What to Do When You Get Laid Off

Just laid off and now what? Here is a step-by-step guide of exactly what to do once you are laid off to land your next job.

Wondering "What to do if I get laid off?" or "I just got laid off now what"? Losing a job doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you act quickly and strategically, it can be a great opportunity to make a move to find something that you love while you leverage any severance packages. Here are the steps to take when you get laid off.


The first thing to do is to not panic but to take a deep breath and process the situation. Know that you are not alone in this either. In fact, the Department of Labor reports there have been nearly 170,000 layoffs in the US as of May 1st and many of those are from the biggest companies that no one expected layoffs to ever come from. There are also many more reports of layoffs to come in 2023.

Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in being laid off. And, know that it wasn't your fault. And, because the layoffs have been so reported in 2023, people will be more understanding of your situation. So, it is ok!

Nevertheless, knowing that you aren't alone and that it wasn't your fault is easier said than done. Make sure to take the time to process this and be ok with your situation. Rushing into your job search panicked or desperate will not generate good results. Taking a moment to get yourself mentally prepared and in the right headspace to pursue the next job is key to making the most of your search.

Figure Out Your Finances

Losing your job means losing your primary source of income, which can be scary. It’s crucial to prioritize your finances during this time. Figure out exactly what benefits you receive from your former employer and what benefits you can apply for with the state once you officially separate.

Create a budget, cut back on expenses, and increase your efforts to save money until you find a new job. Reduce any unnecessary subscriptions or other purchases. Set up a plan for managing your finances and monitoring your spending. Doing this will help remove some of the panic and enable you to start building a timeline for what must happen in next.

Build a Plan

Now that you know what your finances look like, you can build a real plan for your job search. Your plan should include the goals you want to achieve, the steps necessary to reach them, and a timeline for when each goal should be met.

Create a timeline for your search and know when you must have a new job. Also, take the time to figure out when you want to have a job. For some, that may mean after school lets out or after a vacation that was previously planned. Whatever it is, it is ok to think about what you want when in this process. Take those dates and start to figure out what you will do when and identify some dates when you need to evaluate if your efforts are working.

Keep in mind that because you aren't alone right now, the competition is fierce. Your search will likely take longer than you expect because hiring is slowing down for many. Sure, there are some jobs that are still hard to fill. But, those roles aren't reflective of the market as a whole. Starting earlier in the process is always better than waiting too late to get things started. So, when in doubt start looking and applying.

Get Your Resume Together

The next big step to take is to build a current resume. You will need this when applying for jobs, but also in following up with people after networking. Many people are shocked at how different the job market is right now. This is because the number of applications for every open job has skyrocketed and the level of technology used by employers to manage those applications.

Make sure that you build a resume that can work with the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) used by employers. Nearly all Fortune 500 companies use an ATS and over 70% of all other employers are using one as well. So, if you are applying for a job online, know that your resume will go through one of these systems.

There are many different ATS that exist. Basically, they are all focused on keywords, job titles, and skills. These details matter to the programs that scan your resume and provide insights. In many cases, the ATS can be set up to reject your application before a person even sees it if you don't include sufficient detail on your resume. So, building a resume that works with the ATS is key to getting it in front of a real person in the hiring process.

Many companies will offer outplacement services to help people being laid off build their resumes. Use this if you are lucky enough to get such benefits. If not or you aren't satisfied with those results, then consider hiring a resume-writing service. Companies like The Contingent Plan have professionals that know the ATS and what hiring managers want to make sure that your resume gets through the technology and connects with the people skimming it in the hiring process.

Update Your LinkedIn

The next step to take after you get laid off is to update your LinkedIn profile. If you were in your job or at your company for a while, chances are you paid little (if any) attention to LinkedIn. Well, now is the time to start investing in professional networking.

You can't make up for the lost time and build a strong professional network overnight. But, you can and should start as soon as you receive your notice. The place for everyone to start is with their profile. Make sure it is up-to-date and accurately reflects the roles you played in your job, as well as any volunteer activities. Connect with your current contacts and start adding people from groups or companies of interest.

Does LinkedIn really matter? Yes! Over 90% of recruiters and talent acquisition professionals are on LinkedIn every single day. They are looking for people just like you to fill their open jobs. There are also countless job postings that are just posted on LinkedIn that you cannot apply for if you do not have a profile. And, if your profile is out of date, your applications to jobs through LinkedIn will be rejected as the people receiving your applications on LinkedIn also get insights about you based on your profile. So, complete your LinkedIn profile thoroughly!

