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Pick Yourself Back Up: How to Handle Being Laid Off

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Getting laid off is one of the most difficult things any professional would have to deal with, regardless of age, financial situation or level in the organization. It can be a shock and a blow to the ego, notwithstanding the concern about finding a new gig. There are ways to handle being laid off more gracefully than others. On top of that, there are the practical considerations to make to ensure you don’t burn your bridges and take care of yourself financially.

First, what is the difference between being laid off and being fired? When you are fired it is because your performance is unsatisfactory. Laid off is typically because of a company change (like downsizing or going out of business), as opposed to employee performance. To collect unemployment it usually has to be because you are no longer working through no fault of your own. So someone who is laid off is typically more likely to receive unemployment.

Here are 6 ways to handle this tough situation:

1) Don't burn your bridges. Leave on a good note so you can get a referral from your employer. Ask them for a recommendation letter (yes it is old fashioned sounding but you never know when it will come in handy, some employers may not use Linkedin as much as others and handing them something as a hard copy can make an impression). Request a recommendation on Linkedin, and ask if they will be a reference for you.

2) Get busy. Find something to do in your newly found free time. Take a class, volunteer, do freelance work, find something productive to do to fill your time, add to your resume so there is less of a gap, but also to show prospective employers you are pro-active about getting ahead in your career.

3) Ask if there is wiggle room. Check with HR to find out more about severance pay and packages to clearly understand what you will receive. Some companies have flexibility, some do not. Be creative if necessary, ask for an additional week of severance for example or negotiate your end date if possible to give you a longer amount of time on the job.

4) What’s the silver lining? Sometimes people don’t realize that being laid off can be a blessing in disguise. Many people fear leaving and stay in jobs that are not a fit for them much longer than they should. I have had many clients call me sounding relieved after being let go, a seemingly surprising reaction, but it freed them up to pursue something they would rather do instead.

5) Handle it gracefully in your networking and interviews. Don't bash the employer and obviously don’t lie about what happened. But, give a high level picture of the situation, you don't have to go into detail, and.. frame it in a positive light.

Remember, the people who don't stay unemployed very long are those who have plan a, b, c and d and 3 backup plans. They are doing everything they can to find a job and have multiple lines in the water. They are persistent and consistent in their actions and they are doing everything they can to get something going.

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