After a Layoff, What Comes Next?

April 11, 2018 by Josh Hrala

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Layoffs are troubling times for those impacted by the business’ decision to downsize, leaving many to wonder what will happen now that they have been let go.

While there is no clear cut answer because everyone is different – from how they handle the news to how long it will take them to find a new, exciting role elsewhere – there are a few common things that everyone has to deal with.

To help with this process, we’ve decided to take a look at the common steps people can take after a layoff event (or a RIF) based on our outplacement process.

First Off, What Is Outplacement and How Will This Help?

Outplacement is a service offered to those let go by a layoff event or RIF that helps them get back to work faster and in a new role that fits their career trajectory. Outplacement is often offered by the company holding the layoff as a way to help displaced workers in this trying time.

You can learn a ton about outplacement and how it works here.

If your company doesn’t offer outplacement – which they hopefully do – you can still learn a lot by understanding the outplacement process because this will generally be the way you – the sole individual – finds new, meaningful work.

Let’s go through each of the steps in order to make it easier.

The Day After

When a layoff event happens, workers are typically alerted of the event by a meeting with HR and – sometimes – upper management. These meetings are typically short and to the point, detailing the business reason for the event, when the layoff takes effect, and what benefits will be offered to those let go (severance, outplacement, etc).

The first step in the personal journey is to reflect. Take a moment to think about your options. Did you like the role you were in? Can you see yourself taking on something completely new? Our coaches have often found that layoffs can actually be a blessing in disguise for some because it forces them to evaluate what they want out of their jobs.

For example, if you’ve spent a few years in a marketing role at an organization, maybe you want to pursue a different path in sales or a more creative path with content in some form. The sky is the limit here, though you should also bear in mind your skillset to see what you can pivot to.

Reflection is always a good idea the days after a layoff, especially if you have received a severance agreement that will pay you for a few weeks/months.

Try to remember that layoffs are a business decision. HR leaders take no joy in layoffs or other reductions but they are a fact of the business world that has to be reckoned with. That being said, it’s hard to ignore that fact that it feels personal. This is just a fact of layoffs. The best step is to move on and look for a new role without dwelling on the past.

Update Your Social Accounts and Resume

This is where outplacement starts to come in. The first step you’re going to need to take to find a new role is to update your social accounts (at least the public-facing ones). We strongly suggest you look up guides about how to network on LinkedIn, what makes a great LinkedIn profile, and what you can do with other accounts – such as Twitter – to help your job hunt.

You’ll also have to update your resume. Really take some time and make sure your resume is completely clean of type-os, updated to modern formats, and lists all of the proper credentials. Resumes should be a living document that you update even when you are in a secure role because you never know when you may need it.

Resumes are also always changing. With the advent of Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) and the fact that recruiters typically spend a mere six seconds on an applicant’s resume, yours needs to stand out and get you in the consider pile. It’s a tough thing, but there is tons of advice out there that is constantly updated.

Get a Coach If You Can

Coaching is the bread and butter of any outplacement process. While we love a technologically-driven approach to job hunting, coaches offer a personalized approach that is unrivaled.

Of course, coaches cost money. So, if you can afford a coach on your budget, we recommend it just because the support they offer is amazing. They can help you understand how to get your resume in the door of different industries, offer you support about what career path your past experience will allow, and even help you prep for interviews. All in all, coaches are a one-stop-shop for finding you a new job.

A good outplacement program, for example, uses extremely talented coaches who are available whenever the client needs them to be because the job hunt doesn’t just last from nine-to-five Monday through Friday.

What If You Don’t Have a Coach?

Many of those laid off will not be able to afford a coach, though, because money is understandably a major concern after the loss of a full-time job.

The good news is that it is 100 percent possible to go it alone – just more of a challenge.

After you get your resume cleaned up, have friends, family, and anyone else you know read it over to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes. It’s amazing how easy it is to look at a document for a solid hour without realizing the smallest mistake because you’ve actually been looking at it TOO long. This is why even the best writers out there have a team of editors behind them.

Once you are happy with the resume, it’s time to start looking.

We recommend you read all you can about the current job market to see what roles are in demand and how you can fill them with your talent. Sites like The Balance, Forbes, and more offer looks into many industries.

This research-driven part of the job hunt should last throughout the entire process. We even suggest that this amount of research persist after you have landed a job because if could save you from another layoff event down the road (hopefully you won’t have to worry about that, though).

Job Boards and Digital Job Market

If you have been working at the same company for a decade, the job market is going to look quite different today. Gone are the days of ‘hitting the pavement,’ applying to jobs with a stack of resumes in your bag.

Today, the job hunt is online. There are tons and tons of job boards out there for you to choose from. We recommend hitting all of the free ones to start and then looking at the ones that require some sort of subscription service.

Normally, subscription service job boards are for specific things. There are paid job boards for those looking exclusively for remote working opportunities, for example, and others that are industry-specific, such those working in media or the arts.

