We pressed pause on our stash of reader-submitted questions to answer a pressing one that’s affecting nearly 150k tech workers this year:
What should you do when you’ve been laid off unexpectedly?
We know this is a challenging moment in more ways than one, and our hearts go out to everyone who’s been touched by mass layoffs.
While it’s near-impossible to see the bigger picture in the moment, you’re in control of your career — and a layoff might actually be a blessing in disguise.
We spoke with David Fano, the CEO and co-founder of career growth platform Teal, and Josh Robertson, a customer experience professional who went through the layoff process firsthand (and landed a new gig).
Here are their tips for handling an unexpected layoff and coming out the other side:
Take a minute: You might sense the layoff is coming before it’s official. Office rumors or foreboding calendar invites are often a dead giveaway.
Fano advises using the time before a layoff to your advantage by getting your affairs in order. Write out your accomplishments and the projects you were part of (a good practice to keep up regardless), download your email contacts, or connect with colleagues on LinkedIn.
Next, take a breath. “Do not immediately sign the exit agreement, because that’s your moment of leverage,” says Fano.
After reading the severance agreement carefully, consider your priorities and what would make the transition easier for you.
If health insurance is most important, you could negotiate for longer coverage in exchange for a smaller severance. Similarly, if you need to keep your work laptop, or buy yourself one more month on payroll, negotiate for that. Worst-case scenario, your employer says no.
This is also a time to prioritize your mental health. Fight the urge to jump into action, and take care of yourself first.
“The first thing I did was set [up] an appointment with my therapist because I knew I was going to have a range of emotions at that moment,” says Josh Robertson, who found out he’d been laid off when his work computer went dark.
Put the call out: When it feels right, alert your network that you’ve been laid off and are looking for a new position.
The initial call to your network is an important moment, so make sure you’re ready to jump at any and all opportunities that come your way. Use the opportunity to sell your skills rather than looking for emotional consolation.
“You only get one chance to do this, so be strategic and deliberate,” says Fano.
A LinkedIn post is a great way to start. Fano recommends authoring a single post that quickly touches on the fact that you’ve been laid off (without writing anything negative about your previous employer) and then jumps directly into what you’re looking for next.
Get granular and mention the types of companies and positions you’re looking for. Make the post clear, concise, and focused on how your network can help you.
“The job search at the end of the day is a sales and marketing funnel,” Fano says.
Be sure to prepare all your outward-facing platforms (personal websites, social media, etc.) for inbound marketing while you work on your outbound (networking and applying to jobs). This includes your resume: Robertson hired a professional resume editor to help get him up to snuff.
Stay open minded: When applying, don’t let rejections get you down. Robertson says he applied for nearly 700 jobs before finding his perfect position.
“What I see is people being unrelenting in what matters to them, sometimes to a detriment, which makes for a prolonged job search,” says Fano.
Put ego aside and make sure you’re making decisions for the right reasons. Don’t let a title or a trivial salary cut distract you from the long-term picture.
Progress is not always linear. Identify what your personal priorities are, and eliminate any decisions made because of external judgments or fears.
Bottom line: Ultimately, Fano notes that most people nowadays switch jobs or companies every two to three years. When looking for a new role, let that alleviate some of the pressure. Job hunting while you have a job is much easier, and the new role you take doesn’t have to be forever.
Or, it could be. A layoff, in hindsight, could be a serendipitous moment in your career. When one door closes, another opens.