Tips for Surviving a Layoff

US employees have been with their current employer for an average of only 4.1 years. Workforce reduction is an ongoing event in many major industries, especially technology.  Today’s economic model is one of capricious ebbs and flows with companies needing to change directions at light speed or risk losing ground to the competition.  Companies are continually looking for more effective ways maintain their competitive advantage.  Sometimes, this means doing more with less and reducing the workforce.

A layoff can be a wake up call to seek out a better position, expand your skill set, reevaluate your goals, or make a career change.  There are some highly effective strategies that any laid off worker can employ to soften the blow and speed up the job search process and even improve their career situation.  Here are five proven action steps that any worker can employ to turn a setback into a springboard and launch themselves to the next level of their career:

1- Take care of the high priority items first: unemployment benefits, savings reserve and “burn rate,” and health insurance benefits.

Take an inventory of your present situation and assess the high-priory areas. Information regarding unemployment benefits can be found on your state’s local Workforce Center web site. Assess your personal “burn rate” which is monthly expenses divided into total savings. This will tell you how long (in months) you can hold out while looking for another position. Investigate part time, side hustle, and/or consulting opportunities for additional cash flow. Temp work through a staffing agency can also be a viable stop-gap. If you had group health in your last position, you can purchase health insurance through COBRA. HIPPA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act also protects your right to healthcare if you lose your job.

2- Manage stress and emotions. Stay positive and focused!

Being laid off, whether you saw it coming or not, can be a stressful situation. Having a plan for both personal and professional growth is the best way to eliminate negative thoughts and behaviors. Stay busy! With an action plan, you’ll feel in charge, in control, and proactive rather than hopeless and reactive. Joining a job search networking group is a great way to connect with others in the same situation and also do some valuable networking.  Looking at your job search and professional development plan as a full time job is a highly effective strategy that will also make you feel great about yourself. Your plan is to have a daily to-do list chalked full of 1-1 and group meetings, research, events, physical activity, mindfulness, and self development action items.

3- Is a career change in order?

If you felt burned out in your last position or if you were laid off due to a volatile (or dying) industry or antiquated occupation, it’s time to reevaluate your career. Industries perennially on the decline include manufacturing and agriculture. Occupations that are quickly losing workers include administrative and office-related positions as technology and automation take over. In general, any occupation requiring little or no schooling is experiencing serious decline whereas positions requiring post-secondary education are seeing continued growth. Health care, hospitality and leisure, and state and local government will see the biggest increases in number of positions created in the next few years.

4- Don’t rely on just one or two job search methods—employ a multi-faceted approach.

One of the biggest faux pas’ I see is that job seekers seem to always gravitate towards the simple and easy.  Certainly the internet and putting the word out to friends and peers all have some merit in the job search.  But the most effective job search strategy in any type of economy is contacting the companies you want to work for as 70-80 percent of all jobs go unadvertised.  This means companies that you want to work for are looking for good candidates but simply may not be advertising their open positions.

Employ a multi-faceted approach when looking for potential positions.  Much like an automobile engine, your job search will run better when all cylinders are firing at once rather than just one or two.  In addition to using the internet (in which 30-40% of all postings are “ghost postings” that companies aren’t even looking to fill), networking, and recruiters, assemble a target list of companies you are interested in working for.  Also, ensure you have a strong social media strategy for your job search. LinkedIn and Twitter are the best sites to be on for any job seeker. Tapping into the hidden job market is the only job search strategy where the odds are actually with you.

5- Upskill! Develop a plan for enhancing your skills and increasing your marketability.

Skills = $. If you’re considering a career change, assess the key skills required in your target occupation and compare them with your present skill set. Focus on the mandatory skills required in the target occupation and what you would need to do to acquire them. This is called a Gap Analysis. There are many free or low-cost resources available to job seekers for learning new skills such as local Workforce Centers, community colleges, and sponsored workshops and seminars. Check out Udemy, Cousera, LinkedIn Learning, or MasterClass for low cost or no cost educational opportunities. Employing your own training program such as following online industry experts via blogs and social media feeds, taking an online (software) tutorial, and joining a LinkedIn virtual group are also effective ways of learning new skills, staying current, and staying sharp.

Other Considerations:

  • Get professional help from a career coach or career counselor
  • Teach at a local community college or online
  • Work on your “bucket list”
  • Start your own business


Donald J. Strankowski is a two-time author, active public speaker, and a regular guest on FOX 31 Good Day Colorado. He is founder and president of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a career management and professional development firm for businesses, professionals, and executives. Since 2001, Ascend has helped people land a better job, improve their level of performance, change careers, or start their own business. Serving customers across the US and internationally, Ascend offers best in class career advisement and professional services for any individual or company looking to gain a key competitive edge. Schedule a free consultation today.