The Essential Guide to Layoff Survival

John Krautzel
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Getting laid off from your job can leave you feeling rejected, hopeless and worried about your future. The key to surviving a layoff lies in setting the wheels of success in motion from day one. While others may be reeling from the shock and feeling sorry for themselves, you can be preparing for a bright future immediately upon receiving the disappointing news. Follow this survival guide to navigate a layoff.

Day One

Immediately after receiving the news — or even during the conversation — take notes on all the details provided to you. If the employer offered you severance pay or promised to compensate you for unused vacation time, write it down in case there are discrepancies when your final check arrives.

It is completely natural to feel an onslaught of emotions after being laid off from your job. Right after receiving the news, take a few quiet moments to yourself to work through your emotions. Whether you step into an empty office, sneak away to your car or escape to the restroom, take some time to cry, scream or otherwise vent your stress alone.

After you have processed your grief internally, talk to a family member, spouse or trusted friend. This lets you gain another perspective on the situation and also builds a support system to help you through your impending job search.

Week One

Within the first week of being laid off, register for unemployment compensation benefits with the local employment office in your state. There may be a limit on the amount of time you have to apply for benefits, so do not let your window pass. If you have received a severance package from your employer, be honest about it during the application process for unemployment benefits.

Talk to any colleagues or supervisors from your previous employer with which you still have a good relationship. Ask them if you can maintain contact in the future, as this lets you call on them in case you need a reference for a new employer.

Discuss with your family how you can cut unnecessary spending during your transition period. Shop around for cheaper rates on car and homeowners insurance to try to save money, cut back on entertainment and dining out expenses, and clip coupons to save on grocery bills.

Month One

Within the first month after your layoff, make lists to help with your job search. Write a list of 50 people you know within your career industry, build a list of 100 employers for which you want to work, create a list of 25 job duties you handled in your previous positions, and make a list of five new skills you want to learn at your next job. Update your resume to reflect your latest position.

Visit job boards, including Monster, CareerBuilder and Craigslist, to find open positions in your area. Carve out time every day to check these sites, and make sure your resume is updated on career sites such as LinkedIn.

If your finances allow or your severance check was large enough, take a break to clear your head. Even a brief and inexpensive vacation gives you a chance to recharge, relieve stress and gain new perspective on your future.

Quarter One

Within the first three months after your layoff, send out resumes and cover letters for any job that catches your attention. Go on every interview you are offered, and be honest about the layoff and your current unemployed status. Consider every meeting as an opportunity to brush up on your interviewing skills, always dressing and conducting yourself professionally. After every interview, send a thank-you note to the hiring manager and follow up as promised.

Be sure to keep good records during your unemployment. Create a spreadsheet to track applications you have sent; record the date, the company name, the contact name, the job title and the method of application. Create a second tab for interviews you attend; keep track of the date and contact information for all interviewers, thank-you notes sent and follow-up conducted. Consider using another tab to track job fairs and conversations with recruiters, and keep another to record your unemployment compensation claims. Your state's unemployment compensation office may require you to provide proof of your job search, so these records can hold helpful information.

In addition to devoting time to your job search, it is also a good idea to reserve time for a hobby. Revisit an activity you enjoyed previously, or take up a new hobby that appeals to you. This provides a creative outlet to help you relieve stress and may even lead to connections that can assist with your job search.

Instead of thinking of your layoff as a failure, look at it as an opportunity for transition and personal growth. As soon as you are given the news of a job loss, begin taking the necessary steps to find new employment. Recognize that while the job search process may take time, there is something you can do every day to improve your situation and survive the layoff.

Photo Courtesy of Ekaterina Alarcon at



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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks @Sylvia for your comment. It is true that it's best to just into the job search right away. You are used to working an 8 hour day so why not just continue your normal schedule and do your job searching and networking. Oh yes - by all means, if you can - get a letter of recommendation and ask for references, too. As long as you weren't fired for cause, most companies will be willing to accommodate your requests.

  • Sylvia L.
    Sylvia L.

    This is great advice, and I appreciate how everything is chunked according to time. If you're in a situation where you need a job, however, I'd say it is important to immediately jump on applying for other work. Three months is a long time to go without income. In addition to these suggestions, I'd add that when you're being laid off, it's a good time to ask for a letter of recommendation. You'll need it with new applications, and unless you were "laid off" as a gentle way of avoiding termination, they'll likely be eager to help.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jacob couldn't have said it better myself. Connections are so important at this time as is getting things organized. Dwelling on the past is not going to allow you to move forward to something even better than what you just left behind.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    It is remarkable how getting back to basics and slowing down can really help a person focus in those life-altering moments. Taking the time to review your connections and network or building a spreadsheet to help track the details are great tools to help stay focused on moving forward rather than dwelling on the past.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks @Lorri. So very true. It's easy to get sucked into a vortex of despair. Allow yourself a little bit of time to grieve for what you lost and then get busy with the job of finding your next job/career. Sometimes being laid off is good because it gives you the opportunity to assess your skills, look at other careers, dream a little and maybe go in a completely opposite direction. The sky could definitely be the limit.

