How to Handle a Job Layoff: 5 Tips

Everyone in your company has heard the news; layoffs are on the way, and the by the end of the week, at least a few of your coworkers (and possibly dozens of them) will be stepping back onto the job market. When HR calls to schedule a meeting with you, you know this may be your last meeting in this workplace. So what steps should you take immediately after this conversation ends? Here are a few moves that can help you make sure this incident won’t have a negative impact on your career.

1. Stay focused during the meeting.

If your HR mangers are responsible people, at least two of them (or an HR pro and your boss) will be sitting in the room as they deliver the news. They’ll speak in positive terms, and they’ll offer whatever the company chooses to provide in terms of severance, career counseling, and access to unemployment compensation. You may be feeling anxious, but listen closely to what they tell you. And despite their pleasant tones, try to stay in negotiation mode. Apply pressure in order to buy time, maximize your benefits, get paid for your unused vacation days, and get clear confirmation that the layoff had nothing to do with your performance.

2. Leave with dignity.

This goes without saying. As upset as you may be, gather your things quietly and get on your way. You can deal with the aftermath later.

3. Have meaningful conversations with your important contacts.

Some of your friends in the company will probably contact you, or you’ll contact them, after you leave. Make the most of these connections. Don’t just smile and reassure them (as in “Don’t worry about me! I’ll be fine!”) Instead, clearly let them know what you’d like to do next and what you’re looking for. If they offer to do anything for you (including reaching out to another connection, passing on your resume, or even just “keeping an eye out for you”), accept the offer and thank them.

4. Don’t wallow.

Fight the urge to spend a few weeks (or months) stewing over what just happened to you. We live in a culture that teaches us to view job loss as a terrible tragedy or a personal failure, but this simply isn’t the case. This is a minor setback that happens to almost every person at least once during their professional lives. Learn from it, but don’t take a sabbatical from your life in order to process these lessons. Keep moving. Learn on the go.

5. Get up off the mat.

Your job loss may leave you feeling as if there’s something in you that’s broken, stunted, absent, or otherwise set against your “success”. This isn’t true (you’re as smart and competent as anyone else), but it’s possible that you’re throwing yourself at goals that aren’t right for you, or versions of success that you think you should want but actually don’t. Now is the perfect time to recognize these errors and remove them from your plans. You’re against the ropes, and you need to come back swinging. But this time, make sure you’re swinging in the right direction.

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