If You Just Got Laid Off: Do These Things First

I’m so sorry.  This is not fun; it is especially not fun if you were among the first, if you weren’t expecting it, and if you don’t have a plan for what to do if it happens to you.  However, there it is, and there is nothing you can do about it now.

First, do not linger in the present or the past.  This is a good time to refrain from affiliation with the folks who are a.) former office buds who are still employed where you are not, and b.) the rest of the crowd who got their bad news when you did.  Once upon a time, this happened to me, and the first thing I asked for was a different outplacement place.  I struck out on my own, cut myself off from the commiserating crowd, the well-wishers, and all the consuming gossip about who’s going next.  It is all completely irrelevant to you from now on.  This is like ripping off the bandage, I know, but you have to do it.

Second, write three sentences about your present circumstances.  The first one speaks to who you are professionally, i.e., “I’m a skilled food stylist. . . . ”  The second one says what brought you to where you are now, i.e., “I was hired by NBC to bring Matt Lauer’s segments up to Food Styling Nirvana standards. . .” And the third one explains today’s problem, “There were six of us, and with fewer Holiday Parties Segments being produced, they let four of us go yesterday, including me.”

Just the facts.  This all answers the questions, especially your own, and keeps you focused on the facts.   There is a tendency to start veering off the emotional tracks and getting in your own way, like this:  “I’m older, I’m depressed, it’s the holidays, I’m in the wrong state, I’m an idiot, I should have seen this, I made a wrong move ten years ago. . . blah, blah.”  Whatever.  None of that is real, none of that is important, and none of that will help you, so just write down the things that we all can agree are true.

Third, decide what you really want, and take no more than three days to do it.  I mean it: three days.  It would have been three years, but you screwed up and didn’t do it three years ago, and now you don’t have that kind of luxurious time.   You can do whatever you want in the three days–call everyone you know and ask them, call no one and listen to Motown classics for 72 hours, or ponder your options by writing them all down.  It’s up to you, but you have to decide what profession, job, geographic location, career objective, whatever “what I want” translates to for you.   Within three days.  Not “after the holidays.”

You can change your mind, of course, but you have to start down a path, and make even a temporary decision.  Once you have decided, you can begin to research your objective.  You go from “I was a Food Stylist” to “I want to Style Food for XYZ.” Or “I am looking for work as a Catering Manager,” adding “at Marriott,” or whatever.  It is the path that matters.  You must begin.  Now.

Beginning with these simple steps gets you over the hump.  There is a real hump, by the way, like a speed bump to keep you from doing really stupid things, like posting your nine-page resume on Facebook, and stuff like that.  The hump is when you feel the worst or the best, depending on whether this is temporarily liberating or temporarily depressing to the point of madness.  It is temporary, though, for sure.

Use the hump time wisely and monitor your behavior.  The best thing for you to do is to stabilize yourself, because you are your most important resource.  If you are engaging in self-destruction at will, by drinking, writing stupid things on Facebook, saying dumb things to people who still work where you don’t (which by the way, they are repeating to others), staying up all night playing Angry Birds, or wallowing in whatever way you wallow, you aren’t there for yourself.  And that’s a big mistake that you just don’t need to make.

Instead, during the hump time,  make lists of all the things you will do differently in the future, the things you’ll leave behind, and your ambitions for the next chapter.   Three days after you begin all this, I can promise you that you will feel a whole lot stronger, and much more intentional.  Ready to move on.

Next blog: Take Inventory

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