policy, see if you can find someone (a friend in HR, a laid off colleague) who may know what is customary;

Get alignment with your company as to what the public story will be on your layoff. How much detail with they disclose to employees, to the public;

Update your resume and check with your company to see if a transfer to a subsidiary or vendor or other partner company is possible. Let your employer help you in your search!

If you have already left:

Calculate your cash position. You need to know how much time you have to search before finances become dire. Calculate severance, savings, and any access to liquid assets (tapping into retirement funds or home equity and running up credit cards should be last resort options);

Update your resume so you are ready if you hear about opportunities. Don’t forget to update your online profile too as many recruiters use social media to look for candidates;

Start reconnecting with your network. Share your new status but focus on getting back in touch, not asking for help right away;

Take time off but not too much time. A lot of jobseekers underestimate how long a search can take. If you take too much time off in the beginning you cut into your cash stash more than necessary and may make your search more desperate later on.

Cheryl Heisler
Lawternatives: Career Consulting for Lawyers Exploring Alternatives

When you get called in to HR and the axe is about to fall, the single most important thing you need to do is listen. You will undoubtedly be rocked emotionally, but if you can stay cool, calm and collected and hear exactly what is being said to you, you will have a better chance of making smart decisions later.

Take notes if you want to get the words exactly right, but don’t say anything! Now is not the time to argue or defend yourself…the decision has been made and you need to get the whole picture from the company’s point of view before you begin to plan your strategy.

Richard S Deems, PhD
WorkLife Design

First, take time to read about the Job Loss Reaction Cycle and realize there is a normal ‘grieving’ process to job loss. It is normal, everyone we know who’s lost a job has gone through it, so be aware of it, keep track of your own emotions and work through to Acceptance and Affirmation as fast as possible.

Second, take a look at your finances. Cut back where you can, let everyone in the family know that finances will be a concern in the next few weeks/months. If you can’t make a payment when due, then contact the business BEFORE the payment is due, explain what happened, and ask for their patience. Note: keep notes on all conversations (who, when, where, what was said and any agreements).

Third, set up your own space for your job search. The kitchen table doesn’t work. You need space for your computer and printer, phone, and files that you will be developing. When you are in this space, you are ‘at work’, since your job now is to get a new job. It is not a time to babysit, or go get groceries, or…

Jennifer Fishberg, Ed.M.
Owner, Career Karma

Allow yourself to grieve the loss — losing a job is one of the most stressful life events you can go through.

Build your support network. For many people, losing their jobs may also mean losing touch with work friends and colleagues. Consider joining local groups where you can meet with other job seekers or folks in your industry, both for support and networking. Online groups are great, but look for opportunities to meet in person too. Meetup.com is a great resource for specialized local networking groups.

Approach your job search as you would any project and begin by creating a workable plan with measurable goals. This includes some serious self-assessment about your career goals, updating your resume to include your most relevant accomplishments, and building a list of enthusiastic references. This last point can be sticky if you were fired. Even if your immediate supervisor isn’t a fan, there may be other colleagues you developed a good working relationship with. Just be sure to get permission before using someone’s name.

Charles Purdy
Senior Editor, Monster+HotJobs

First, try to stay calm. That is, don’t react in anger, and try to keep a check on your emotions. Don’t sign anything and don’t leave until you get all your questions answered (about severance packages, continuing insurance, and so on). Take notes. Request that the HR representative (or person doing the laying off) provide information in writing. If it’s appropriate, ask for letters of reference, etc.

Second, update your resume; make sure it includes relevant achievements from your most recent job, and get your resume on Monster and LinkedIn and on your blog. You need to be findable online. Follow up with former coworkers (adding them to your network and asking for recommendations if appropriate).

Third, I would say that before you begin working your network and applying for jobs, you should craft a plan, and make sure you’re clear about what your goals are. Don’t just start emailing your contacts saying, ‘I’ve been laid off; help!’ Think about what you want, so you can develop a targeted approach. A layoff can be an opportunity consider new career paths or career diversification, or new training and education. Part of your plan should be budgeting.

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA is Executive Editor of career-intelligence.com. Having changed careers several times, including working as a career coach, she has a unique perspective on career management. In addition to being a writer, recruiter and speaker, she contributes career-related articles to various other sites including ForbesWoman.

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