  • Lorri Cotton
    Lorri Cotton

    The key to surviving a layoff is to find that one great positive in a big sea of negatives, then you can keep yourself from becoming stuck in self-pity. Don't throw yourself a "pity party." If you let yourself get down, be careful, depression will suck you in. If you cry it out, let it go, and get going, looking for a new job, you might strike gold. The layoff might turn out to be a good thing. This article is so full of information to help a newly laid-off person find a new job. Use it as a resource.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. So very true @William. Give yourself time to grieve but don't wallow in self-pity. After a day or two, pick yourself up and start anew. @Catherine great advice on seeking on a mental health professional if you need to. If you find yourself wanting to sleep all of the time and cutting out family and friends - get an appointment with mental health immediately. Depression is no fun and there are so many things to help get through this time. So true that you are not alone. Most of us have gone through a layoff at least once in our lifetime. Use these general steps to help you move on. And, as @D.L. states - start your job towards your next great job adventure as soon as possible. Keep a schedule and treat your job search as a fulltime job. Get up at normal time, get ready for the "work" day and get busy. Keeping a schedule will help to keep you grounded. We wish you all the best moving forward.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    It seems to be important that you don't miss any of these early steps or you may sabotage things down the road. Definitely give yourself time to grieve, but then don't dwell on it. Express yourself in healthy ways and realize that you're not the only one who has gone through this and, just like everyone else, you come out better for it.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    Very sound advice. I find that in situations where something major is out of my control (looking for a job, health crisis, etc.), it helps to do those things that are in my control. Being organized, making the lists that this article suggests, and keeping track of interviews will not only help you to land another job- it will make you feel productive and confident.


    Times of unemployment can potentially cause depression in some people. I believe that, in addition to the suggestions above for getting back on your feet and returning to the workforce, people who have been laid off also need to consider their mental health and mood. During times when I was unemployed, I found that keeping a tight schedule of daily activities was key to preserving my sanity. This meant waking up at the same time every morning and acting as if I had a full day of work ahead of me. I also found that I needed to practice self- compassion and seek out the support of family and friends.

  • D. L.
    D. L.

    These are good tips, but one thing I must mention is that people shouldn't wait three months before sending out resumes. I agree that people need to get their situation and spending squared out the first few days that they're laid off, but one should start searching an applying for jobs as soon as possible.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for your comments. Many people, when laid off, try to just put their head in the sand - hide out from family, friends and former co-workers instead of taking the time to really embrace the opportunities that may open up for them. We are embarrassed - ashamed and blame ourselves for the lay off. Taking it one step at a time, after a layoff, can really help us to start moving forward. @Amelia so very true. It's not your former coworkers fault that you are no longer working there. They are probably so sad for you and want to reach out to you but are not sure of the reception they will receive. So you take the first step and reach out to them. Check for them here on Beyond and connect with them. Connect via LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter - or any other social media site. You never know when these contacts can open other doors and other avenues for you.

  • Tara Avery
    Tara Avery

    There's a lot of really great information in here, and I love how it's broken down into periods of time. I think that's the strangest thing about being laid off--all the structure of one's daily routine is upended, along with a hefty dose of stress about what comes next and finding a new position. Breaking things down into manageable pieces seems a great way to keep the overwhelmed feelings at bay.

  • Amelia Freeman
    Amelia Freeman

    I wish I could print this off and hang it on my wall a year in the past. My partner also was laid off and had trouble figuring out what steps to take to find a new job. It seemed so easy for him to get caught up in changing fonts on his resume and one word or two here and there in an attempt to feel productive, but not actually getting anything done. I really like the idea of making the list of duties at a previous job and people you know in the field. It's easy to forget about important connections.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. Layoffs are rough on everyone - not just the employee. Using some action steps can really help keep you focused and moving forward. When I was laid off a few years ago I was devastated. I didn't know what I was going to do and I think I was in denial for a week or so. But then I got my act together and found a great copywriter position to keep me focused. I was able to job search for about half a day and do my copywriting job the rest of the time. Fortunately for me, I was able to get back into a job I love in short order. The truth is that if the new position had come along in the first week after I was let go, I am not sure I would have been amenable to it. I was still in that day one state of mind a week later. Give yourself time to grieve the loss of your job. Get it all out - hurt, anger, fear, whatever emotion you are feeling. Then pick yourself up and get busy moving on to find that next great adventure.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    The steps outlined in the article are great and would have come in handy when my husband was laid off. I saw that my husband struggled with the lack of structure in his daily like after getting laid off .Such a list of actionable steps would have been wonderful for his morale and will definitely help anyone who’s unemployed.

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    These are all great tips. Layoffs can be tremendously good for the soul — even if money is tight. The key, I think, is to try not to panic: instead, focusing on what you really want to do. Is it time for a life change, perhaps? The last time I took time off a corporate job, for example, I decided I wanted to start my own company. It's been nearly seven years and I've never looked back. You can and will make it through the downtime!

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    Great advice! I especially agree with reconnecting with your network. In fact, staying in touch with your network of professionals in the industry is crucial even before a layoff. I would recommend that you stay active in professional organizations at all times so that if a layoff occurs, you have a strong support system to help you find another job right away.

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