How To Make The Most Of A Layoff

Don’t just survive, thrive.

By Dr Sunny Joseph*

A layoff is a tough pill to swallow, and to bounce back from it, it's important to understand how it affects an individual emotionally. Once this is done, you can definitely overcome this very unfortunate situation and thrive. Here's how.

1. What do you feel the most sense of loss over?

Does the layoff mean a loss of your identity, a designation that was close to your heart, a warm and supportive team, a dream project, colleagues that you have been interacting with for long, friends that you have made within the organisation?

2. You don't need to feel guilty

It wasn't your poor performance that led to your layoff. Stop blaming yourself.

3. Know you're not a victim either

Your employer wasn't biased against you. It's just that this is how things work in the corporate world. Some people have to unfortunately go through it. Think about IBM, Citi Group, HP, Bank of America, Boeing Co., General Motors, Ford Motor Co. This is exactly what has happened to their employees.

You possibly needed this break—for the course you wanted to do, to complete all your pending work, spend time with family and of course, travel. Enjoy.

4. Understand the difference between a layoff and being 'fired'

Try to understand what would've led the organisation to take this step—possible financial constraints, various departmental issues, market competition, global changes, etc. Look at the situation from the organisation's point of view, rationally.

5. Look at the flip side

Consider what would have happened, in case you had survived in the organisation with fewer people, possibly doing a lot more work, without your former team members around, with a lot of structural and functional changes. Try to appreciate the situation more objectively. Would you have enjoyed being there with all these variables having changed overnight? Are you sure you would have been better off if you had been retained?

6. Understand you can't control everything

Not everything's in our control. As humans we're all vulnerable. It's also a reality that there's a lot of uncertainty around. Rather than focusing on "fate" (and how we've been cursed by it), let us see what can be done.

7. Talk to your HR personnel

Collect the relevant information on layoffs. Read the necessary policy documents. Go through all the benefits available. Check if you're eligible for any special layoff benefits. Sort out the health insurance-related clauses. Make sure all the documents are in place. When leaving, collect an experience certificate, possible referrals, and say good-bye so that no bridges are burnt.

8. Assess your financial status

Audit your savings and alternative income sources. Look at commitments such as EMIs, loans, and current expenses like rent, food, utilities, etc. Also assess the financial runway you have in terms of how long you can survive without a job.

Think of this as an opportunity to start over

Now you can explore something that you've always wanted to do. This is the time that you've always looked forward to— to realign your goals according to your interests and known potential. This is your time to experiment with and re-conceptualise your career.

See it as a break

Haven't you been looking forward to a real break? After you've worked so hard for this long, this is your perfect break. You possibly needed this break—for the course you wanted to do, to complete all your pending work, spend time with family and of course, travel. Enjoy.

Ask, what if you had a choice?

Would you have stayed back at the organisation forever or would you have chosen to look for something better? What's the possibility that you would've chosen to leave? Isn't it the reality that you had enough reasons to leave?

Make life happen

You always knew you could do things better—work more efficiently, unleash your potential. You always had something within you that you never used. More than choosing what you wanted, you ended up accepting whatever came your way. This time, let's do it differently. Go all out, make it happen. There is no guarantee that opportunities like this will present themselves ever again. Nature has its way. Go with the flow. The universe might have other plans.

A handy checklist

During this period, act wisely, by doing the following.

1. Look for and enroll in one or more short-term courses.

2. Pick up new hobbies or get back to old ones.

3. Update yourself on new technology, concepts and trends.

4. Take care of your body and mind—exercise and play, do yoga and meditation.

5. Meet your near and dear ones.

6. Do a reality check on yourself when negative thoughts intrude. Don't mistake such thoughts for reality.

7. Look for drastic changes in mood. If you find yourself feeling extremely low for an extended period of time, you may need help.

8. Monitor sleep, appetite, body weight and energy levels—changes in these could signal depression.

9. Assess the current job market and meet with recruitment consultants and headhunters.

10. Redo your LinkedIn profile and spruce up your resume.

11. Send your CV to recruiters, friends, family and other acquaintances, and put it up on job portals.

* Dr. Sunny Joseph is a clinical psychologist and behavioural neuropsychologist currently associated with Manipal Hospital, Bangalore.

This article is a part of #Fired2FiredUp Campaign by YourDOST. Visit us for real life stories, learnings and tips from career psychologists and recruiters.

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