Surprising Tips For the Recently Laid Off

You’ve been with your company for two or three years — you’ve gone to the picnics, schmoozed with your manager, won employee of the month, been on the holiday party planning committee, and you see yourself retiring with your company.

Then, on a regular Thursday afternoon, you get laid off, and you never saw it coming.

Though you’ve been a loyal Kool-Aid drinking employee for the last two or three years, they don’t offer severance, your benefits end in two weeks, and you’ve already taken your two weeks of vacation for the year. It’s you versus the world in a battle royale/cage/lumber jack strap match, and your biggest weapons are what personal items you took from your desk when you left: a photo of your wife/husband, a wad of car keys, and a half-eaten tin of Altoids aren’t going to get you very far.

Sitting in your car, you curse yourself for not preparing for what you thought would never happen. Get ready for an onslaught of feelings. There are 10 steps in any job-loss grieving process. If you are lucky, you’ll skip over some of these, but all are normal:

  1. Shock
  2. Grief
  3. Depression
  4. Physical symptoms of distress (getting sick, insomnia, etc.)
  5. Panic
  6. Guilt over the loss (what could I have done to prevent this?)
  7. Anger and resentment
  8. Resistant to returning (I’ll never do this job again)
  9. Hope
  10. Reality

What should I do now?

  • The first thing anyone is going to ask for is your resume, and it should be the easiest/quickest thing to produce. My best advice is to keep your resume updated and in your Gmail/Dropbox, etc. for days just like this. Every time you get a pat on the back, learn a new skill or receive a new title, update your resume. It’s hard to remember what you did two months ago, much less two years ago. Keep it updated!
  • If you’ve worked with a recruiter before, call them and let them know that a resume is on the way. Include salary information and any other pertinent information they may need to start the process. The biggest thing I can stress here is keep an open line of communication with them. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Find a firm that you really trust and stick with them. It’s OK to “fire” a firm if you feel like they aren’t working for you or are jerking you around.
  • Call all of your friends and let them know. Personal networks provide a bevy of job leads. It’s humbling to tell your buddies that you just lost your job, but you have to make this call.
  • Utilize online resources like LinkedIn, Monster, Dice, Careerbuilder, Indeed, Glassdoor, etc.
  • Hit your local User Groups/Chamber meetings, etc., and hit ’em hard. Network, network, network.
  • If you don’t use social networking sites, start immediately. Twitter, Facebook, and most importantly, LinkedIn.
  • Call the unemployment office or get online and register. If you think you don’t qualify, register anyway. The worst thing they can say is “you don’t qualify.” Ask your HR rep if you have doubts. I’ve seen people wait two or three months to sign up because they were too proud to call.
  • Get your insurance info together. Make sure you are covered and do all you can to avoid gaps in coverage.
  • If you’ve been laid off in the middle of the month and they’ll cover you until the end of the month, go to the doctor, dentist and get your prescriptions written for the next 3 months. Most doctors will oblige.
  • Don’t take your lay off personal. It’s business.
  • Enjoy your time off. Spend it with your family. Make breakfast for the kids, finish a home project you’ve been putting off, catch up on Netflix and relax. It’s a short-term problem and if you are good at what you do, you’ll be back to work quickly.

My personal philosophy:  Don’t let your job define who you are. It’s ok … really. You’ll recover.

Scott Gordon is a Partner and National Director of Recruiting at Vaco.  He can be reached at



Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Subscribe now

Together, let’s take a professional adventure bigger than we ever imagined. Join our newsletter list for inspiration, motivation, and exploration.

Get Our Job Seeker Tool Kit

Fill out the form below to get our job seeker resource guides delivered directly to your inbox.