So you just got laid off: Next steps from a graphic designer … who just got laid off.

Jimmy Henderson
May 9, 2018 · 4 min read

The advertising industry is a fickle mistress and lay offs happen. It’s just a part of working in this field we love to hate. I got laid off from the agency I spent the last four and a half years calling home and it’s never easy to deal with at first. You have the usual suspects as far as emotions you deal with but when you hit the acceptance stage of dealing with your grief it’s time to move on. Here is what I did coming out of the gate to prepare myself for the next few weeks.

Let the world know. First things first, you need to blow up your networks. There is no shame in getting laid off when you work in advertising. Hell, if you haven’t been laid off yet you are doing something wrong. Put up a LinkedIn announcement, slap it up on Facebook and drop a post on Dribbble and Instagram letting people know that you are available for freelance. It gets the word out and starts kindling opportunities. Hopefully people will start reaching out, and more importantly it gets you back on everyone’s radar. It might start slow, but it’s laying the groundwork for future meetings and potential opportunities.

Update your stuff. It’s time to brush the dust off that website and get new work on there. Polish up the resume, get your CV fleshed out and have that stuff ready to send out to anyone who wants it. Send it to people who might not want it. Quality is king, but sometimes quantity gets your stuff in front of the right person. When it comes to your website, remember, this is how people are going to view you as a designer. Your work needs to look good. Have it organized and easy to get through. If it wasn’t produced, get those designs into a mockup and make them shine. Your resume or CV needs to be fully up to date and clear. Don’t over design this thing. Make it easy and quick to get through. Your portfolio needs to blow some minds. Your resume will let them know how to get ahold of you when they want to set up an interview.

Get your money right. It’s not fun and it’s not going to be pretty, but you need to sit down and figure out your finances. Figure out your expenses going out, how much income you need coming in and where you can make some cuts. You are probably going to need to figure out how to get some insurance and decide how much income you have to shoot for to cover all your bases. This will let you see where you stand financially and while not always pleasant, it is imperative.

Start the side hustle. Don’t view this as a “I am not going to work today” sort of thing. Look at it as a “my day just opened up” sort of thing. You got some time back and now you can start working on the side projects you have been itching to get started for months. Knock out some designs you have wanted to try, write an essay on being laid off or start your own company. It doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as it is productive. Don’t let this time go to waste when it could be used to further your ambitions. Once you start working again this time won’t be coming back, so get it done.

Set a schedule. You have got to keep your time organized. Just because you don’t have to go to work doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat the day like a work day. Keep a schedule. Get out of bed, hit the gym, eat a meal and get some work done. Take a long lunch, send out some emails and get some more work done. Take a bit of you time in the evening and get some sleep. If you are getting stuff done during the day it means you don’t feel like a bum at night. As long as you are making progress towards a few goals you are on the right track.

Getting laid off is never ideal but if you have a plan and put it into action you are going to land on your feet. Advertising isn’t exactly synonymous with job security. Having a plan and knowing what steps to take after a lay off will keep you in the game and moving forward. Keep your head up.

Jimmy Henderson

Written by

Jimmy is a freelance graphic designer, illustrator, writer and MFA candidate attending the Vermont College of Fine Arts. More:

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