By most metrics, the U.S. economy is on the upswing at the moment, with the tech industry in particular enjoying a low unemployment rate. Yet despite those upbeat numbers, layoffs can and do happen. While you can’t always prepare for the axe, the following step-by-step guide can ensure that you’re back on your feet—and in a new job—as soon as possible.
Negotiate on the Way Out
A layoff is traumatic, but it’s imperative that you keep your emotions in check long enough to leave your soon-to-be-former office with as much as possible in terms of information and benefits.
First, you need to lock down the essentials. Ask your HR representative when your insurance will end, as well as when you’ll receive whatever money is still due to you—whether expense reimbursements, stock options, bonuses, or paychecks.
Next, if you were on good terms with your manager to the very end, ask if they’ll provide a reference for you. Also make sure to ask whether there’s a possibility of contract or part-time work—just because your job’s been eliminated doesn’t mean the company doesn’t have further use of your skills.
Whatever the answer, also ask if your employer is willing to pay for the services of an outplacement firm or career counselor. Sometimes bigger firms will offer those sorts of things to newly laid-off employees, in order to ease the transition.
Third, collect any paper you might need for your future career—whether copies of performance reviews, letters of recommendation, or other documentation—before you actually depart the office. (Alternatively, forward any work emails containing those documents to your personal email for safekeeping.)
Finances and Support
Even in a great economy, you should plan to live off a combination of severance, unemployment and any transitional income for anywhere from three months to a year. Immediately applying for unemployment benefits is a key step, as is seeking out any possible part-time or contracting work until you land a new job. As long as your insurance remains in place, visit the doctor or dentist.
Engage your support network, both in-person and online. Your network is a vital source for job leads, professional advice, and references. Have a coffee or three with career counselors, professors, CTOs, local business leaders, and anyone else who can provide you with the latest on local employment trends and jobs.
Plunge Back In
The added benefit of part-time and contracting work is that, if you earn enough to sustain your lifestyle, you can resist the temptation to leap at any poor job offers that might come along.
Before you hunt for a new gig, update your resume and cover-letter template. That will give you the chance to inventory your most up-to-date skills and experience. If you’ve held off taking courses or seminars devoted to your particular skill set, now’s the time to consider enrolling, if you have the time and money.
If you want to use the layoff as an opportunity to change careers, you’ll need to begin researching what the new career will require with regard to skills and experience, and figure out a path that will allow you to obtain those prerequisites.
If it’s been awhile, update your social media handles and online profiles to reflect your latest skills; you don’t know who might be looking at them. If you’re a developer, make sure GitHub or SourceForge features your best code; if you have a personal website, now’s the time for an update that highlights your abilities.
Finding a new job may be a long process; lean on your support network for help and encouragement. Make sure to follow up all job applications and interviews with a thank-you note or email. You will be successful—it’s just a matter of time.