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In the moments after a layoff, you may feel like you’re in a haze.
Often, we’re oblivious to the signs that layoffs are coming, or we think, “It probably won’t happen to me.”
“The news of being laid off is a major jolt to anyone’s self-esteem,” Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job,” tells Business Insider.
After the initial shock wears off, she says, it’s natural for a range of emotions to set in, like panic, depression, or anger.
“In the aftermath of the layoff, you need to focus on getting back up, brushing yourself off, and just understanding where you are in relation to your arena,” says Tyler Parris, author of “Chief of Staff: The Strategic Partner Who Will Revolutionize Your Organization.” “Then you can jump back in and do what you do best.”
If you get hit with the disappointing news, here are a few things you can do in those following moments to help shake it off and prepare yourself to re-enter the world of job hunting:
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Take a deep breath
“It’s easy to go into panic mode after news like this, but if you do, you might later regret any knee-jerk reactions,” Taylor says.
You should stay on good terms with your former coworkers and bosses so you can later call on them for networking help or references, says Edward Fleischman, CEO of The Execu|Search Group, so it’s important to keep your cool and not do or say anything regrettable in the heat of the moment.
Taylor suggests finding a quiet and private space to gather your thoughts and decompress. You could physically tamp down the emotion with exercises like deep breathing, a quick meditation, or a brisk walk.
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Don’t view it as a personal attack
Remember, a layoff likely isn’t a reflection on you.
“While it’s almost impossible to see a silver lining at a time like this, it’s helpful to remember that a mass layoff by definition does not target you specifically,” Taylor says.
“There are reasons beyond your control that this has happened to you and others,” she adds. “It’s how you handle a setback that often matters more than the setback itself.”
Don’t sign anything right away
If HR asks you to sign a termination letter, take it home with you and look it over thoroughly before you sign it. Your signature could simply be an acknowledgment that you received the letter, or it could be an agreement that you won’t sue or compete with the company for a certain period of time.
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Talk details with HR
Shane Davis, executive recruiter for consulting firm Vaco Memphis, suggests asking a few follow-up questions of HR, like “Am I receiving severance?” “Is there outplacement help?” or, “What’s going to happen with my benefits?”
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Get important stuff off your computer
If you’re not already locked out of your computer when you return to your desk, take a few minutes to gather any important contact information, personal files, performance reports and anything else that could help with a job search.
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Ask for a recommendation
If you have a good rapport with any of your remaining bosses or colleagues, you could ask to use them as references for future job applications. If you don’t already have their personal contact information, now’s the time to ask.
Don’t say anything you’ll regret
“Some do it because they feel entitled to say whatever stupid things are on their mind, while others, like those who lost their jobs, are just bitter. Some just do it because they’re emotional or have held grudges for too long,” she says.
You’d be better off keeping the things you say professional and leaving on the best terms possible, without burning any bridges. You never know when they might come in handy down the road.
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Call a trusted family member or close friend
“You don’t have to suffer in silence,” Taylor says. “At times like this, calling an empathetic loved one, friend, or close mentor will take some of the sting out of the bad news.”
Talk to people you think will provide you with some needed support and broader perspective, and as human-resources expert Laura MacLeod suggests, be selective in whom you talk to.
“Only turn to those who will empathize and support you in self care – not those giving advice and new job suggestions,” she says.
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Don’t play the victim
While losing a job can be a traumatic event, maintaining a victim mentality won’t just turn other people off: It can prevent you from moving forward with your life.
“People with a victim mentality display passive-aggressive characteristics when interacting with others,” writes Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries in his working paper, “Are you a Victim of the Victim Syndrome?” “Their behavior has a self-defeating, almost masochistic quality. The victim style becomes a relational mode – a life affirming activity: I am miserable, therefore I am.”
Have a response ready for when you don’t want to talk about it
Penny Locey, a vice president with career-management consulting firmKeystone Associates, suggests having a response ready if you don’t want to talk about the job search with inquiring folks.
You could try something like: “My company closed its office. I am actively looking and networking. I am not ready to talk about my search at length, but will keep you updated. I appreciate your concern.”
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Don’t send out the alert just yet
“A sense of urgency often sets in once you’re past the shock stage,” Taylor says. “It can become tempting to go on a social media binge and reach out to virtually everyone you know to immediately find a replacement job. But by doing so, you won’t give yourself the time you need to think through your next move.”
Taylor says, considering your emotional state, it’s better to present yourself to your network once you’ve allowed the dust to settle.
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Don’t make any drastic decisions
Locey advises against making any important life decisions in the heat of the moment. Don’t cancel any family trips or get any haircuts.
Jot down a list of your major achievements
“It’s natural to lose confidence after being laid off, and to feel like this setback will have long-lasting repercussions. But while you were employed, you contributed a great deal,” Taylor says.
She suggests making a quick list of your biggest accomplishments to remind yourself that you have a valuable skill set that makes you marketable.
Write an angry letter
While you have pen and paper handy, Marc Cenedella, founder and CEO of career resource Ladders, suggests you also write an angry letter letting everybody know exactly how you feel. Then burn it.
Getting everything off your chest will feel cathartic, he says, while destroying the letter will prevent you from burning and bridges.
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Take a mini vacation
When was the last time you took a mental-health day off of work? Whether you get away with friends for a night or spend the weekend hiking, getting laid off presents a unique opportunity to take some well-earned time for yourself to decompress.
Job experts often suggest taking a vacation before starting a new job to recharge, and since looking for new employment is often a job itself, the same logic holds true. Before you launch into your job search, you should give yourself time and space to calm down and unwind a little.
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Process your emotions
Once you’re calm, Parris says, it’s important to process the emotions you’re feeling.
He suggests starting by acknowledging what those emotions are. Then “figure out what you’re going to do with those emotions and how you will respond most productively to them. Emotions left unchecked will build up and, eventually, you will start acting them out in ways that don’t serve you,” he says.
Look at the big picture
“The prospect of changing jobs is certainly daunting. But as challenging as it seems, try to look at your entire career continuum and the experience you gained at the job,” Taylor says.
Your tenure could be a stepping-stone to greater opportunity, and your layoff could be a catalyst for more closely examining your priorities, career passions, and long-term goals, she says.
She points to many of today’s business success stories about people who hit bottom, but were then catapulted to do great things.
“Have faith that this experience will ultimately be the change that you needed to take your career to the next level. That will be the first step in making it a reality,” Taylor says.