Find LinkedIn overwhelming or unnecessarily time-consuming? Companies like The Contingent Plan have professional profile writers that would love to help you maximize the platform in your job search. Get expert help now.

Prioritize Networking

Once your profile is ready to go, make sure to start prioritizing networking. Know that your professional network is key to landing your next job. So, start making networking for your job search a daily habit.

Networking doesn't have to be scary. The easiest place to start is to connect with people you haven't met recently. Use the opportunity to reconnect with old colleagues or clients. From there, start to grow your network towards the future. Going to events or joining groups to keep yourself engaged professionally after you are laid off can be a huge benefit. You will stay relevant and find people in the organizations where you want to work.

Keep at it! You never know who may be able to help. So, take the time every day to connect with people you may know, join groups, and participate in conversations that advance your goals. Build relationships first and they will return huge rewards over your career.

Apply For Jobs

Everyone must apply for jobs once they are laid off. This is true even if you have a great network that will open doors because, at some point, you will have to put your resume through the HR processes.

So, make sure that you are looking at jobs and applying for them regularly. This seems obvious, but it is easy to just get stuck in looking at jobs. Don't forget that you need to apply for them to get considered for the position.

There are tons of job boards out there to find open positions. And, you should also ask your network about opportunities. But, don't forget to build a list of organizations where you would like to work. Do this early in your search and register with their career pages on the company's website. This will ensure that you are in that company's ATS the right way and that you will be the first to know about their open jobs.

Look At Growing Your Skills

A lay-off can also be a great time to build your skills. Take advantage of this time to learn something new. Many outplacement services will offer some kind of upskilling program or benefits that may make sense.

For others, it could be that you need to refresh your skills or obtain certifications. Don't rush out and pay for a bunch of training or new certifications. Instead, look at the jobs that you want or that you have applied for and see if those certifications or training will help you land the position. If so, then the cost of the certification and/or training will be worth it. If not, then hold off on the costs until you land your next job.

In some cases, you may be able to find volunteering opportunities to build your skills. This can be a great way to give back while also growing professionally. Regular volunteering during your time off after a layoff can also help you on your resume and in interviews to show that you have been actively engaged in something. And, it will make those conversations more productive. So, take the time to look at volunteering and think about it strategically if your life after being laid off has room for volunteering.

Stay Flexible & Focused

A lot can happen after being laid off. It can be scary, emotional, and the job market can always change. Creating your plan early in this process and knowing everything you can is important. But, life happens. Make sure that you stay flexible as your search progresses. Adapt your strategies as you learn and you will become more productive.

Think about everything that you do in your job search at this point as an investment in yourself. Every conversation is an opportunity to learn and to practice. Use the insights that you gain to improve your efforts and you will see the results pay off.

Make sure that you are also staying focused on what you want. It will be easy to get comfortable or distracted. Stay persistent in your efforts to look for the roles you really want and be ok with walking away from those that you do not. You won't know the potential opportunity until you progress in the process, so take the risks and pursue them, but know that you can (and probably should) walk away from the jobs that aren't a fit for you.

Ask for Help

The final thing to remember is to make sure that you ask for help after being laid off. When it first happens, people will come out of nowhere and say that they want to help. But, job searches take time. You will need to remind people that you are still looking and that they can help.

The best way to ask for help is to be as specific as possible. Come to people with clear expectations about what you want and ask for their assistance. This could be requesting an employee referral link to an open job at their company or an introduction to someone that you want to know. Whatever it is, make sure that you make the ask so that the person can help.

For some, it can also make sense to seek out additional coaching or other professional support in their job search. Companies like The Contingent Plan have coaches that are ready to help guide you through the job search, prepare for interviews, and to troubleshoot your job search. If you have been laid off and the search is taking longer than it should or you have seen a lot of rejections with no interviews, it is probably time to seek out that professional guidance.

It’s important to stay hopeful when you’re laid off. Fortunately, it is possible to take positive steps to push forward to the next chapter in your career path. You can acknowledge the challenge, prioritize your finance, network, improve your skills, and practice self-care during this period. Keep a positive attitude, maintain a strong job search focus, and you’ll find yourself in a new job soon enough.

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