Getting Laid Off

woman who was laid off standing on steps

Getting Laid Off

If you are reading this article, it’s likely that you have either been laid off, are expecting to be laid off, or have a loved one who has.  Regardless of which category you fall into, one of the most important things to remember is that you are not alone.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, close to 1.6 million workers have been laid off in just one month’s time this past summer.  Not only that, but 40% of workers have reported being laid off at least once during their careers.

The job market is unpredictable, especially with changes that companies have had to make since COVID first came into the picture several years ago.  The feelings from shock to relief are felt by everyone who has been in this situation, marking an important opportunity for growth that most have not considered when in the moment.

What Does Getting Laid Off Mean?

So what does getting laid off mean in the grand scheme of things? Getting laid off is the involuntary ending to employment, either temporarily or permanently.  Whether it is due to economic hardships of the employer, downsizing, organizational restructuring, or closures, it is typically a separation that is of no fault of the employee.  Oftentimes, layoffs come without warning, leaving employees in a difficult situation, not knowing what to do next or how to handle what has occurred.

An example of a layoff might be when a company has decided to outsource marketing to a firm that will handle its advertising, social media, and branding materials.  This means there is no longer a need for an internal marketing department, causing the company to restructure, essentially eliminating one or more positions.

Laid off employee leaving office with box of possessions in hand and pot with plant stressed out man who's been fired

To the benefit of the former employee, this unwanted change in their career is much different than termination, leaving them in a better position to discuss future employment as well as unemployment benefits until a suitable position is found.  Those who find themselves in this situation should consider using this as a segway to a positive transformation in their professional life – a chance to start fresh, reconsider their career path, and market their skills to future employers.

Is Getting Laid Off Traumatic?

Getting laid off is one of the most traumatic experiences you can experience in your career because it not only affects your professional life but your personal life as well.  It can lead to a number of psychological effects of being laid off, impacting your mental health and well-being, along with introducing financial strains that you have yet to experience.  We get comfortable in our situation, having had a regular paycheck, and a budget that allows us to enjoy tangible benefits and maybe even some travel.  The emotional stages of being laid off often mimic stages experienced with grief such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.

If you are one of those who has said, “I got laid off without warning” – it is inevitable that there are many others who can identify with your situation.  This can take its toll on your emotional health, leading some into what is called, laid off depression or anxiety that comes with the sudden, unwanted change.  Be sure that you, or your loved one, takes some time to seek professional help in order to deal with the emotional stress of being laid off.  Talking with a counselor or support group can give the momentum needed to start turning this negative into something positive.

Asian male unemployed worker sitting on chair feeling stress and unhappy that have no job due to covid-19 virus cause him to be laid off. Man thinking how to find money in bad global economic crisis.

How to React to Being Laid Off

unemployed man sitting on steps

One thing you don’t want to do when being laid off is let your emotions lead your actions or reactions.  Your employer will be expecting some emotions, but getting angry, flying off the handle, or acting unprofessionally can be detrimental to your future career, especially if you plan on utilizing your current employer as a reference.  Keep your emotions in check and ask a few key questions before you sign anything.

  • If you haven’t been given an explanation, start there.
  • Then ask what is expected of you from this point.  There may be some closure to your employment such as reviewing and completing unfinished tasks, and transferring files, among other things.
  • Ask for a reference, especially if you are leaving in good standing.

Before you say too much, begin researching “being laid off, what are my rights” since some things differ from state to state.  You’ll want to keep the conversation open for revisiting once you’ve had some time to process the news privately and determine your next steps.

What to Say When You Get Laid Off

It’s likely that you didn’t know exactly what to say or ask during your initial conversation.  Once some time has passed and you have done your research, approach your employer with tact, carefully preparing a few questions regarding your severance, last paycheck, health benefits, and other entitlements.  Consider setting up a meeting with the Human Resources Department to ask questions such as “If you get laid off can you collect unemployment?”  This may not have been anything you have thought about before so it’s important to find out your rights before it’s too late.

Ask for a letter of recommendation, along with what benefits your severance package will include.  Your HR Director should have information on outplacement services available to you, continuation of benefits, and when you will receive your final paycheck.  Don’t forget to review your 401k contributions and be sure you have an understanding of who to contact to roll it over into another type of investment account.

stressed out man who's been fired

Why Being Laid Off Is Good

young man who is showing stress

Once you have had some time to process what has happened, you may start to feel some relief knowing that a fresh start is ahead of you.  Use the time to update your resume with skills, certifications, and achievements you attained in your previous position.  This might also be the best opportunity to consider a career shift, a chance to go back to school, or a place that will give you much-needed rest before you begin the next step in your career journey.

