The Layoff Survival Checklist

We hope you’ll never need this step-by-step guide to surviving a layoff. But if you do, following these steps will put you on your way to a new opportunity.

1. Negotiate a Good Deal

Layoff Checklist GraphicIt may be possible to negotiate at least some terms of your layoff. Employers often budget substantial funds for such purposes, but exiting employees don’t realize they can negotiate or they are too traumatized to ask. As soon as you hear the news, cover these points:

  • Is your employer willing to pay for the services of an outplacement firm, resume writer or a career counselor?
  • When will your insurance end? When will you receive outstanding bonuses, expense reimbursements or stock options?
  • Will your manager give you a reference?
  • Are you eligible for rehire, part-time or temporary work at the company?
  • If you need time to negotiate effectively, ask if you can respond to the layoff offer within 24 hours.
  • When you leave the building, be sure to take any letters of commendation, copies of performance reviews and other documentation with you.

2. Secure Your Financial Position

You should plan to live on severance, unemployment and any other income you can muster for three to six months.

  • Immediately apply for unemployment benefits, as there’s often a awaiting period before you can collect.
  • Seek part-time or temporary work to help meet basic living expenses. This will preserve your savings and keep you from jumping at the first job offer that comes along.
  • Eliminate unnecessary discretionary expenses. Reduce fixed expenses.
  • Visit the doctor and dentist while your insura>nce remains in force.
  • Do your lenders offer the option of skipping payments? Find out, even if you think it won’t be necessary.
  • See if you can finance any tuition through student loans.
  • Research any help that might be available through local nonprofits. Many provide services from debt renegotiation to wardrobe advice to unemployed members of the community.

3. Create a Support Structure

Surround yourself with a network of supportive individuals and organizations that can provide everything from emotional sustenance to references, job leads, professional advice and financial aid.

  • Don’t overlook local and state retraining programs, or training allowances for displaced workers.
  • Investigate local layoff lounges, support groups and pink slip parties.
  • Local libraries and unemployment offices offer job postings, free Internet access and courses on resume creation and interviewing skills.

4. Research the Market

Especially if recent changes have permanently altered your career path, a complete career or industry change might be in order. So:

  • Complete an inventory of your skills, education and experience to identify a full range of possible career paths and uncover gaps in your resume. Now’s the time to take career interest surveys and search online occupational resources to find areas that can use your base of skills.
  • Enroll in courses and seminars, read books, work with a mentor or serve as an intern to acquire the knowledge and experience you’ll need to compete in a new field.
  • Talk with business leaders, CFOs, career counselors, professors, friends and colleagues about employment trends, your skills and the local market to uncover possible new industries and jobs.
  • Read articles and blogs from career experts.
  • Use news alerts to follow local companies, events and employment trends.
  • Develop a list of careers and industries that interest you, and a list of preferred employers.

5. Launch Your Search

  • Create several versions of your resume targeted toward the jobs and industries on your list.
  • Create cover letter and thank-you letter templates, so you can make changes on the fly.
  • Set-up an e-mail address dedicated to your search. Change voicemail greetings, so inquiring employers aren’t greeted by an inappropriate message.
  • Use a multidimensional search strategy that includes job boards, recruiters, alumni placement centers, networking events, professional networking sites and job fairs.
  • Market your resume and skills to employers on your target list, even if no job openings are posted.
  • Create a Web page or Web resume.
  • Continuously improve your job search and interviewing skills by reading articles and books.
  • Set daily contact goals and consider creating a blog, newsletter or e-mail to update your support group about the progress of your search.

6. Follow-Up and Resilience

  • Follow-up on every resume you submit by sending a thank you note or e-mail. Also follow up on every contact you make. Continue to follow-up until you receive a rejection letter or move to the next stage in the selection process.
  • Share leads along the way with your contacts to encourage them to reciprocate.
  • As you continue, seek support from others.
  • Remember you will be successful. It’s a matter of time and effort.

7. Thank Supporters

Once you land a job, be sure to thank the members of your support team and reciprocate when called upon, because you never know when you might need them again.

— Leslie Stevens-Huffman

18 Responses to “The Layoff Survival Checklist”

  1. Maybe this is a Canadian thing, but here minimum severance rates are law.

    Common practice for most employers is to offer only slightly higher than the legal minimum but budget up to 3 times as much. Historically they know less that 15% will try to negotiate. Always consult an employment lawyer before signing. A decent one will get you at least double the offer, your legal fees paid by the employer, and even negotiate a positive reference.

    My employer has laid-off many employees this year and all the ones who threatened to sue got the above at a minimum (even low level staff).

  2. Horace Simon

    I’m with Martin on the feedback thing. I will only thank someone for an interview or a meeting, because that’s feedback. First how the heck does one thank anybody anymore? I once called a company asking for contact info for a cover letter. The HR lady said I could use her name, which happened to be a long Indian name. I asked her to spell it because I didn’t want to insult her by misspelling it. I’m serious about the spelling of my last name and as unbelievable as it may sound, my last name (Simon) has been mangled in all sorts of unconceivable ways. Anyway, the lady rattles off about fifteen letters and when I asked her to help me with some letters I missed, she got livid. Wonder where that resume ended up?
    Good luck to those still looking.

