Lost Your Job? Here’s How to Bounce Back After a Painful Layoff

Experiencing a layoff is never fun, but there are steps to make the transition easier
HR expert Avery Francis (photo: Avery Francis)

Welcome to CB’s work-advice column, Ask Avery, featuring Avery Francis, founder of workplace design consultancy Bloom. Each month, Francis will answer reader questions on topics that affect our ability to thrive in our jobs, and she’ll offer her real-world insights on how to handle even the most rock-and-a-hard-place conundrums. Have a work-related question? Send it to [email protected] with the subject line “Ask Avery.”

Headlines from around the world are sounding the alarm that a recession is imminent. As a result, companies—largely tech ones which have been hard-hit by a bruised stock market—are laying people off and rescinding job offers as they try to manage cash.

There’s even a website, Layoffs.fyi, that tracks layoffs globally at start-ups. As of mid-October, more than 690 workplaces have laid off over 91,000 people, according to the layoff tracker. In recent months Canadian businesses like fintech company Wealthsimple, software firm Thinkific and crypto start-up WonderFi have let go of staff. Meta even announced it was cutting back on hiring and weeding out employees who don’t meet company goals.

Getting laid off is never fun. I’ve been laid off numerous times in my career, but my most recent experience led me to starting my own business. So, the good news is, in my experience, it does get better. The not-so-good news is it might take some time to get there. 

If you’ve been laid off, the initial pain—emotionally and financially—can be devastating. Studies on the toll of job loss show that losing a job can cause anxiety, depression and other negative emotions. Yet at the same time because most of us have to work, we have to move on and find a new job, a new purpose or both. Here are some tips on how to bounce back after a layoff. 

What to do the day after you are laid off

Process the loss: I recommend people take the first 24 hours after being laid off and do nothing job related so they can process the confusion, sadness, concern or any other emotion they have. Spend time with friends or family. Watch Netflix. Read. Sleep. Cry. Give yourself time to unpack the big changes that come with losing a job, such as no longer working with close colleagues or not being able to finish a project you were proud of. If you don’t process the feelings now, you might find those emotions coming up during your job hunt. 

Let people know about the news: Thanks to people being more open on social media, layoffs are not the taboo subject they once were. If you’re comfortable, share your experience on social media—especially LinkedIn where you can update your profile to indicate that you’re looking for work—and say what kind of jobs you’re interested in. If you’re not comfortable sharing the news publicly, you can still share privately with your network via direct messages or emails. In my experience, your community will do everything they can to help you.

Choose if you want to be on the “layoff list”: Many companies make lists of who they laid off so recruiters and companies can reach out to them for opportunities. The pro of joining layoff lists is exposure to a lot of hiring managers. The con is that these lists might feel overwhelming during such an emotional time when you’re trying to figure out what to do next. 

What to do the week after you are laid off

Negotiate your severance: A company’s severance offer is usually negotiable. If you want a better package, consider factors like if they headhunted you away from another job, how long it will take to find a role that matches your expertise and how senior you were in the company. If you need help, consider working with an employment lawyer if you have the resources to do so. (An employment lawyer can cost upwards of $225 an hour depending on where you live.)

Realize your feelings are okay: Sometimes negative emotions don’t bubble up for a few days after a layoff because you’re in adrenaline-mode when it first happens. But if strong feelings come up later, don’t judge yourself. Talk to a therapist or a career coach if you have access to one, or even a mentor.

Request references: Getting references from past managers and leaders at the company that laid you off can be a valuable buffer against hiring managers who might make assumptions about why you were let go. I’d even recommend including them in your CV. Just don’t wait too long to make the ask; you’ll want them to be able to easily recall details of your strengths and contributions, which may be more difficult as time passes.

What to do the month after you are laid off

Figure out your next move: Think about what’s right for you. That might mean taking another job, starting a freelance business or going on sabbatical. Some factors to consider are your financial position, retirement planning, family responsibilities and how much severance you received. 

If you’re going into entrepreneurship, get the basics set up quickly: If you want to start working for yourself, figure out what you need to get started. Every business needs something to sell, a website and a marketing strategy. Get these set up as soon as possible if you want to shorten the gap between your layoff and your next venture.

If you’re looking for another job, start in the right headspace: Start by identifying the exact type of work you want and make a list of your dream companies. Look at those companies’ career pages and sign up for their talent networks, which is kind of like a blank job application where you put in your qualifications and they keep you in mind for future openings. When people ask how they can help you, ask for introductions for informational interviews. You’ll also want to utilize big job boards like Indeed or LinkedIn.

Work with recruiters: Just imagine: You have multiple people who are financially incentivized to support you in your job search. They make connections on your behalf and can even submit applications (with your permission) for suitable roles. That’s precisely what a recruiter does. If you’ve been laid off, reach out to a few recruiters and join their talent networks on top of your own job search. There’s different ways to find a recruiter, including searching for one online who specializes in your field, asking colleagues for any recommendations and connecting with industry groups. Working with a recruiter is free to job seekers as recruiters earn a fee from hiring companies when they place candidates in a job.

Even if being laid off might feel like the end of the world, I promise it’s not. While knowing that you will find a new gig doesn’t take away the pain you might feel now, it’s important to know that layoffs happen and they’re rarely your fault. I promise you are capable of coming out the other side stronger than before.