Laid off from work? These are your next steps

A layoff doesn’t have to derail your career path. Make these moves to re-charge and find your next job.

Laid off from work? These are your next steps

Take these steps to bounce back.

It’s every worker’s nightmare. You wake up, get ready, grab your breakfast, and arrive at the office looking sharp and ready to start the day—only to be called into your boss’s office. Then, the news hits you: You’re getting laid off. There’s a  termination letter with your name on it.


Being laid off from work is jolting, even if you saw it coming. But it happens, and you have to be strong if you want to land on your feet. Take these steps to bounce back and find your next job.

Take some time to grieve

After getting laid off, you might feel compelled to hit the Monster job listings and send out 50 resumes the very next day, but it’s OK to take a few days to mourn the loss of your job.

“Shock, denial, anger, fear… people cycle through all of those emotions when they get laid off,” says San Francisco-based career and executive coach Rebecca Zucker. It’s normal to feel discombobulated. The important thing is to acknowledge your feelings so that you can process what’s happened and move on.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and at the end of the day you’re going to find another job,” says Zucker, adding that journaling may help you process your negative emotions.

File for unemployment

Ideally, you’ll be back at work before too long, but while you’re looking, it’s worth filing for unemployment. In most states, workers can receive unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks. Because requirements can also vary by state, you’ll want to check with your state’s department of labor to see whether you meet the necessary criteria.

Typically, states facilitate the process by enabling people to apply online. Note: If you received severance from your last employer, you might not qualify for unemployment benefits.

Evaluate your career goals

It may not seem like it at first, but a layoff can be a blessing, says Mimi Darmstadter, a career-transition coach and HR consultant in Bethesda, Maryland. Indeed, this is the perfect time to reflect on where you are in your career.

Do you want move to a new city? Do you want to go back to school? Do you want to continue working in your field or change jobs? “If you’re in an industry where jobs are shrinking, this is a good opportunity to think about your options,” says Darmstadter.

Line up references

Ask your former boss for a reference now, while you’re still fresh in her mind, says executive coach Libby Gill. You may also want to ask for a letter of recommendation that speaks to your skills, work ethic, and expertise. You can suggest talking points to streamline the process. (“Thank you for agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for me. I was hoping you could mention the role I played in our big campaign and how my blog post helped increase our company’s site traffic.”)

Later on, when you start going on job interviews, let your reference know when she can expect a call from a prospective employer.

Assess your finances

Hopefully, you had an emergency fund in place to cover your living expenses for a few months while you search for a job. Either way, you may have to tighten your discretionary spending for now so that you can stay financially afloat. Evaluating your financial situation will also help you determine how long you can go without a job, says Zucker. If you need help managing your budget, consider meeting with a financial planner. (You can find one at

Pick up work as a contractor

One way to generate income—and keep your skills fresh—while you’re looking for a job is to pick up freelance work, says Darmstadter. If you have trouble finding part-time jobs in your field, consider getting a gig economy job. There is one caveat though: You most likely won’t be able to collect unemployment benefits if you’re working part-time. But the money you make as a contractor might very well exceed what you’d receive for unemployment each month.

Tap your connections

In addition to applying to jobs online, you should touch base with your industry contacts. Gill recommends starting with your “A-level” connections—“people who you know well, who you can be candid with, and who are invested in your career,” she says.

Darmstadter says a phone call is the best method of communication, but if you’re more comfortable sending an email, make sure you know what you’re asking the person for (e.g., “Hey, I know it’s been a while. I’ve got some exciting news to share. I’m looking for new job opportunities and would love to get your advice over coffee”).

Before meeting up, do your homework and find out where the person is in their career. If your old co-worker just got promoted, for instance, that can be a great talking point during the conversation.

Attend networking events

Schmoozing with strangers can feel awkward at first, but networking can lead to a job, plain and simple. Therefore, if you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to join trade associations to gain access to their events.

Feel uneasy meeting new people? Send the attendees you’d like to meet an email ahead of time introducing yourself, and mention that you’d like to connect in person at the event. (“Hi, I saw your name on the speaking docket and I’m looking forward to learning more about your company. Would love to grab coffee at the event!”)

Moreover, Zucker advises crafting an answer to the question, “Why did you leave your last job?” The key is to put a positive spin on your layoff. For example, “My company was acquired, and I was part of a staff reduction that affected about 15% of our employees. But now I’ve been given an opportunity to focus on having a more direct impact on customers than I had in my previous job.”

Having that type of statement already prepared should help boost your confidence and, in turn, improve your networking skills.

Update your resume

Your resume is your best marketing tool, so make sure you regularly update your resume to display your ever-increasing skill set . That said, it should reflect that you’re currently unemployed, says Darmstadter.

One approach is to address why you were terminated in your cover letter or resume’s career summary section (e.g., “Laid off as part of a 10% reduction in staff”). Another way to strengthen your resume while you’re job searching is to join a professional association and take on a volunteer position, such as an events coordinator, that you can add to your work experience. 

If you’re working part-time or freelancing, include on your resume that you’re currently a contractor, and list some of your clients you work for.

It’s perfectly understandable to be worried about how your resume will look to hiring managers. Concerned that your resume might be falling short of expectations? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. Just because you were laid off from one job doesn’t mean companies will pass you by. Position yourself properly, and eagerly go after new opportunities.