What to Do When You Get Laid Off

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In some ways, getting laid off can be worse than getting fired. Few people are truly surprised when they lose their job for poor performance, but a layoff can happen to a good worker with no warning.

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If this happens to you, there are some steps you want to take right away. Don't panic and give yourself a little time to be upset at your situation. Remember that if you were laid off, that's not a comment on your capabilities. It may have been that the company was switching directions or had a change in its overall fortunes.

In reality, the reason you lost your job, if it wasn't for cause, doesn't matter. What's important is how you recover and what you do next.

File for unemployment

Unemployment isn't charity or a government handout. It's insurance you paid for a little bit with each paycheck. Taking it isn't a sign of weakness any more than filing a claim with your car insurance company after an accident.

Make sure you get proper separation papers from your former company, and file as soon as you can. Even if you don't expect to be out of work long, file and take the benefits you've earned while you're eligible.

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Get your resume in order

Preparing a resume isn't just about taking the last one you used and updating it. Do some research in your specific field to see if there have been any changes in how resumes are presented. In some cases, these changes can be significant.

For example, in journalism, for a very long time a one-page resume was the standard. In recent years that has changed, and multi-page documents are now acceptable.

Make sure you get your resume copy-edited by a professional. In addition, if you have a mentor in the field, you may also want to have him or her look it over.

Prepare a base cover letter

While you may only tweak your resume a little, if at all, based on the job you're applying for, your cover letter should be specific to each one. You'll want to address the specific things in the job ad -- both to show you read it and to address any shortcomings not evident on your resume.

Put something together for the type of job you intend to apply for, and have it checked for errors in the same way you did your resume.

Check your social media

Potential employers will check your social media. That won't be limited to LinkedIn, even though you should make sure your info is up to date on the jobs site. On all platforms, make sure you present yourself in a professional way and remove any posts that you wouldn't want a potential employer to see -- think party pics, political opinions, and anything even mildly bawdy.

Work your network

Sometimes people are embarrassed by losing their job and they don't reach out to their contacts. That's a mistake. Let people know you were laid off, and let them know why.

Your network may know of openings, or maybe even someone you know will have a job that you might be a fit for. It wasn't your fault you got laid off, and in most cases people will be ready to help.

Make getting a job your job

Perhaps you need a day or two to get yourself together after a layoff, but after that it's time to get to work. Being out of work is not a vacation. You need to make finding a new job something you treat like a job.

Take time every day to check the appropriate job boards and to network with appropriate people. Reach out to human resources or hiring managers at companies not listing openings. Attend industry events, and if headhunters exist in your field, make your availability known. Leave no stone unturned, and spend at least a few hours every day working on landing your next opportunity.

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