The Layoff Survival Guide

So with the job loses continuing to grow I thought I should likely dust off an old experience of mine and give you some insights into being layoff.  Yep, I was layoff towards the start of my career.

You see a layoff notice has two parts to it.  One part is fairly easy to deal with: the money side.  The other, the emotional side is much more complex and difficult to deal with.  So from being there myself this is my guide to surviving a layoff.

First let’s get the easier money side of the equation dealt with.

  • Apply for any government benefits you are entitled to at once.  For example, people often think to apply to Employment Insurance (EI) you need your Record of Employment (ROE) from your previous employer.  Actually you don’t need the ROE to start the application.  You can even do the application online.
  • Cut discretionary spending at once.  Don’t wait for things to get worse, just do it at the start and you can survive longer between jobs.  More than anything right now you need more time to get that next job.
  • Start applying for new jobs.  Your goal here is not to get sucked down into self pity.  So to combat that you need something to do.  So your new job is looking for a job.  Update that resume start looking at employment ads.  Plan to apply for on average of one job a day.  Don’t worry if you only meet about half of the criteria for a job, apply anyway.  A little known fact is people often put out ads for their ideal candidate, but if you have the right personality that might train you to do the rest of the job.
  • Make the backup plan.  If you are over half way through your EI claim you may want to devote a bit of time towards knowing what your options are after your claim runs out.  It’s an uncomfortable thought, but it’s much easier to know what going to happen than worry about the unknown.  You might see if you can apply for other government benefits, take a lower paying job or widen the net of your job search (perhaps it is time for a bit of career change).  You might also want to consider upgrading your training if you can get some government help.

Now here’s a look at that totally uncomfortable set of emotional issues that surround a layoff.

  • It’s NOT your fault.  Really!  Now the most common thing people do is blame themselves.  Oh, it was something I did at work.  I didn’t work hard enough.  I could have kept my job if I had been nicer to someone.  The reality is the layoff likely had very little to do with you personally.  Your job was picked because sales sucked, you are in a position who’s job duties are non critical to the company or a thousand other reasons that have nothing to do with you.  Stop blaming yourself, it was not your fault.
  • Don’t lash out at your ‘previous’ employer.  Another common feeling after you stop trying to blame yourself is to get angry and want to lash out at who laid you off. DON’T DO IT!  It will feel good for all of ten seconds and then you are going to regret it.  Instead suck up that anger for a minute and make sure to get a reference letter.  Keep in mind if you were part of a larger layoff you could make life easier on your old boss by writing up a letter for them that they just have to sign.  Now some people are amazed by this piece of advice, but I’ve done it before myself.  It helps your ex-boss.  Most people don’t know what you want them to say, so make it easy and write it up for them.  After all you know yourself best.  Just make sure to attach a note saying this is just a sample letter and they should feel free to write their own if they want to.
  • Get out of the house.  In a very short while applying for jobs you will start to feel that constant worrying and fear.  Am I going to be ok?  What happens when I run out of EI?  Your mind will be filled with doubt, worry and fear.  This just builds up if you don’t do something about it and you could end up lashing out at loved ones.  So get out of the house and make sure to have a walk each day or something that makes sure you get some time to clear your head.  It really helps.
  • Open up to someone. After having a layoff you feel a little shameful and most people don’t want to talk about it.  The reality is you just lost a central piece of your life and it hurts.  You need to talk about it.  Find someone you can trust and open up about it.  It will help, but be careful to not just complain all the time.  You need to mourn for what you lost, but at the same time too much self pity can be destructive to your life.
  • Network.  Now hopefully you are past that shame feeling a bit, because you need to talk to everyone you know about looking for a job.  Tell them your looking for a job and ask if they know anyone who is hiring.  This helps extremely to boost your job search.  Why?  A lot of jobs never get to the want ads, so tap into this market and have a small army of people helping you look for a job.  The more people you tell the greater odds that someone will have heard about some place that is looking for some help.  A case in point on this, out of the seven jobs in my engineering career so far I’ve only gotten one from applying to an ad that I found in the paper.
  • The cold call.  This option takes some guts to do, but again be very useful to finding a new job as it demonstrates you do have some guts.  Think about companies you would like to work for.  Now even if they are not actively looking for people give them a call.  Explain to who ever picks up the phone that you would love to work there and ask who you need to talk to about putting your resume on file.  Most companies will keep a resume on file for a few months in case something does come up.  The file saves the company the cost of full blown search for an employee, so most people check it first before putting in a want ad somewhere.

Now obviously this isn’t everything that can happen during a layoff, but hopefully this guide gets you started.  You will have ups and downs during your search.  Just keep trying and stay positive.  You will get a job eventally.  Best of luck.

8 thoughts on “The Layoff Survival Guide”

  1. Another thing you can do is to check out the courses offered by EI. I heard recently that they have a course called ‘Second Career’ but they also offer courses (and gov’t help) on starting your own business and many other things. Maybe this is a good time to consider what you REALLY want to do all day rather than just falling back in to what you’ve always done.

    And, while looking for another job, consider applying with an agency or posting your resume on some of the job sites. That way, even when you’re not activily looking for a job someone can still find you.

    And one more thing, I was let go last year and the job I found is much better than the one I had. I mentioned this to a few other people over the past year and they all had a similar experience. Hopefully if this happens to you you’ll have the same experience.

  2. Also, use any resources that your work might have. Many corporations work with outplacement agencies that help you revamp your resume, cover letter, help you with interview skills, etc.

    Another piece of advice not all might agree with is if plans are already in place (i.e. paid for), go ahead without guilt. My husband was laid off a few years ago and we had a trip to Quebec planned for the following week. We went anyway, so as not to dwell on the unpleasant stuff. When we got back, he did go into full time job search mode but sometimes you do need a little time – not to feel sorry for yourself, but to REST, especially if the previous job situation was stressful and unpleasant (as it was in his case).

  3. Thanks for this – my husband is going through this situation right now. I will forward this post to him.
    PS- I really enjoy reading your blog.

  4. Jo-Anne & Mintycake,

    Good ideas. Thanks for sharing.


    Best of luck. I know it’s a hard thing to get through. I always viewed my layoff as something I regret not enjoying more. I was so worried about things that I never relaxed and enjoyed a bit of the freedom that came with a layoff.


  5. I just recently got laid off although it wasn’t really related to the whole big economic crisis problem. I was a clerk at the local accounting firm and they simply had to make way for younger junior associates to do my work.

    Either ways I have to thank you for this guidance. There were many emotions that I felt but could not express and you have kinda opened it up for me to allow me to continue on.



  6. Ryan.

    Going through an emotional roller coaster is normal. Losing a job is the 4th most stressful situation in most peoples lives.

    Death of loved one
    Major Illness or health issues

    Anger, fear, frustration, depression, guilt, threat, helplessness…expect the gamut it’s not unusual.

    Keep the mind and body active. Network, network and network. 85+% of the jobs are through networking, not the local newspapers or online.

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