Although it’s not something that we like to think about too much, the fact of the matter is
that companies often have to cut back their workforce when things are tight, leading many valuable employees, through no fault of their own, to be laid off.

If you find yourself in this position at any stage, it’s important to dust yourself off, and get back out there. Read on for some tips for handling being laid off so that it doesn’t impact your career for too long.

Keep Your Emotions in Check

Most people aren’t expecting to get laid off, so they tend to experience a gamut of extreme emotions (starting with shock) when it happens. Even if you thought you might be terminated because your company had been going through a raft of layoffs, actually being told you have been let go can still affect you very deeply and be an emotional experience.

It is important, therefore, to do what you can to keep your emotions in check when you receive the bad news. You don’t want to later regret having a knee-jerk reaction such as getting angry and yelling or sobbing uncontrollably – after all, the connections you have at your former employer can come in handy down the track. It is better to stay as professional as you can, and keep your cool rather than going into panic mode or saying something regrettable.

If you need to, find a quiet, private space where you can take some deep breaths and gather your thoughts. Alternatively, a brisk walk, or a short chat with a trusted co-worker, partner, or friend can also help you when the news is just starting to sink in.

Remember, too, that being laid off likely isn’t a reflection on you, or a personal attack. A lot of the time layoffs occur due to company issues, rather than staff members not performing or getting along with their team. These things can be outside of your control and a setback that you need to learn to handle rather than view as a negative indictment on your personality or work.

It is a good idea to find ways to process the emotions you feel after you have been laid off too. This will help you to move on more quickly. Start by identifying and acknowledging what you feel, then look at ways that you can respond to these emotions productively.

Read Over Termination Letters Thoroughly

Next, you should also take your time to read over termination letters thoroughly before you sign them. Don’t pen your signature to documents right away with no thought or in a daze caused by the termination news, as this can come back to bite you.

If the human resources team gives you a letter to sign, don’t be afraid to take this home with you so that you can look it over in your own time and get some outside advice if required. Some letters handed out by HR workers will be simple documents asking you to acknowledge that you understand you have been laid off, while others can be more complex matters involving your agreement not to sue the company or to compete with it in any way for a particular period of time. You need to really understand, then, what you’re agreeing to before you sign anything.

As well, don’t be scared to ask the HR person you’re dealing with as many questions as you need to. For example, you might want to know what is going to happen with your benefits; if you will be receiving severance; if the company provides corporate outplacement assistance or other support to help you find a new position; and if you can receive a recommendation and/or referral from your current boss to use for future job applications.

Think Through Your Next Move Carefully

Lastly, when you have just been laid off, it pays to stop and think through your next move carefully, rather than rushing into any decisions. While you might feel panicked about your financial position as a result of losing your job, take some time to get over the shock and to really think about what you want to do next before jumping into applying for new roles or networking up a storm.

Being let go can actually provide you with an opportunity to look at the bigger picture, if you decide to see it that way. You now have the chance to change jobs or even career paths totally, if you choose. In fact, your layoff could end up being a catalyst for examining your true current passions, priorities, and goals.

It can also give you the chance to take a break for a little while, and to go on that vacation you’ve been dreaming of for years, or to start a health regimen, begin some philanthropic work, or otherwise concentrate on something else for a little while. Taking some time off can also reinvigorate your passion for your particular career interests, and help you to see being laid off as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

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