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How to Deal with Being Laid Off

It happens to the best of us: you're called into someone's office and told — surprise! — today is your last day. That's why everyone should have a plan.


  • Step 1: Don’t beat yourself up Don’t beat yourself up. Being laid off often has nothing to do with you or your job performance.
  • Step 2: Negotiate a severance package No one is legally entitled to severance, but you may have some leverage if your layoff wasn’t random. Say you want to 'explore your options' before you sign off on anything.
  • TIP: Per federal anti-age discrimination laws, workers age 40 and older have 21 days to review their severance package, 45 days if they were part of a massive layoff, and seven days to change their mind after signing a waiver.
  • Step 3: Examine your employee file Request your employee file. It’s yours legally, and it may help you figure out what you can do better at the next job or if there is anything suspicious or discriminatory about your layoff.
  • TIP: Remain polite. If you keep your composure, there’s always the chance you could be asked back.
  • Step 4: Expect to be escorted out Don’t be shocked if you are escorted off the premises; many companies do this to protect their property. If you are allowed to return to your desk, delete personal data from your computer and download business contacts.
  • Step 5: Investigate health insurance Research your health insurance options. You may be able to find an individual policy that is cheaper than continuing your company coverage under the government act known as COBRA, which allows you to pay to stay on the company policy for up to 18 months.
  • TIP: If you have company-paid benefits that last until the end of the month, make medical and dental appointments immediately so you can get check-ups and/or necessary procedures done under the wire.
  • Step 6: Sound professional Make sure your voicemail greetings are professional. Establish a serious email address if your personal one is weird or cutesy.
  • Step 7: Get business cards Have a business card made. Experts recommend making your card unique, with a graphic that represents your line of work and perhaps your photo. Use color, texture, and an unusual size or shape to make your card stand out.
  • Step 8: Network Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a job. Use a professional networking site like LinkedIn, as well as any social networking sites you use, to spread the word. Studies show most people get their resume seen because they know someone.
  • Step 9: Stay in touch with colleagues Send your former coworkers your contact information, especially any who were laid off with you. If one of them gets a new job, they might be able to bring you along.
  • FACT: Sixty to 75% of job leads come from a person’s social and professional network.

You Will Need

  • Negotiating skills
  • Your employee file
  • Health insurance options
  • Business cards
  • Networking sites
  • Some rest and relaxation
  • A short vacation (optional)

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