  3. Paul McKelvey

    Unless you are a member of executive management, the concept of negotiating a good deal regarding a layoff is ludicrous. If you are in a big company, the best thing you can hope for is a few weeks to find a job within the company before you are laid off.
    The most usual is being called to a meeting with your boss and an HR person where you are informed of what the company will do. Everything is fixed, there is nothing to negotiate. The best thing you can do is listen to what they have to say and clarify what you do not understand. If you work for a company that provides outplacement and other benefits, wonderful. That’s an expense for your former employer, one they usually are not obligated to make. You may be asked to sign an agreement in which you give up some of your rights in return for receiving severance pay. Read the agreement carefully. It is all in favor of your former employer. Be honest. If you can’t live with the terms of the agreement, don’t sign it.

  4. Paul is correct. In my case, I did not even have 5 seconds notice I was being let go. They came and got me right in the middle of doing my job, explained the process to me, allowed me to get my personal things, and escorted me out the door. I had to phone the tech that worked for me from home and tell him I wasn’t there anymore. Nothing to negotiate. If you don’t sign there release agreement, you don’t get severance. Best approach (in my opinion) is to move forward and don’t look back. Life is a forward moving experience and you should treat your old employer as someone who has died. keep the good memories, throw away the bad ones, and move on with your life.

  5. So I had a heart attack a year & half ago. I ended up on STD and luckily I had checked the box for LTD. Since I was out my entire department has been dismantled or outsourced. LTD has ended, the company advised me that I have until the end of July 09 to find something internal. I have tired to but no one has called back. The HR person is going to schedule a meeting in the first week of August to wish me on my way. What are my options?

  6. Mary Fran

    Paul is correct about negotiating a deal. For most ex-employees, it is a one-sided situation in favor of the employer. Often the lay off comes without warning as Bob mentioned. The best one can hope for is to listen carefully as the HR person, or your manager, describes what you can expect from your soon to be former employer. Ask questions about filing for unemployment, unused vacation time, unpaid business and travel expenses, health insurance temination date and COBRA. If you are too rattled at the time of the getting the news, call within the next 2 business days with your questions.

  7. Paul, Bob and Mary are correct. I was laid off in March 2009 and a couple of days later I read thoroughly thru my laid off contract. The last provision listed said that ¿all terms are non-negotiable.¿ Then in order to get the severance, I had to agree to all terms of the contact, sign it, and mail it to the company within ten business days of being laid off.

  8. Martin Stein

    If you send you resume using DICE, how do you follow-up until you receive a rejection letter, as proposed in step 6? I agree it is a good idea – currently I receive absolutely no feedback to the 5 resumes I send in every day through DICE. The article sounds like it was written a decade ago and is being recycled here.
    Feedback would be a good feature for DICE resume submissions though. You could make it a one-click thing for the recruiters and it would elevate their status quite a bit. Recruiters that provide feedback could get ‘points’ and stand out from others…. DICE – do you need someone who could code that?

  9. I agree with the comments made by Jan, Mary, Bob and Paul. Like Bob, I was pulled from my desk in the middle of the day, informed of my lay-off, and was immediately escorted out the door without benefit of telling my carpool mates that their ride was leaving. I was told to call security and make an appointment to come back and collect my personal items during non-business hours. The contract to receive the severance package was non-negotiable, however, they gave us 30 days to review and return it. Like there was much choice in the matter?! While I understand that companies have a certain responsibility to protect their systems and remaining personnel, the fact that I was treated like a criminal and escorted from the building upon termination was the most deplorable action they could have taken. Frankly, I personally would never go back to work for this company after being treated like this, especially since I worked my a$$ off for them for almost 15 years!

  10. Don’t be afraid to ask. When I got hit with the news a couple of weeks ago, I asked for a couple more weeks of severence pay and to keep my computer. They granted both requests. They knew I had been a good employee, it was management’s fault the company was having problems, and that people who had been fired for cause (when the company was doing better) had received more.

    They really want you to go away quietly. If a little bit more money buys your silence, they may acquiesce.

  11. Horace – I after my interview I wanted to send a thank you note. The placement company said I could only send it to them and they would forward it to the client. Three months after I got the position I asked the person I interviewed with if she ever got my thank you note. She told me she had no idea I ever sent it. I don’t know why. The placement company told me they sent it to her.

  12. Just out of curiosity… why are companies so eager (well, at least some) to provide severance pay? Is their liability risk really so high? What kind of situations are they liable for?

    I got no severance, not even the mention of the possibility. The company promised 3 times in 3 years to file for my green card, but they never did. As a result, my work visa expired and they let me go that very day. Should I sue the company for failing to comply with their promises, and now leaving me without a job? Even though I’m not a citizen, I came here legally, and my understanding is that the Constitution entitles to even people like me to the same rights (well, almost all the same rights), and, ain’t we all created equal, and we all believe that these truths are self evident? Your advice and thoughts are welcome. Luis.

  13. Luis – Maybe your company thinks you won’t sue since you are no longer here legally. Maybe that was their plan all along. They waited until your visa expired and they fired you immediately. Sounds fishy. You should see a labor lawyer about it. Good luck.

  14. Call repeatedly. Call at odd times (early am, later pm, lunch). Don’t expect them to call you back! You’ve got to be persistent.

    Tailor your message to their interests — they don’t know that they need you!!!!

    Many good wishes.

  15. I agree with several of the statements made on this blog. My ex employer waited for me to make the 58 mi trip to work to let me have the news. As for severance, they dont even return phone calls about references and or employment verification, how could one expect any information about severance,health care or even work references? It truly is one sided.