How To Get A Job After Getting Laid Off

find a job after getting laid off

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Losing your job is rough. It can knock you down emotionally and can make you feel like giving up.

A sudden lay off can take anyone by surprise. One minute you are busting your ass on a project, the next minute you are having a chat in a room with HR.

“Can you come in here for a minute? I just need to talk to you.”

Sounds innocent doesn’t it?

What happens next is just gut wrenching.

HR or your boss then tells you how many options you have and what’s going to happen:

  • You are eligible for unemployment (how refreshing).
  • Clean out your desk.
  • Give me your badge.
  • Here is your final check.
  • Sign this document saying you’ve been paid everything we owe you.

Sound familiar?

What Happens Next

You hesitate, but then you have to make that call to your wife. She’s not expecting it, but when she hears your voice, she already knows something is wrong.

Finally you tell her that everything is going to be ok. This is just a setback and you didn’t like working there anyway.

Yeah right.

You go home (generally on a Thursday or Friday) and wonder what to do next.  Your career has just been clobbered and you feel like everything is falling apart.

The first day is the worst, but the next few days can still royally suck.

You are immediately thrown out of your daily routine. Sure traffic is a pain, but driving to work beats being unemployed.

A week ago life was so busy there was not time to do laundry. Now, all you have is time.

All of the extra time is not something that you are used to so you need a plan.

The Emotional Roller Coaster

image showing a roller coaster demonstrating the ups and down associated with unemployement
Learn how to avoid the ups and downs associated with unemployment.

When I tried to land my first major job, I had little experience. There were few entry level positions for what I wanted to do.

A similar problem occurs after getting laid off.

When you get into the interview, the first question is “Are you currently employed?”

That’s not a great ice breaker.

You have to tell them the truth but you are afraid that unemployment will hurt your chances.

It does, but it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.  You will need to stay positive and explain why the lay off occurred.  Truthful answers can include things like;

  • A general RIF occurred (reduction in force)
  • Your project was cancelled
  • The layoff is temporary and you are scheduled to be re-hired

Whatever the reason is, be honest and try to explain what happened.

If you don’t get the job then no problem.  Move on to the next one. 

The important thing is to not let setbacks get you down.  It’s also important to not get too excited when you do land an interview.

You do need to show that you are interested and qualified, but also maintain a professional posture.

How To Get Back To Work

First Priority

The first thing to do is to file for unemployment benefits if you qualify. You need this money and this is your top priority. Many states like California make you wait one full week before you can collect, so don’t delay.

You will need to get through the phone interview with the state agency.  They will want to know if if you left voluntarily or involuntarily.  Lay offs are involuntary.

Most states don’t pay any benefits to those who left a job on their own.

Second Priority

The next thing you should do is to update your resume. Hopefully you have already been doing this, but if not, then get on it.

Think about how you have added value to the company. Instead of listing your tasks and responsibilities (project manager, responsible for bla bla bla), focus more on what you have achieved.

As a hiring manager, I have seen hundreds of terrible resumes. These candidates didn’t understand what it takes to market themselves. They thought if I knew what job they had, then that was good enough.

Far from the truth.

I had no time to filter through junk resumes trying to find that nugget mixed in with the rest of them.

Don’t make this type of mistake. Show your future employer that you are highly skilled and will be a resource to the company.

Companies are bombarded with resumes and you need to stand out from the crowd.

Third Priority

Research, then apply for jobs in your field of expertise.

screenshot showing Indeed job listings
Sites like Indeed save time by aggregating job postings.

Get an Excel spreadsheet and start documenting potential companies and specific jobs. 

Log everything that you do such as when you contact them, what was said, and when you told them you’d follow up.  Be sure to hold yourself accountable and contact them when you said you would.  Hiring managers pay attention to these types of things.

Fourth Priority

Build your social network. Site’s like LinkedIn are some of the best tools to help you get a new job. Not only can you search jobs directly, you can utilize your contacts to help you get noticed by hiring managers.

screenshot showing linkedIn job postings
LinkedIn is more than just networking. Relevant jobs are posted in your line of work. Many sites allow you to apply with your LinkedIn data to save time.

Many jobs are not even posted, and rely on networking to find candidates. These opportunities can only be realized by actively pursing leads with people you know.

How To Stay Motivated

If you’ve been out of work for a while, the initial drive to get a job might fade.

