Laid Off From Work Unexpectedly? Here Is What You Should Do Next

We’ve broken down the eight steps you should take if you’ve experienced a layoff or are concerned about job loss in the potential upcoming recession.

There are some events that are so jarring and dejecting that they destabilize your entire life: divorce, moves, death and of course, job loss.

Losing a job unexpectedly is a terrifying experience, but unfortunately, layoffs do happen — and depending on which industry you’re in, they may occur often.

With experts predicting a recession on the horizon and news agencies reporting mass layoffs at major companies like Amazon and Meta, it seems likely that more job losses are coming our way this year.

If you’ve lost your job or are concerned about a potential layoff, you’re certainly not alone. And while a layoff naturally leads to stress and anxiety, there are certain steps you can take to ease those fears. Below, we’ve listed eight steps you should take after you’ve been laid off from your job.

Talk to your employers about what type of severance you’ll receive.

The first and most important step is to review the severance package you’ve received from your employer.

What is your severance, and when does it run out? Were you compensated for your unused vacation time? How long do you have health insurance? What’s happening to your 401(k)? Are you eligible for unemployment benefits with this package?

Read all the documentation you’ve received and meet with your employer so you can clearly understand what you’re walking away with and that it’s what you’re legally entitled to. If you believe there’s been discrimination involved with your layoff or the company wasn’t following certain employment laws and regulations, you can seek legal advice to navigate it.

You can also choose to negotiate your exit package — anything from benefits to pay. Research what similar workplaces in your industry offered so you know what to ask for. Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start focusing on the next stages.

Review your health insurance options.

For many people, one of the most stressful aspects of being laid off is losing health insurance. Take a moment to consider your coverage options.

Find out when your current insurance ends, and then look into whether COBRA, which allows you to extend your employee health insurance benefits for a certain time, is possible for your circumstances. You can also look into the options available via the Affordable Care Act or consider going on to a spouse or family member’s health care plan.

It might be a good idea to schedule all necessary appointments and fill prescriptions before your current health insurance plan is terminated, too.

File for unemployment.

Generally speaking, as long as you weren’t fired through fault of your own (such as misconduct), you can apply for unemployment benefits.

The unemployment benefits may not seem like much, depending on what state you’re in, and they do only last for a limited amount of time, but they can help tide you over as you commence your new job hunt.

Filing for unemployment can be confusing, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. There are plenty of resources out there to help you navigate the process.

Take some time to grieve.

When you’re laid off, it’s unbelievably stressful figuring out your finances, health insurance options and other next steps. But often, job loss is just quite sad.

 Most people spend five days a week at their jobs — a giant portion of their lives. Losing a job means a daily routine has been ripped away, a community is no longer there and for some people, even a part of their identity is gone.

So, once you’ve handled the most pressing matters, it’s time to grieve. Let yourself feel all the complicated emotions surrounding your job loss and do what’s necessary to boost your mood.

Ring up a friend, order your favorite meal, treat yourself to an activity you love or maybe even spend all day in bed relaxing. This is a difficult experience, and you need to take a little time to process your emotions and indulge in self-care before you tackle your job search.

Plus, take a moment to consider what you really want next.

In some ways, a layoff can be positive for your career journey because it can help you leave an unfulfilling job that you were too nervous to quit. When you’re forced out of a work environment that you’re no longer thriving in, it can be the perfect time to re-evaluate your career.

Take a moment to ask yourself: Were you really happy in that role, industry or workplace? What do you need from your next employer to be truly happy?

You may consider going freelance, or even heading back to school to retrain for a different role or sector altogether. Evaluate your career options and hone in on what would fulfill you work-wise at this stage in your life.

“You have to be clear what it is that you want, need and require from a workflow. Based upon that, you can begin to look for one that matches what you need,” said Michael McGrath, professor from the online MS in Human Resource Management program at USC Bovard College, in a recent interview with USC Online.

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile.

The next natural step is to update your resume as well as your LinkedIn profile. You’ve likely developed more skills and reached new accomplishments since the last time you were on the hunt for a job, so make sure your resume reflects that.

Depending on how long it’s been since you’ve revised your resume, you may even want to check that it matches up with the skill sets, language and format that employers expect from jobseekers today.

LinkedIn is a great resource to job search, so make sure your profile is in tip-top shape and that it signals you’re looking for new opportunities. Many companies do their recruiting through the service.

“I’ve heard so many employers say that they go to candidates’ LinkedIn pages before looking at their resumes. It’s also very powerful for networking and getting noticed by recruiters, headhunters, executive search firms and hiring managers,” Lori Shreve Blake, senior director of career engagement at the USC Career Center, told USC Online.

Begin your job hunt.

Looking for a new job quickly becomes a full-time role in and of itself, so it may help you to create a job-search schedule. This also has the added benefit of adding structure to your days.

As previously mentioned, LinkedIn is a great resource for job hunters, as are sites like Indeed and Glassdoor. Pick out the positions that look interesting to you or seem like a good fit for your background and experience and start submitting those applications.

Just remember, a job search takes time — even when you get an interview, the hiring process can take weeks, and rejection is common. Brace yourself for every outcome, even as you hope for the best.

Network and reach out to your connections.

One of the best things you can do while looking for a job is to network, network and network some more, according to experts.

“Eighty percent of jobs come through networking,” Shreve Blake said. “Even if your contact is in a different department, they may refer you to someone in the right one.”

That means attending industry events, checking out who’s in your LinkedIn circle, asking friends to help you make connections, and turning toward any and all possible resources. Perhaps the university you attended provides career counseling, for example.

You should also check in with connections you’ve already made and re-establish the relationship, even if it’s as simple as asking for advice or sharing an article they may be interested in. You never know where one conversation can lead.

The Bottom Line

We know experiencing a layoff is a tough period in your life, but be kind to yourself, stay diligent and hold on to hope.

There are other jobs out there, and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself even happier where you end up next.