You got laid off. What’s next?

You watch the industry, you follow the news. You notice what’s happening to the market. You hear managers saying that everything is under control and layoffs are off the table. You get laid off.

What’s next?

Don’t take it personally

I used to work in a PR agency in San Francisco. Monitoring news I couldn’t help but notice how people in my own industry are let go every day. Despite the general awareness of the situation, being laid-off at the end of April still felt like a surprise. I felt like I was the only one left behind. But the truth is that over 40 million people have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 economic crisis.

Source: CNBC, May 2020

For many specialists being laid off is new and unknown. It feels like being fired, only you didn’t do anything wrong. Often it happens quickly and, despite all expectations, unexpected: no advance notice, no goodbye cards. Sometimes you get cut off from communication and access to any resources by the end of the call with your HR-manager. It feels unfair and personal, but it’s not. Like me, you may start looking for what have you done wrong and why it is you were the one who got laid off. But the truth is, you didn’t do anything wrong and there are thousands of unfair coincidental reasons why it is you, not Stacey.

Remember, that at the end of the day your company is a business. And no matter how close you are with your bosses and colleagues, their decisions will be motivated by business goals, not personal attachment.

Write a thank you letter

Being laid off may feel like being fired but it so is not. A big difference is that you may be an absolutely amazing employee in unfortunate circumstances. It means that your bosses will be happy to help you find a new job. It may be hard to write a thank you note to people who just let you go, but it’s important to keep good relationships. Such a letter is a good opportunity to ask for references from your managers and feedback on your performance. All this will come in handy to land your next job and will make you a valuable asset to a future employer.

Review your employment agreement and payments

Depending on the agreement, you may be eligible for separation compensation. But be very attentive reviewing the separation document and its conditions: this compensation is provided to you under particular conditions. It’s usually drafted in a manner to protect the employer from being sued or getting bad publicity. Read it carefully to ensure you agree with all the requirements, including non-disparagement, non-disclosure and, sometimes, non-compete conditions. If you haven’t used all your vacation days, you should be reimbursed for them as well, depending on your state’s law and company policy.

Apply for unemployment insurance

…as soon as possible. If you were laid off because clients cut their budgets due to the COVID-19 crisis, you should qualify for COVID-related unemployment insurance. Many states, like California, lifted a lot of restrictions for people who lost their jobs from March through May 2020. You want to apply for the insurance the same week of you being laid off since they many states review them weekly.

Make sure that in your notice of termination of employment, the HR manager marked the reason for unemployment as a layoff. You can also ask for a final payment breakdown document that specifies how much was paid to you and under what conditions. You will need this information to file a claim. Also, keep in mind that the unemployment agency contacts the employer to confirm your layoff so you want to give your HR-manager a heads-up on that. Keep in mind that many people are filing for unemployment insurance now, so it may take the employment department at least twice as long to process the application.

Take a break

You may feel rushed to find a new job but a good practice would be to take a break. Not everyone can afford being unemployed, but if you have savings or someone to rely on, try to take time to digest everything and… to mourn. Being laid off during the pandemic can be a big hit on your mental health. Try to find some time for self-care that is not related at all to your job search. Meditation, physical activity, good sleep — take advantage of all the good things you’ve been missing before. It’s important to dive into a job hunt with a clear head and confidence, not full of remorse and self-pity. Don’t be afraid to take some time off: with so many people being laid off your future employer won’t be surprised with an employment gap in your resume.

Self-reflect and grow

Now is a good opportunity to stop, look back at your career and realize where would you like to move next. Summarizing your biggest achievements is important for your resume. But what is more important is to sum up what have you enjoyed the most in your work. Maybe it’s time to switch the industry and try something new. Maybe, you should try working as a freelancer or a contractor. Crisis may also be good time to start a business: less competition, more demand for fresh innovative ideas.

While your employer may not mind you taking a break during the lockdown, they may ask what were you doing during this time.

Talk to a career advisor or a coach, take a career orientation test, watch some webinars or online-courses to catch up with the industry and learn something new. For example, Coursera offers unemployed workers 3800 free online courses. Udacity will fund 5,000 challenge scholarships and 1,000 nanodegree scholarships for laid-off individuals. Kaplan Professionals provides discounts for their trainings. Other platforms like Google Digital Garage and Hubspot Academy always offer a number of free courses for digital marketers and it may be a good time to take advantage of them. I myself took a great course Fundamentals of Media Relations at MuckRack Academy and a couple of other ones.

Source: VentureBeat, April 2020

Come out of this situation a better professional than you were before. Revise your resume or freshen up your portfolio. Analyzing your achievements is a good boost to your confidence. Your future employer will appreciate an employee who took the time to think everything through instead of desperately throwing themself into the labor market. They will also prefer someone who used their free time as an opportunity to learn something new.

Experiencing unemployment is hard and feels unfair. The job market may seem quiet and the crisis shook up the economy. But many awesome companies, who are adaptive and innovative, are still hiring. E-commerce, fintech, healthcare, gaming, delivery services are just a few industries facing a surge in demand and hence are looking for new employees. More and more companies keep hiring for remote work even for senior positions. Customer service, healthcare, tech, education and therapy are in the TOP 5 for the remote jobs.

Source: Business Insider, March 2020

For many of us, it may be an opportunity to find even a better job or to finally follow our true passion. Remember, everyone is experiencing the crisis but only brave and self-aware ones will get out of it better and stronger.



PR Specialist by day, writer by night. Ukrainian native 🇺🇦 Live in New York 🗽

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Katya Pavlevych

PR Specialist by day, writer by night. Ukrainian native 🇺🇦 Live in New York 🗽