Stay Calm if You Lose Your Job - by Barbara Babkirk

You thought it would never happen to you.

Yet, an average of 1.5M Americans lose their jobs each year due to a variety of reasons from restructuring to company closings.

If you’ve been laid off or terminated, you’ll likely feel an initial shock. Then you can expect a series of emotions that come and go in no particular sequence. These emotions often reflect the stages of grief including: denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. It’s important to know that these feelings are normal and that they will pass.

One of the most difficult aspects of being laid off is feeling that something has happened TO you. If you had been thinking about resigning for a while, you might even become self-critical that you didn’t act first.

Rather than dwell on the circumstances, begin to create a plan to regain control of your work life.

You may be asked to sign a document outlining the terms of your separation and requesting certain conditions of confidentiality.

Under these circumstances, you might seek legal counsel before signing to make sure the terms are clear and to determine the fairness of what is offered in light of years of service, position and particular circumstances.

While there is no Maine law that mandates a severance package when a person is laid off or terminated, in my experience, it is common for employers to offer one.

This may include compensation for a period of weeks (often it’s one week of pay for each year of service), continuing health benefits, and outplacement/career counseling services to help you transition to new work. It’s always a surprise to me that not everyone who is offered this service takes advantage of it.

Even if you feel confident about your ability to find work, outplacement/career counseling services are offered by experts, and chances are you’ll learn something that will help you transition more effectively and quickly.

Consider the following tips if you lose your job:

  • Let yourself experience a range of feelings and know that you’ll get back on an even keel later in your job search process.

  • Carefully read the severance agreement from your former employer and whether you want to seek legal counsel before signing.

  • Request outplacement/career transition services and ask to work with a local company. If your employer offers services with a national firm, they are not likely to have information on the local marketplace. (A typical range of outplacement services is from one to three months, often depending on your length of time with the company and the position you held.)

  • Ask your former employer if they will support your pursuing unemployment benefits and whether or not they will provide a reference for you and/or recommendation on LinkedIn.

  • Avoid unproductive conversations with former colleagues who want to “fill you in” on current chatter in the organization. These conversations will impede your efforts to move on and keep you mired in a sea of difficult emotions.

  • Update your resume and LinkedIn profile and line up professional references.

  • Contact your local Career Center and find out how to file for unemployment compensation as well as the amount you’ll receive and when you can expect your first check.

  • Establish a plan of action that focuses on strategic conversations with people in your field or in a new arena you’d like to pursue.

  • Seek assistance from a qualified career counselor/outplacement consultant for help with your plan.

  • Stay positive and think about the outcome you want instead of what you fear might happen.