Conversely, you may be applying like crazy but never seem to land the deal.

Both of these conditions drag you down and hurt your self esteem. You need to fight any negative thoughts and stay busy.

Exercise Every Day

Go to the gym every day – or exercise for free by riding your bike, hiking, or whatever turns you on.

Exercise flushes out negative thoughts and gives you a break from job hunting. This is quality time and you need to take advantage of it.

Exercising raises endorphin levels and reduces stress. That’s a win.

You will need all the positive vibes you can muster when you are talking with potential employers. This is not just at the interview, this is at every point of contact.

Establish A Routine

Force yourself to get into a daily routine as if you were employed.

Break your day up into time chunks, such as for job research, applying for jobs, and time for contacting people.

Schedule in breaks throughout the day so you don’t get bogged down. Your creativity will be much better when the day is more interesting.

Schedule In Fun Time

You may brush off doing things for fun or think you don’t have time for it.  You may even feel a little guilty for having a good time when you are not bringing in any money. 

Well you need to break it up and get out of the house sometimes.  There’s not much gained by drowning in worry and spending every last minute job hunting.

If you are a dog lover like I am then take the dog around the block or to a park.

Dogs don’t have bad days and they forget about the past. They live in the present and can’t wait to hang out with you.

It will boost your spirits.

Whatever you choose to do, make a point about doing it.  Schedule activities that you enjoy that will clear out your mind from troubles.

Hire A Resume Writer

If you are not the best resume writer, then consider professional help.

Talking about yourself is not easy. In addition, resumes need to be formatted correctly with appropriate white space.

Resume writers who do this for a living have this down pat. It’s worth the investment to hire a specialist so that you can focus on other problems.

Hire A Life Coach

Life coaches know how you feel and how to keep you going in the right direction.

I hired one when I lost my job and it really made a difference. They have empathy and skills to help you when you need it most.

If You Already Have A Job, Do This Now

If you are not lost your job yet, this is the best time to get prepared for the unexpected.  The saying

The best time to search for a job is when you have a job

is very true because you are not under pressure to get back to work and have the advantage of time.  Finding a high paying job typically takes a while, so take advantage of your good fortune while you are employed.

1. Keep your resume fresh.

It’s a lot less stress to have your resume up to date than it is to scramble at the last minute.

  • Document all of your accomplishments at work
  • Keep a running log of everything you can think of such as:
    • How much money you have saved the company.
    • Projects that you delivered on time.
    • Customers that you have brought to the company.
    • Teams that you have run and their accomplishments.
    • Problems that you solved.

At least once per quarter use this information collected to update your resume. Keeping your resume current enables you to have the best opportunity to get a new job.

2. Expand your social network, especially LinkedIn

Most of the better jobs I’ve had were obtained through referrals.

You should always be expanding your social network and stay in contact with recruiters and other influential people.  I’ve found that LinkedIn was the best resource to stay in the game.

I will point out that who you add to your network is important.  If you would buy someone a cup of coffee, then that’s close enough to add to your network.

I get hit up every day from people who want to join my network that don’t even take the time to introduce themselves.  Do you think anyone like this would ever lend a hand?

Not likely.

The people that do matter are those acquaintances and colleagues who have taken the time to get to know you.

3. Perform soft inquiries about positions you might be interested in.

Always be on the lookout for opportunities. You never know when or where you will find them, but they are everywhere.

Indeed, LinkedIn, and internal job postings are a good place to start.

Many times it is not necessary to formally apply depending on the circumstances.

Phone screens or chats over coffee are pretty common occurrences. It never hurts to talk to someone about an opportunity. You can always stop the process if you feel that it is not the right time to make a jump.

Being upfront with your intentions is the way to go. Recruiters understand that you may just be looking. That’s o.k.

Let them know what’s going on with your career up front.  It builds trust and strengthen your relationships. You might not take the job on the table today, but recruiters will keep you in mind for future positions.


Losing a job hurts, but it happens to the best of us. It throws a serious wrench in the spokes and can drive you into a depression.

Fortunately, the stress of losing a job can be managed with a systematic approach to find your new career.

Whatever you do, stay positive and know that you are important and you can and will find a replacement job.

Don’t give into negative thoughts and instead stay focused and driven to rejoin the workforce.


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