Those who learn how to turn something bad into something good have said that “being laid off was the best thing” for them because it led to better opportunities, personal and professional growth as well as a chance to further their skills which, in turn, made them more marketable in their field.

With all the information we want at the touch of a button, it is easy to explore other avenues while you have the time.  Maybe your skillset will even allow you to work as a freelance entrepreneur for a while.  You are in a new season here that, although challenging, can prove to be one of the best moves that you would have never made had the decision not already been made for you.

A powerful photo of a woman sitting on stairs, holding a cardboard box, representing the physical and emotional loss of her fired job and worklessness.

What to Do When Laid Off at 50


Just because you’re of a certain age doesn’t mean that you’re out of the game.  The stakes may be higher because it’s a late time in life to start over, but you’re likely at the peak of your career, highly skilled, and have a lot to offer a future employer.  Your leverage when seeking employment at this time is your wealth of experience and your ability to adapt to situations over the years, so use these things to your advantage.

Talk with a financial planner to help you through this transition to see what financial resources are available to you, and ask about transferring your retirement into another type of account so that you can start building it again.  Use professional networks such as LinkedIn to connect to others in your field, research potential employers, and, if you haven’t already done so, simply establish an online presence.  Marketing your most valuable skills and recent achievements will be to your benefit when updating your resume.

Is it Hard to Get a Job After Being Laid Off?

Some people have found new employment within a couple of months and others, six months or more.  A lot of this depends on the field you’re in, the demand for your skillset, and the market itself.  Don’t forget this is a common experience for many, not an indication that you have failed in any way.  Consider taking this time to hire a personal recruiter or staffing agency to help match you with the right job and employer.  Not only will this help speed up the process, but it will help you find a company whose values align with yours and who would most benefit from having you on their team.  Know that employers understand that layoffs are a reality in today’s world so they will often look beyond this when recognizing the value a potential candidate will bring to their company.


How Long Does an Employer Have to Pay You After Being Laid Off?

I need a job, unemployment and socioeconomic impact during the coronavirus pandemic

Every state differs as to when they are required to issue a final paycheck after a layoff, however, it is typically within their given pay period or immediately after a layoff.  If a severance package is a part of your agreement, the terms will be outlined within the document.  Be sure you understand and are clear on all the details, following up with your Human Resources Department with any questions or concerns.  Your former employer will have to make all payments in accordance with state laws and your layoff agreement so understanding what these are will be key.

How to Deal with Layoffs as a Manager

As a manager, you will want to handle layoffs delicately.  Because you are in a position to not only look out for the needs of the company, you are also hoping to balance that with the needs of the employee(s) you are laying off.  Be understanding and empathetic in your approach and as transparent as you can.  Unless the employee knew that a layoff was inevitable, this will likely catch them off guard, causing emotions to run high.  So prepare for the conversation ahead of time, knowing what you will say, anticipating questions that may be asked, and understanding the impact this may have on the individual you will be speaking with.  Be supportive, thorough, and knowledgeable about what will happen next so that you can point them in the right direction.  If you are able to offer career counseling, job placement services, and/or resume workshops, this will be a great way to extend a hand to them as they continue their employment until their final date.  Be sure they understand they were a valued part of the team and that their efforts were no reflection of this matter.

Female coworker arguing with male coworker

Is it Harder to Get a Job After Being Laid Off


You may be concerned about finding another job after being laid off, but the fact of the matter is, that layoffs are a neutral event to most employers.  Companies understand that with growth or decline comes change so restructuring is often necessary to continue moving forward.  Don’t be afraid to openly discuss your layoff, keeping it in a positive light knowing that your future employer may have had to go through this difficult task as well with past employees.

Don’t forget the importance of networking and utilizing online platforms in order to reconnect with old colleagues and make some connections with potential future employers.  It’s likely that you’ll be on the lookout for signs you will be laid off in future roles but don’t let that discourage you from remaining proactive in your career planning.

While a layoff may initially feel like failing, taking time to breathe, reassessing your personal and professional goals, and making some room for growth will allow you to start this next step of your journey on the right foot.  Use this experience as a catalyst to pursuing your dream job, working for a company that makes a difference in your community, who aligns with your values, and who inspires you to be your best.  Embracing this change will make you more appealing to future employers and put you into the job market on a positive note.

Businessman losing his job due to COVID-19 financial impact background