Getting your mind around a layoff is both an emotional and a logistical undertaking; it’s a loss that ushers in a flurry of tasks. It’s essential to get the support and clarity you need with both sides of this life change. First, you need some space to examine your feelings around this unexpected job loss, so that you can communicate about it honestly and strategically. The second part of the project is preparing your candidacy materials and kicking off your job search.
You author the narrative around your layoff. Examine your feelings and commit to a tidy, factual account. Here’s how to begin your next chapter.
Mourn your loss
This is already a difficult time in our country. Losing your job on top of that makes a hard time even more challenging. Give yourself permission to feel that loss. Talk with a career counselor, therapist, or whoever can help you examine and neutralize your feelings around your layoff. Get your emotional work done so that you can understand and manage your feelings about this. Then you can bolster your confidence and your candidacy package and start getting excited about your next role.
Fortify your narrative
A layoff is nothing to be ashamed of, but you want to command this narrative. Nancy Range Anderson, Owner of Blackbird Learning Associates, explains that in some cases, being laid off “reflects negatively on the candidate if the interviewer does not know the difference between laid off and fired.” Anderson clarifies: “Firing is being terminated for a cause that is under the control of the employee (behavior, performance, not living up to company standards) while a lay off is due to someone being let go for something out of his or her control. Examples of being laid off include financial (the company finances or even an employee being highly paid), a company merger, a change in business direction, loss of a product or service.”
Anderson emphasizes: “The key to turning it around is to explain calmly and clearly why you are no longer with the company.” This is why it’s so important to work through your emotions as a first step. You want to be able to discuss your layoff in a concise, non-emotional way. Shape that message as part of your pre-search work.
Share your narrative
Anderson explains that when it comes to your candidacy package, mention your layoff in your resume, cover letter, and in your interview. There’s nothing to hide here. The details can be shared simply and concisely on the resume by adding an addition to the descriptive portion of the respective entry. Anderson uses this sample text:
“This program (including the staff of 4) was eliminated due to there being a duplicate program within Corporate Headquarters.”
Anderson advises that, likewise, the cover letter can include a brief mention. You want to accurately discuss your experience, but you don’t have to get too bogged down in the details. Anderson points out: “As a candidate, you need to focus on moving forward.”
She further advises: “During an interview, it is important to be prepared to calmly discuss the layoff. Make sure that you practice your response and that it is never tinged with any kind of negativity or animosity. It is important to remember that the layoff was caused by any number of reasons, including a business/financial decision. Rather, be prepared to discuss your accomplishments within this position and your other positions.”
Strategies for discussing a layoff
Prepare a brief written and rehearsed oral account that captures the details of your layoff. Hone these components, so they are smooth, precise, and representative of your experience. Anderson advises: “when discussing a layoff, you look ahead at what you can offer a company. The layoff is in the past. Be prepared to discuss it and move on. Again, make sure that you are straightforward, honest, and not bitter.” Anderson advises considering questions like these to inform your narrative: “Were others in your team laid off as well? How many? If it was just you, who was laid off, why? What was the business reason for the layoff?”
Waiting is such an intricate part of a job search. Don’t resign yourself to it. Continue adding to your professional profile as you search. Anderson recommends: “be prepared to discuss what you’ve been doing since being laid off. Have you attended the training (there is an abundance of free or low-cost training available)? Have you acted as a consultant, a temporary staff member? Did you step into another position to gain more skills? Did you volunteer?”
This way, you can move your mindset and your answers to future interview questions beyond the layoff conversation and onto what you want your next chapter to look like.
You’ve got this
Layoffs happen. Be kind and patient with yourself as you work through this.
Anderson assures: “Don’t take it personally; it’s not you. You were a victim of a business decision, and no matter how long you worked there or how well you performed, that business is going to continue only this time, without you. You will go on to do great things somewhere else!”