Being laid off can bring a flood of emotions—fear, anger, embarrassment, and stress—just to name a few. And you’re 100% entitled to feel them. You should feel them. Being let go is a loss and when we lose something, we need to take time to mourn and grieve. At the same time, most of us feel we don’t have the luxury of time to sit around feeling sad or angry. We need to get out there and find that next job.
As a Career Coach, many of my clients are in between jobs for one reason or another, so my day job is often spent helping people get back on their feet. Although each person’s situation is different and I customize their “to-do” lists according to what will work for them, here I’ve created a checklist of 10 things you should do to get back on your feet after you’ve been laid off.
1. Have your pity party. Suppressing your feelings and trying to put on a brave face won’t help you move on until you’ve actually acknowledged how you feel. It’s healthy to take a few days to let your new circumstances sink in and allow your body and mind to prepare itself for a new job search. Feel free to stay up late, sleep in, go to the gym at 11am, hit the batting cages, catch a matinee, or whatever it is you never get to do on a weekday. Try to be in the moment and let yourself heal.
2. Follow through on all the options your former employer has offered to you. Complete the paperwork you’ve been given. Consult with an employment attorney if you have concerns about the terms of the separation agreement. Contact EDD and get their paperwork started. If your former employer has offered outplacement services to help you get a new job—use it—they have access to tools and information that you can’t get on your own or would have to pay subscription fees to use. (Tip: Your former employer pays for you to have these services, but only if you use them.)
3. Update your resume. The most important thing to remember about your resume is that it has to tell the reader who you are in such a way that they want to keep reading. Make sure the top half of the first page of your resume is clear about the value you bring to your profession and specifies the types of roles and positions where you will be most successful. Make sure each of the positions you’ve listed highlights your accomplishments in those roles. It’s important to use a good, clean format for your resume. Use bullets to showcase your accomplishments, but make sure they are no longer than two lines; otherwise readers will lose interest. Whenever possible, show the results of your work (e.g. Recovered $20k in fees or Increased sales by 18%). Remember, you don’t have to list every aspect of each job, just the key ways you impacted the company in order to show the value you’ll bring no matter where you are.
Need a Great Resume? Here’s How to Do It.
4. Update your LinkedIn profile. Your picture needs to be clear, current and professional. Update your headline to list 3-4 areas of expertise. Don’t use this space to advertise that you’re looking for a new job. Revise your summary to ensure the first two sentences grab the viewer’s attention enough to make the reader click on “show more”. At the end of your summary, feel free to mention that you’re in a job search, and post your contact information, so people can contact you directly rather than using inmail. Make sure your most recent job showcases your successes and accomplishments.
5. Invest in your image for networking and interviewing. How you look and present yourself is critical for landing your next job. Make sure you have at least 3 really good outfits for interviewing. Depending on the industries you’ll be pursuing, you may not need a full suit, but I recommend having one, just in case. Make sure everything is neat, clean and crisp, and make sure your clothes fit you well. Take your shoes to get them shined and cleaned up. Get a haircut and manicure (that applies to men, too!).
6. Identify your “deal makers” and “deal breakers”. In order for you to make a good decision about what job to accept, you need to know what’s absolutely essential to you. It’s easy to think of things like commute time and compensation, but you need to be clear about a company’s culture and the leadership style of a company’s executive leadership. I’ve heard people say, “I get along with everyone” and “I can work anywhere”, but that isn’t true. You need to be able to articulate who you are, the values you believe in, and where you know you’ll thrive, then you need to know what to look for in the companies where you interview.
7. Create a list of questions for you to ask that will draw out answers to #6. You can ask obvious questions like, “Tell me about your company culture”, but you need to get more than just the opinions of a few people. Ask about problems they’ve faced and how they’ve solved them. Find out how their company and the team you might join plans and sets goals, addresses set backs, and celebrates successes.
8. Rehearse answering questions you may be asked in an interview. The most common question you’ll be asked in an interview is “Tell me about yourself.” Your answer should be professionally focused, not personal, and should capture your talents and what drives you. Expect to be asked about anything that is on your resume. You’ll need to explain each situation clearly, including your role, actions, results and lessons learned. You’re also likely to be asked about being laid off. Be honest, but don’t feel the need to go into a lot of detail. Explain what happened and what you’ve learned from the situation, then talk about how you’re now ready for your next role.
9. Create a networking plan. Reach out to your former colleagues, people who know your work, and business contacts you know and trust. Let them know you’re looking for a new role and be specific about how they can help you. Expand your LinkedIn connections. Meet with recruiters who specialize in your area of expertise. Go to workshops for job seekers and get to know the leadership (they know a lot of people and are natural connectors). If you’re looking to work in a specific industry, find groups and networking functions where those industry professionals meet. Be a consistent visitor to the groups you attend. It’s a waste of time to show up once and never return. Meet people for coffee and always offer to help others whenever you can.
10. Be ready to show people a positive, confident self. Now that you’re looking great and feel ready to interview, it’s critically important to maintain a positive attitude and show confidence. The way you speak about who you are, what you’ve done, the people you’ve worked with, and what you want to do, will make or break your progress. This will come through in your body language, as well as your voice and the words you choose. Before you enter a building, take a moment to settle your nerves and think positive thoughts. It may sound cliché, but it really does make a difference in how you “show up”.
One last thing, but not in my list of 10, don’t look at your job search as a “full time job”. It’s likely to be an emotionally challenging and potentially long process. Create some balance. Spend 3-5 hours a day or roughly 20 hours a week on your job search. The rest of the time should be spent on self-care, family, and possibly a couple of projects you’ve been putting off for months. Once you start your next job, you won’t have this kind of time. Use it well and find time to enjoy the good things in your life.
Julia is a Career Strategist and Gallop-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com, www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian, https://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian (@JuliaHolian) and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian.