Dealing with a layoff

There’s really no way around it: getting laid off is stressful. As much as it stings – and it most likely will – the most important thing to remember is that layoffs are not a reflection of you.

Published: Apr 1, 2020

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Why do layoffs happen?

In most cases, layoffs are a result of a change in business strategy. That change – to divest a part of the business, reorganize a department or team, or cut costs to save money – is usually decided after intense deliberation across multiple areas of the organization. Most companies don’t enjoy having to let their people go, and the decisions about who to keep and who to cut can be incredibly challenging.

But what if I’m MAD? I just lost my job!

It is absolutely understandable to feel a wealth of emotions after getting news of a layoff. In fact, many people find that just as with any trauma, they go through the five stages of grief when their job is eliminated. Some may find that working with a licensed therapist or counselor can help them process and work through their feelings. Although self-care can be one of the first things to go out the window when you’re stressed and scared, it is critical to be kind to yourself in this difficult time. Your emotions will recover, which is why it’s especially important to be as compassionate toward yourself as you would a loved one in the same situation.

Consider what you can learn from the situation and use the downtime for reflection.

So what do I do now?

First and foremost, we encourage you not to dwell on the “why” of the situation. Oftentimes, our clients are desperate to know why this happened to them or why some other colleague was left unscathed. But these and other questions don’t have answers. As such, searching for deeper meaning might just leave you feeling more upset. Instead, consider what you can learn from the situation and use the downtime for reflection.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did you like and dislike about your previous role?
  • What do you want to carry forward and what do you want to leave behind?
  • What have you learned about yourself or the kinds of companies you want to work for?

This is a great opportunity to take another step toward the career or role you’ve always wanted!

But won’t this make it harder to get a job? What do I say in an interview?

Remember that being laid off is not equivalent to being fired for cause, and recruiters and hiring managers are aware of the difference.

As in any situation, the truth is best here, too. There’s no need to go into detail. In addition to being brief, it’s recommended you tell the

interviewer you were laid off, and follow-up with something positive, such as a reason you’re particularly excited about this job or company, or a summary of what the layoff has taught you about yourself, your next steps or your career goals.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • Unemployment resources and rules vary by state, but generally, laid off employees are eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Research your state’s rules and application process as quickly as possible after learning your role will be eliminated. Many states have unpaid waiting periods before you can claim benefits. (You can start your research here:
  • Ask your company to provide details about your severance/layoff in writing (if this is not proactively given to you). Emotions can run high in those initial days and details may be difficult to retain. If it’s not indicated, ask to whom you should direct any questions about compensation, benefits or other items.
  • Remember that a coach – and family, friends and other resources – are here to be your support system. Don’t be afraid to lean on others or ask for help when you need it. You are surrounded by people who are ready and willing to help you get back on your feet.
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