I’ve never been fired (knock on wood) but I have been laid off twice during my career. I have nothing nice to say about it. It sucks, it happens to the best of us and it helps knowing what to expect.
My experiences are almost identical: In both cases, the company shut down completely and immediately – and I mean immediately. After going about our normal morning routines, the boss called a mid-day meeting and broke the news. Stunned, we packed up our stuff (while passing the phone so that the next person could file for unemployment), said our goodbyes and never returned. To this day, it’s still difficult to describe the shock. It’s a sense of loss and failure mixed in with hope and anxiety. Oh, and I can’t forget anger. Definitely some of that. Oh yeah, and fear. Lots and lots of fear.
If you have never been laid off, it’s as scary as it sounds. Despite popular thinking, companies aren’t required to give you a severance package, so in one case, I was handed my last paycheck and that was it. Once the initial shock wore off, I just kind of sat there and absorbed the information: I was without job. Sans job. Jobless. I got through the next day somewhat comforted because I qualified for unemployment compensation, which is a fraction of your normal salary. But all you have to do is mail a form every two weeks to prove that you are actively job searching and you get a check! Easy.
The key to survival rests in five things:
- Doing everything you possibly can to find a new job: revamping your resume, finding new ways to market your skills, scouring the internet, talking to people, following every lead, working with a recruiter, sending out resumes, going on job interviews and researching opportunities you may not have thought about before. Consider volunteering, interning or requesting to spend a day at a company related to your desired industry or field.
- Having a backup plan: What will you do if you get cut off from unemployment before you find a job? Figuring out an answer makes it easier to keep moving forward. My worst case scenario was finding temp work to pay the bills, and if that didn’t work out, moving in with my parents. Thankfully, I never had to go there.
- Being patient: Understand that the interviewing and hiring process takes longer than you think but don’t get caught in the waiting game. Even if you’re a shoe-in for the position, keep sending out resumes and going on interviews until you get the offer. Who knows, you might find an even better position!
- Getting out of the house: This was a hard one for me to learn because I had everything I needed at home: coffee, food, wireless internet and my laptop. The one thing I didn’t have? Actual people. It’s easy to feel isolated when you don’t have coworkers around you and your friends are too busy at work to IM. A couple times a week, take your laptop to a coffee shop with wireless access and buy a $4 latte (yes, despite your tight budget), or go to the bookstore and read books and magazines relevant to your job search.
- Doing something more with your time than just 24/7 job searching: You will go nuts. Take up a new hobby, like indoor rock climbing or yoga (I chose swimming and pilates). Take a pottery class, cooking class or money management class through your city’s recreation department, an adult school or a community college. Being in between jobs is the perfect time to nurture your interests and grow as a person.
The emotional roller coaster is probably the hardest side effect to overcome. Just know that it’s normal and that the busier you are, the less you’ll feel it. I remember talking it over with a friend one day, feeling positive about being able to take my time to find a new gig, the perfect gig, and then the next day I was a basket case, depressed about being 28-years-old and an utter and complete failure. Why didn’t I see this coming? Who would hire me now? I reeked of unemployed desperation. And if I did get a job offer, I’d probably have to take a pay cut since being unemployed doesn’t give you any bargaining power. But when I slipped further down the slope, I started resenting my friends who kept doing fun things that cost money – money I didn’t have! And my self-worth took a plunge, too. Who would marry me if I wasn’t employable? How could I take care of kids if I couldn’t even keep a job?
And honestly, that’s pretty much how it is until you accept a job offer – and that day will come (just ask my mother who found herself laid off at the age of 64!). One day you’re fine, one day you’re not. One day you’re up, the next day you’re down, down, down. Just keep reminding yourself that a newer, better job/career is on the horizon and stubbornly push through those days when you are paralyzed by hopelessness. Keep moving forward.
Jovie Baclayon is the head of editorial for YSN.com and an expert in the experiences faced by emerging adults. She is the writer and editor of YS Weekly, YSN.com’s e-newsletter filled with career tips, secrets and strategies that is distributed to more than 10,000 readers every Thursday morning.