Here Are The First 10 Things You Should Do If You’re Laid Off


If you’ve ever been laid off before, you know it’s a tough time that seems almost impossible to prepare for. Unless you’re used to dealing with a highly volatile work environment, you typically wouldn’t expect to come into the office and leave the same day unemployed. Regardless, it happens all of the time to so many people — and so many smart and qualified people at that. So while we certainly hope that you don’t face this experience in the future, here are the first 10 things you should do if you find yourself in this position.

1. Take time to process.

The feelings you’ll experience after being laid off are intense. From rejection to sadness to anger, you’ll likely be an emotional rollercoaster. That’s okay. Take a few days and just feel that.

2. Know what you’re worth before you walk out.

Ever heard the term severance? If not, it’s time to get acquainted. The term refers to the payment, often in the form of paychecks, that laid-off employees receive once they’re terminated. Typically, severance will be mentioned in your termination letter. A number of factors, such as how long you’ve worked at the company and your employment status, determine how much you’ll receive. If you truly don’t believe your severance pay is fair or if your letter states that you don’t receive severance, challenge your termination letter and contact the United States Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration Department immediately.

3. Set up unemployment benefits.

In an ideal world, you’d be laid off one day and have 10 interviews the next, but the chances of that happening are slim (unless you’ve already been looking for a new position before the layoff). You’ll want to set up unemployment benefits, which you can find on your particular state’s Department of Labor page. (Here’s New York’s Department of Labor page for reference.)

Filing for unemployment is surprisingly easy. The page will suggest you file that claim the week that you’re unemployed. You’ll fill out some basic information like your social security number and driver’s license number (if applicable) so officials can verify who you are. Then, you’ll wait one week so that they can process your request before you start receiving weekly checks. Follow the directions on your state’s Department of Labor page to complete your registration, and if you’re not sure what to do, call the number associated with the website.

Note that you can’t claim unemployment checks forever. Look on your state’s Department of Labor page for how long you can claim since time limits vary from state to state. The majority of states allow you to claim unemployment benefits for 26 weeks.

4. Contact a temp agency (depending on how broke you are).


If you’ve been living paycheck-to-paycheck and would prefer to work part-time jobs here and there instead of collect unemployment benefits, do a Google search of temp agencies near you. There are both generalized and industry-specific temp agencies, so if you were in media and wanted to stay in media (even in temp work), you would choose an agency that fits your needs. All you’ll typically need to do is submit your resumé, and your temp agency will call you with opportunities and schedule interviews.

You can expect calls and emails about temporary positions you can fill, and you’ll be paid according to what you discuss with the agency. Some agencies even offer “temp-to-perm” positions, which are positions that start as temporary and end up as full-time positions.

5. Think about what you want versus what you need.

Getting laid off is scary, and running out of money is even scarier. The pressure will likely make you want to jump into any job. On one hand, you need to be reasonable and think about how you’re going to survive — most people can’t just fly to Fiji to destress after losing their job. But you can (and should) take a little time to think about where you’ve been and whether you want to continue on that path.

6. Cancel subscriptions that might weigh down your tight budget.

If you think about how many subscriptions and extra costs you were taking on with a salary, it all probably adds up. Take a serious look at your current miscellaneous costs. Do you really need that subscription snack box or Hulu account right now? Probably not. Cut them and save some cash.

7. Start networking with new people, and connect with people who were laid off with you (if applicable).

If you were a part of a big layoff, keep in touch with those who were laid off with you. Maintaining those relationships could help you understand the unemployment process better and you could find new career opportunities through them. Also, be sure to attend as many networking events as possible. Scour Facebook or talk to former colleagues to find events you could attend. Who knows? You could make a really important connection at one of them.

8. Maintain a similar schedule to what you had before the layoff.

Unless you had an insane position in which you were working overnight, try to keep your typical schedule. If you got up at 7 a.m. before the layoff, keep getting up at 7 a.m. Treat your job search like a real job, but also keep your screen time limited to within eight hours. Your body needs a consistent and healthy sleep cycle for important physical, mental and emotional reasons. Don’t mess with your brain even more during this crucial time.

9. Get out of the house (or apartment).

Unsplash / Daniel Mingook

After a layoff, your first impulse might be to apply for positions all day every day and never leave your place. But trust us when we say you won’t be more productive by locking yourself in your room and staring at a screen the entire day. Your body and soul need fresh air. You have no idea how important self-care is at this point in your life. Walk to the park, paint your nails, make a homemade meal or clean your bathroom. Exercise or meditate. Meet up with friends for a glass of wine and tell them the next one, when you have a job, is on you. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure to take care of yourself.

10. Take inventory of your best interview clothes and resumé format.

Once you’ve set yourself up with a financial plan and process everything, you’ll be ready to go on potential interviews. Spruce up your resumé and take a look at your best interview attire. Have scuffs on your nicest shoes or a hole in your sharpest outfit? Take that money you saved from your subscriptions and invest in a new look. It’s worth it.

Being laid off isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but it doesn’t have to be a total nightmare. Know what to do before you get to this point in your life and stay prepared. You never know what will happen, but you have the opportunity to be proactive and get back on track in no time.