If you are waking up this morning with a newly acquired “on the (job) market” status, you might be one of the hundreds of thousands of employees in the tech industry that have recently lost their jobs during a mass layoff. A layoff tracking site estimates that nearly 120,000 employees have been laid off so far in 2023, and we aren’t even quite into the third month. If nothing else, it looks like you are in good company. Experiencing a job loss can be devastating to move on from, especially when it is unexpected, and it can leave you wondering how to navigate what to do after being laid off. Whatever the circumstances were it all boils down to a situation no one wants to find themselves in.
Fired vs. Laid off - What is the difference?
In the most basic terms, the difference comes down to who is at fault: you or the employer. Though they are quite different, some people might use the terms interchangeably. It’s important to distinguish the difference, however, to understand your situation better and know what job search steps you need to take.
Being fired occurs when the employee is at fault and it is generally caused by things like poor quality of work, issues with attendance, theft, or insubordination. It eliminates any severance compensation, or unemployment eligibility, and makes hiring managers less likely to offer a job.
A layoff happens because of issues within the company rather than the fault of the employee with common reasons being things like trying to cut costs, potential bankruptcy, mergers, buyouts, or relocation. Severance pay is often given in a layoff and there is a greater chance of qualifying for unemployment benefits.
A Layoff Could Be a Good Thing
No one wants to be laid off, but just because you find yourself in this situation doesn’t have to mean entirely bad news. According to the 2022 report from the State of the Global Workplace, 67% of employees do not feel a sense of meaning in their work, and they do not feel positive or hopeful about their future.
In the U.S. specifically, 50% of workers reported feeling stressed at their jobs on a daily basis, 41% as being worried, 22% as sad, and 18% angry.State of the Global Workplace
Often it is easier to stay in a miserable work environment than to risk losing your income and not being able to provide for yourself and your family. If you find yourself in this situation, and you identify with those percentages of unhappy workers, consider finding a new job as an invitation to reassess the direction your life is headed. Perhaps this is the opportunity you didn’t know you needed to switch things up and take back control over your life and your happiness.
8 Things to Expect
Your pep talk has officially commenced, are you ready? Some sort of roadmap is helpful to know where to go next following something like a layoff. Allow us to get you started with a few ideas of how you can navigate this stressful transition:
- First Things First
Before you get too many steps ahead, pause and take a long breath in and out. Layoffs are considered to be in the top ten of the most stressful events, and for good reason. Ensuring you have the money to buy food and pay your rent is obviously at the top of the priorities list. But remember, you are human, and your headspace during this process is vital to your success and your well-being. Just like you need food, water, and shelter, you also deserve to live in a mind and body that isn’t constantly in fight or flight. So before you start rushing to fill out as many applications as you can get your hands on, take a few minutes (hours, days, whatever you need) to breathe. Here are some ideas to help you process this experience:
- Search for therapists in your area: you have already been forced into this unwanted free time so you might as well use it to your benefit. Look for someone who could help you avoid this severely impacting your mental health and help you set yourself up with a better foundation for moving forward.
- Journaling: Writing can be a wonderful tool to help process the feelings around a job loss. It’s a great way to reflect on everything leading up to this point - what went right, what went wrong, and what you want to bring with you moving forward. What do you actually want in a new job? What kind of future employer do you want to work for? If your previous job was not moving you in the direction you want to be in life, what changes do you want to make? Set some goals, check in with your needs, and redefine what you actually value in life and in your career.
- Meditation: This is becoming quite a cliché answer, but it is for good reason. Though it is not to be used as a substitute for medical care, using it in combination can have positive effects such as reduced anxiety and depression, lowered blood pressure, improved memory, and better sleep; All of which are important for job hunting.
- Connect With Others: One of the things your severance pay cannot cover is the loss of community you might have had within your prior workplace. Creating meaningful connection is vital to our well-being, and without that sense of belonging our minds and our bodies will start to suffer.
- Get Outside: The research continues to grow on the importance of nature in our lives. The vast majority of us are severely lacking in time spent outdoors and our work schedules do nothing to help that. According to the American Psychological Association, “exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.”
Whatever you choose to do in order to care for yourself during this difficult time, give yourself some slack - you deserve it.
Read More: 5 Negative Effects of Layoffs
- Layoff Letter
When a company has laid off employees, they will usually provide a letter explaining their decision to terminate and why. This is helpful to provide a prospective employer when going through the application process. They won't have to take your word for it when you say you were laid off rather than fired - they will have written proof. If you are provided a layoff letter, make sure you take the time to review it and make sure it is accurate. If it's not then reach out as soon as you can and request any necessary changes. If you were not given a layoff letter, get in touch with human resources and ask for one. They are easy to make, and that document could make a big difference in your job search.
- Severance package
During a layoff process companies will often offer a severance package. This is a contractual agreement of assistance the employer will provide the laid-off employee during their transition time. Benefits offered include financial compensation, health insurance, and possible job search assistance. Though they are not required by law, many employers opt to give them to to show they are a quality business to work for, and to avoid any disasters that could arise. Be sure to review the agreed severance terms and don’t be afraid to take time before signing. You usually have roughly 21 days to sign, so take your time and make sure you know what you are agreeing to.
Read More: 7 Epic Layoff Failures
- Your Last Paycheck
This seems like an obvious step, but it's worth adding here because you deserve every bit of money that you have earned! Be sure to look over what you are given and check for any mistakes made or money still owed. Do some digging into the company policies on things like PTO and sick leave because you might be owed money for unused time off. Your severance pay will hopefully help, but any additional income is welcomed!
- Health Insurance
If you are currently facing a loss of health insurance with this layoff, you aren’t entirely out of luck. As of 2019 you are no longer facing a fine from the IRS if you do not have insurance which is helpful for situations like this. Also, if your company had 20 or more employees you are likely eligible for COBRA continuation of health coverage for up to 18 months. You might have to pay up to the full premium yourself, but it provides something to fall back on while you search for something else.
As long as you were let go from your job due to no fault of your own you are likely eligible for unemployment insurance. The process of how to apply and receive benefits varies from state to state, but most places allow you to get everything started online rather than in person. There are conditions to receiving unemployment benefits (things like being able to prove you are actively looking and applying for a certain number of jobs a week), but this is a great resource to help you while you are busy going from one job interview to the next.
- Update Your Resume
Time to dust off that file on your computer and get it up to date. This doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. There are many different sites online that make building a resume quick and painless. A resume is the first impression a potential employer has of you, so having some quality templates to follow will help to steer you in the right direction.
- Consider your Words Carefully
Having to consider words like “severance,” “job openings,” and “resume” after thinking you had a secure job position can bring up a lot of emotions. You could likely find yourself going through stages of grief and spending a chunk of time filled with anger (rightly so). Let yourself freely vent to friends and family all you want, but be careful what you put online. You never know what words you said while hurting can burn bridges or scare off future a hiring manager
Nothing we say here is going to ease the pain you are experiencing after a layoff. This is a situation no one wants to end up in, but the good news is you are not alone. There are millions of people who have gone through this process before and there is help to get you through this. Take what you learned up to this point and only carry forward with you things that help you create the future you want. Good luck!