LinkedIn, again, is a great source for job details, too. You can look at company profiles, examine what roles are in-demand, and even network, which we will get to in a little bit.

While most people stop at the job board part, sending their resume to hundreds of companies in the hope that one will get back with a strong offer, we suggest you also look up industry leaders and places where you specifically want to work. Have you always dreamed of working for GE? Go and see what GE has to offer.

The hardest part of this process will be for those who want to change their careers. Sure, you have tons of working experience, but is it relevant for the job you want to land? Midlife career switches are not that uncommon. However, you have to be ready to take a role that most likely will pay less than the one you are in now. You have to build that knowledge base because you can rise up to the top. The good news is that you most likely understand how the business world works a lot better than younger workers in the field, giving you a competitive advantage if you can keep up for the work required for the role.

Again, this is where online boards come in. Reddit, for example, has a board for just about anything under the sun. Why not go find the board that is specifically for people in your industry and see if they have give you advice and/or anecdotal experiences so you know what to expect.

This brings us to our next point: networking.

The Digital Network

If you haven’t realized it already, everything is online nowadays. This includes networking. While there are still tons of in-person events and job fairs that can offer you networking opportunities, you will have far more reach online than you will in-person.

This is where LinkedIn and other communities shine. Sure, LinkedIn is a great place to search for jobs and also keep a digital-like resume, but the real power comes from reaching out talking to people. Even asking people who have the job title you are after how they got there and what their career path was like can be beneficial, parlaying that first engagement to include if they know anyone hiring.

Why is this such as great way to land a role? Simple: Most jobs – the majority of senior roles, especially – are never posted and will never be found outside of networking.

“At least 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of jobs are not published,” Matt Youngquist, the president of Career Horizons, told NPR.

“And yet most people — they are spending 70 or 80 percent of their time surfing the net versus getting out there, talking to employers, taking some chances [and] realizing that the vast majority of hiring is friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances.”


This stat is thrown around a lot to varying degrees. Some say it’s 70-80 percent and other agree to around 30 percent. Either way, a large swath of jobs are never posted to a job board or even the company’s public-facing job listing area.

So, in order to get to those roles, you have to network. This could come, like Youngquist said, by friends. However, you can also start to get inside those circles by doing some proper networking online.

You’d be surprised how well a cold-email does, too. If you write a company where you specifically want to work and offer them maybe some freelancing opportunities, you may land a role down the road.

The most important thing to takeaway here is that the job hunt is part job board surfing and also networking, turning over every possible rock that might lead to a new job.

Get Ready For Interviews

Following the steps above should eventually land you an interview. The interview process for every company will be different and require different things. Some companies, for example, have a long interview process while others will be quite short.

The important thing is to prep for interviews. Look at the company’s website, Google them, try to get as much information about the role and the company to ensure that you will be able to fulfill the job responsibilities to fully. Get ready to show your value and how passing up on hiring you is a mistake.

You can find a lot of information on interview prepping online. From how to answer those tricky questions – what is your biggest weakness? – and how to conduct yourself. Many first interviews will be over the phone before they are in-person or over video chat (this is mainly for remote positions).

Try to ask them questions, too. Ask what the day-to-day work is like, what their challenges are, where they see themselves in the future. The interview process, despite what it may feel like, is for you to gauge the company, too. After all, you want it to be a good fit, a place where you can thrive and grow as a worker and person. No sense in taking a job you hate just to leave in a few weeks and start this process all over again.

Don’t Forget Yourself

While you are undergoing this stressful process, it’s important to take care of yourself.

The job hunt can be grueling. You should dedicate some time in your day to hit the gym, go for a walk, read a book, and just relax. Being stressed out and pushed too thin is not a competitive advantage. It can cause you to get sloppy with your cover letters, apply to jobs that aren’t a good fit, and generally make the process a lot harder to handle.

Since you are between jobs, it’s a prime opportunity to do some self-reflection, get back into shape, and generally take care of your body and mind so that when you start that new job, you will be able to succeed easily.

The Final Say

We’ve covered quite a bit here. The job hunt, as you can probably tell, is a long, arduous process. However, with proper planning and execution, it doesn’t have to be. Try to take actionable steps every day to ensure that you are still plugging away. Don’t try to overburden yourself by saying that you will apply to 10 jobs every day. Tell yourself, instead, that you will find one or two GOOD fitting jobs and customize everything to succeed.

Start reading more and learning more about the industry to show you are knowledgeable in the interview process. Hone your speaking skills, get ready for those tough questions, and – most importantly – be confident. Layoffs can seriously derails a person’s self-esteem. It’s vital you let go of that old role and move on to something bigger, something better. You owe it to yourself to be forgiving.

Want to learn more layoffs? Specifically how organizations pick who is let go? Check out our guide:

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Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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