Help! I Just Got Laid Off. How Do I Move Forward?

Getting laid off is an emotional experience that creates a lot of uncertainty. So what’s the best way to move forward?

By Rebecca Hope4 min read
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Alina Bitta/Shutterstock

A layoff gives you a fresh start. Of course, it’s a stressful and sometimes sad experience, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all negative. Take a moment to mourn the loss, then it's time to shift your mindset. Think of getting laid off as an opportunity. This could be the push you need to apply for the job you really want, or to relocate to the city you’ve always dreamed of living in.

Take a look at people like Melissa Ben-Ishay. She went home crying after she was fired from her advertising job in 2008. Now, she’s the founder of Baked By Melissa, a million-dollar business. You may not become an entrepreneur like Melissa, but with the right mindset and determination, you absolutely can make this layoff just one chapter of your success story.

1. Don’t Panic

Working yourself up into a frenzy after being laid off is easily done. Your mind will likely be filled with cascading thoughts like: “How will I pay my rent?” “How will I eat?” “What if I go into debt?”

Instead of allowing these thoughts to consume you, take this moment to reconfigure your mindset. Acknowledge that being laid off isn’t a reflection of you and your abilities. Usually, it’s a reflection of the company’s lack of proper planning during an unstable economy or simply a change in business strategy. 

Don’t allow thoughts of inadequacy to rule your mind.

Don’t allow thoughts of inadequacy to rule your mind. Instead, create a list of accomplishments, both personal and professional. Think about situations in the workplace where you showed competency, initiative, leadership, creativity, or a great teamwork ethic. Next, explore personal experiences that enabled you to grow as an individual. Write down all of these successes so that when you begin job hunting, you feel confident and calm. You may even need to recall these experiences in your upcoming interviews. Remember: You are capable and intelligent. You can and will find a new job.

2. Maintain a Routine

The temptation after losing your job might be to hide away under the covers, but this can easily lead to depression or, at the very least, unproductive behavior. Instead, maintain a routine by getting up at the same time. If you’re in a negative mindset, find something that will calm your thoughts and lift your spirits. 

This might be meditation, painting, listening to music, or practicing yoga. You may even want to take a short hiatus and embrace nature by camping, hiking, or kayaking. Whatever it is, use it to help you appreciate this time to focus on yourself and your overall well-being. It’ll help you stay focused and composed when you begin your job search. 

3. Define What You’re Looking For

If you’re panicking, it’s likely you’ll send your resume out to hundreds of job vacancies – and most of them you don’t actually want. The advantage of doing this is that you’ll probably find a job quickly, and even if you don’t like it, you can still apply for other jobs. However, you may end up spending more time and energy on a job that isn’t right for you – time and energy that could have been spent finding a new company that aligns more closely with who you are and what you want.

It’s tempting to feel that if you’ve been fired, you’re not in a position to be picky.

It’s tempting to feel that if you’ve been fired, you’re not in a position to be picky, but defining what you want will help you find a job that’s more fulfilling and will positively affect your future success. Plus, if you’ve just been laid off from a job that made you feel unengaged and frustrated, you don’t want to move into another role that makes you feel exactly the same way.

Think about the kind of job you actually want. Do you want to work for a big company or a small company? Are you happy to relocate or would you rather stay in the same location? Think about what’s important to you – the flexibility of working from home or the social aspect of a lively office environment? Would you like to work for a mission-based company or is a big paycheck the most important to you? Defining what you’re looking for will make the job search easier.

4. Make a Job Hunting Schedule

Looking for a job is a full-time job, which is why career coach and strategist Marlo Lyons recommends creating a job hunting schedule. By creating a schedule, you can avoid staring at your computer or feeling guilty you aren’t doing enough job seeking every day.

She writes, “Creating a weekly or daily schedule will keep you on track. Determine when you’ll network and how many people you’ll talk to, which days you’ll search for viable jobs, how often you’ll redraft your resume for the jobs you’re interested in, and how often you’ll practice answering potential interview questions. Creating a schedule and setting your intention and a goal for each day will help you feel accomplished, like you’re moving your job search forward, even if you’re not getting traction right away.”

5. Do a Financial Assessment and Make a Plan

The financial aspect of a layoff is potentially the most stressful part, but it’s important not to bury your head in the sand. Knowing where you stand financially is critical to keeping your anxiety in check. By writing this down, you’ll think realistically, not emotionally.

Knowing where you stand financially is critical to keeping your anxiety in check. 

To do this, create a document to track your current financial situation, taking into account all of your expenses – housing, food, and medical bills – as well as any unemployment benefits you’ll receive. 

If the money going out is higher than what you have in the bank, don’t freak out. Look at what spending you can cut back on. For example, are there any subscriptions you can cancel? Do you really need to buy an oat milk latte from Starbucks every day? If it isn’t an essential, consider cutting it out. Remember, it’s just until you return to work – you’ll be back to bingeing your favorite shows on Netflix in no time!

6. Update Your Resume, Portfolio, and LinkedIn Profile with Keywords

Of course, you’re going to need to update your resume, cover letter, portfolio, website, and LinkedIn profile. However, before updating them, search on job boards for roles you’re interested in applying for. Next, print the job descriptions off and highlight the keywords. These will vary according to industry and role, but look for things such as “technical knowledge,” “excellent communication skills,” “exceptional organization,” and “commercial awareness.”

Keywords are essential in figuring out whether or not your experience is correct for the role, as well as ensuring recruiters can see you have the right skills for the job. You’ll want to incorporate the keywords from job descriptions into your updated resume and LinkedIn profile.

For more help updating your resume, take a look at these articles:

Bonus Tip: Create a “F**k Off Fund”

You may not have had the foresight to create a F**k Off Fund before getting laid off, and that’s okay. But it’s always better to be prepared in case you’re one of the unlucky people who is laid off once again in the future.

The idea of a F**k Off Fund is to save enough money to live for six months without anyone else’s help. It’s a financial security blanket, giving you the power to leave situations that no longer serve you. That could be when you’re being mistreated in a job or relationship – or it could help during economic turmoil when you face getting laid off.

Hopefully, you won’t experience a layoff again. But just in case, it’s always better to be prepared for the worst. 

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