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5 Things to Do after You Lose a Job

walking_the_railsAnyone remember when job creation and unemployment were the priorities of the election? Anyone remember the doom and gloom people projected following our last election? Anyone remember this New York Times article from last month reporting that unemployment was at its lowest rate since 2009? How about these numbers from the Department of Labor backing up this article?

Me neither.

What I do remember is the irony that when I was hired in 2009 by Intersections, the Recession was in full swing with the Unemployment Rate clocking in at 9.6%. And at the beginning of 2012, where a variety of news outlets from around the world were all noticing an economic turnaround at the beginning of 2012 and the rate of 8.5%, I got downsized.

I’ve learned a lot since that time, the reality being that if a company or non-profit needs to get out of the red and into the black, layoffs will happen. Each layoff is different. Some employers treat you with respect and regret, and others don’t blink at blind-siding you and getting you out of the door. It’s hard to predict how bad news like this will come, but I can say there are five things to keep in mind when a rug is yanked out from under you.

1. Don’t panic. Flipping out is easy to do when this news hits; and it’s not going to help anyone. If it does anything, it’s going to make you look like a chump. When I was let go by Intersections, I took a deep breath, and thought, “Go out with class.” When all the formalities were done, I looked the EVP in the eye and said, “It’s been a good run. Thank you.”

Keep it together. Keep it classy.

2. DO. NOT. MELTDOWN. THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA. This was particularly tempting when, with another employer, I was let go under suspicious circumstances. Knowing what I knew about budgets, clerical errors, and executives denied what they really wanted, I knew this whole affair was unethical. When I got home, I felt an urge to go off completely, drop names, and face the fallout; but with my fingers over the keyboard, I paused.

I thought about it. Really thought about it.

What would have sharing my anger and ire accomplished? Social Media still has yet to shake its bad reputation for being all about the meltdowns, as if Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are nothing more than the therapist’s couch online. Remember that when you go public on social networks, you are going public. How do you want to be remembered at your job and represented online?

Instead of the meltdown, I enjoyed a scotch and cigar on my patio, lit a fire in the firepit, and proceeded to Step 3.

3. Get organized. Whether it is the day of your release or the morning after, your priority should be to check, update, and review your LinkedIn page. Upgrading to a “Premium” account in order to get a few extra bells and whistles is a nice option, but not one I would deem a necessity. Another part of getting organized is to look over your accounts. Look up how much your spending, where you can make your dollar stretch, and what you will need to meet your financial obligations. Set up and maintain spreadsheets not only of your bills and money coming in and going out of your household, but also for the jobs you are applying. Track where you have sent your resume, what you’ve applied for, when, and from where you found the job opening. On your job tracking spreadsheet, you will also want to keep track of any responses so you have an idea of how well your resume is performing.

4. Keep it classy (and smart) when reaching out for references. At the time of downsizing, you have a window of opportunity — preferably within the first week of the layoff — in securing some terrific references. I reached out to the Intersections’ executives I dealt with directly and sent the following note:

I wanted to thank you for two-and-a-half terrific years with your company, Intersections. I’m looking back on my time with you all, and I’ve got nothing but positive experiences staring back at me. Intersections gave me a chance when no one else would, and Intersections stood by me through one of the darkest times of my life. Couple that with the opportunities and accomplishments I enjoyed while working there, all I can say is “thank you.” My only regret was that Intersections could not find a place for me.

Each version of this letter was different, personalized for each executive I approached. Within ten minutes I had my first reply. From the C.E.O. Two days later, I had his letter of recommendation.

However, as I stated earlier, every layoff is different. Even after being assured by an executive of another employer that I could turn to him for a positive, worthwhile reference, I considered days later that this was the same executive who had approved my dismissal with no reason in writing, after a solid 90-day review given in the previous month. Could I trust this executive?

Be smart and be savvy in whom you approach for references. In the case of circumstances that can only be described as “sketchy” it’s best to find references elsewhere.

namaste5. Enjoy some downtime for yourself. Yes, you have a workload ahead of you between updating resumes, collecting references, and planning for the job hunt ahead. You also need to make time for you. The night my Intersections layoff happened, I had plans with friends that my wife suggested I cancel. “No,” I told her. “I don’t want to hide. I want to be around friends.” All weekend, I did just that. Friends, neighbors, and, of course, family. Manage this newfound time you find yourself having by banking some quality memories with your family, or broadening your skillset. Your job hunt will be there, waiting for you once you get back from what you’ve set aside for yourself. Prepare yourself for your job hunt. Don’t obsess over it.

There will be some days that are going to be easier than others. By doing some footwork immediately afterward, though, you feel like you’re taking the right steps. If you find yourself in an unexpected, unwanted career change, maybe this blogpost will give you some tips in keeping your career on track.

And when in doubt, head back to Tip #5 and find some time with friends. Laughter makes everything — even getting laid off — a bit more tolerable.