I had only been working for a tech-savvy healthcare startup for about six months when the dreaded company-wide email landed in my inbox announcing that my position had been eliminated. Over the next few hours and days, I felt a mix of emotions – rejection, fear, and even hope. Although no one plans their career around a layoff, what I found is that you can come back even stronger than before.
Here are the five core things I learned from being laid off.
Breathe and Reflect
Avoid the temptation to start sending out your resume the day after a layoff. The uncertainty that comes along with unemployment can feel unbearable, but your job search game will be much stronger if you take the time to reflect and make a solid plan. Instead of diving straight into the job market again with a goal of replacing your last job, use the layoff as an opportunity to leverage your skills and strengths to find something even better. I took career and strengths assessments and put together a plan to search for jobs meeting a set of criteria that reflected the growth I’d experienced from my previous role, which ended up making my job search more purposeful – and successful!
Lean On Your Network
In the week following my layoff, I took the time to reach out to my network before spending much time scouring online job boards. Your professional network is one of the most valuable tools you can use, so don’t hesitate to start using it! Everyone I talked to was eager to help in any way they could, and I had to push aside my pride and accept all the help they offered. My advice is to say yes to anything that someone offers – even if you’re not sure it will be useful.
Accepting help is never going to be a waste of time. The resume comments, the warm introductions via email, the hot tip about this company or that company – they all gave me more information than I started with. Every cup of coffee I shared with a new contact gave me new insights, and although only one of them led directly to landing my next job, each meeting gave me a chance to develop and expand professionally. More importantly, every touch from my network gave me the support I needed to continue with facing the uncertainty of dealing with my layoff.
Connections First, Applications Second
At a recent networking event, I spoke with someone who was lamenting that she had sent out “over 80” online applications and hadn’t gotten a single interview. I was taken aback because when I had been laid off, I sent out less than 20 applications and had landed a phone interview with at least 20% of them. What my layoff taught me is that time is valuable, and the time I spent nurturing professional connections was a better investment than time spent alone churning out applications. I believe this is true regardless of where you’re at in your career, or your industry.
Before firing off endless resumes, ask someone you know at the company to reach out to the hiring manager or HR team on your behalf. Before you apply, try to initiate an informal conversation with someone from that team or department so that you get an insider’s view of the company and the role. A good rule of thumb to avoid rejection is to fill out an application only if you are confident someone at the company is going to be excited to receive it.
Give a Story, Not an Explanation
Most people dread the gap on their resume that a layoff often leaves and the stress that comes along with admitting that you left your last job because of a layoff. Break away from any insecurities you may have that a layoff is a reflection of personal failure. Instead, incorporate your layoff into the story of why you’ll be successful in your next role. Practice articulating the positives. I shaped my story to show off what I had learned: “Although I’m disappointed I couldn’t stay at my previous company longer, I am eager to apply what I learned there about rapid growth and creating a positive customer experience.” I rehearsed statements like this to acknowledge the layoff while still focusing on my value, making sure my interviewers would see my layoff was an opportunity for them rather than a misfortune for me.
The Bottom Line
A layoff isn’t the end of the world. In fact, I found that my layoff was the perfect opportunity for me to land myself in a role that made me happier, gave me more responsibility, and paid me more! I also got to refresh professional connections with my network while reflecting on where I wanted my career path to take me. Although the uncertainty and feeling of defeat can be challenging, don’t be afraid to ask for help and use a layoff as part of your value proposition to future employers. With the right mindset, preparation, and connections, a layoff is simply a path to a better future!
Written by Amanda (Mandy) Granaas
Mandy graduated in Cohort 2, and works as a Research Operations Specialist at DaVita Clinical Research. When she’s not working, you’re likely to find Mandy at a brewery, on a piano bench, or curled up with a good book. Connected with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.