As the current economic downturn worsens, more and more people are being laid off by their employers. High-profile companies like Amazon, Netflix, Twitter, and Meta are among the large organizations laying off workers, but many small businesses are doing the same. While individual cases vary, whether you’re a tech employee or a shift worker, suddenly losing your income can seriously disrupt your life.
Without a salary, you may have trouble paying bills, getting out of debt, or covering basic living expenses. You’re likely to feel stress, anxiety, and maybe a sudden lack of purpose. Such strain can affect your relationships, intensifying the emotional burden and even impacting your physical health. Over a longer time, your professional skills and connections may start to erode, dimming your future career prospects.
Fortunately, this doomsday scenario doesn’t have to take place. Your layoff doesn’t have to define you as a person. And with the right mindset and strategy, you can successfully navigate that layoff that came out of the blue, and emerge from the experience even better off than before.
Use Advance Notice to Prepare For Your Layoff
The federal WARN Act states that employers with 100 or more employees must give employees 60 days’ notice of an impending layoff. If your company fits this description, you can use this time to strategize. Read over your employee handbook, your contract, and if applicable, the layoff clause in your collective bargaining agreement, and make sure your employer is doing everything by the book. If you feel they are not, now is a good time to find an experienced employment lawyer who you can trust.
It’s also a great idea to review your health insurance and plan for what coverage you’ll use after the layoff. COBRA allows you to continue your existing employer insurance, though the cost is higher now that you are responsible for the entire premiums. Alternatively, you may be able to get on a spouse or partner’s plan, obtain insurance through the national or state healthcare marketplace, or look at short-term health insurance or Medicaid, if you qualify.
Take Time To Process, Rather Than Reacting
Suddenly losing your job can be an overwhelming experience. It’s natural to feel sadness and anger, and the impulse to panic can be strong, but it’s important to step back, take a deep breath, and give yourself time to process the situation. Having adequate space to fully experience your emotions can help you approach your next steps with a clear mind.
You should acknowledge that losing a job is difficult, and it’s okay to feel upset or scared. Don’t try to push away or ignore negative feelings. Rather let yourself feel and understand them. Self-care activities like exercise, meditation, and spending time with loved ones can be positive ways to manage and channel negative feelings during this challenging time.
Along these lines, when presented with a severance agreement, don’t sign it right away. Review all information from the separation process, including severance details. Speak to union representatives if you are a member. You might also speak to other employees about the layoff, both for mutual support and the possibility of gathering information that might prove useful.
Were You Laid Off Or Wrongfully Terminated?
The next thing you should do is determine whether this was a legal layoff or a wrongful termination. Oftentimes, companies will attempt to disguise termination via unlawful discrimination or retaliation as a legitimate layoff. Pretexts like a negative economic climate, or a legitimate company-wide need for layoffs, can provide cover for a business wanting to dismiss specific employees for reasons it knows are not legal.
Such targeted dismissals are instances of wrongful termination rather than layoffs. “A legal layoff is not personal, it is based on economic and organizational factors, while wrongful termination is a result of discrimination, retaliation or breach of contract,” says Eric A. Panitz of Wrongful Termination Law Group in Los Angeles. In other words, even if there was a legitimate layoff, that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that your layoff was legal.
Be especially alert to this possibility if you are a member of a protected class — a group of people protected from discrimination in employment under the law. The federal government recognizes race, gender, gender identity, religion, national origin, disability, genetic information, and age (40 or older) as protected classes.
“Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure layoffs and other employment decisions do not disproportionately impact one group of employees over another,” advises Panitz.
If you suspect your reason for dismissal was a discriminatory or retaliatory reason, contact an employment lawyer to review your case and help you understand your rights as an employee. They’ll help you gather the necessary documentation, and seek justice if your layoff was unwarranted. Many employment lawyers offer free consultations and also work on contingency, meaning no upfront costs to you.
Keeping a positive attitude during a difficult time like losing your job can help you face the challenges ahead with resilience and determination. A positive outlook can help you maintain your mental and emotional well-being, which will support you in your search for new opportunities.
One effective way to maintain a positive attitude is to remind yourself of other difficult periods in your life that you’ve successfully overcome. Remembering challenges you faced in the past, and the skills and resources you used to overcome them, can help you build confidence in your ability to handle this situation too.
Another way to maintain a positive outlook is to adopt the motto, “It’s a hard day, not a hard life.” This mindset helps you see the bigger picture, and understand that this tough situation is temporary, and you will get through it. Things will eventually get better, and you have the strength and resilience to handle the challenges ahead.
Be Proactive About A New Job Search
Once you’ve processed the initial shock and adjusted your mindset, it’s time to work on solutions. Think about what you want to do next, and begin to make a plan. Don’t make any hasty decisions — consider all options, and seek advice from trusted friends, family, or professionals. Remember that finding a new job takes time, and it’s usually more important to be patient than to rush into something that may not be a good fit.
In some cases, you may feel so upset and shocked that it’s hard to take action. Facing your friends and family and telling them you’ve lost your job can be a hard pill to swallow. But this is not a time to wallow in self-pity or avoidance. Get proactive by starting a job search and looking for opportunities every day. Submit job applications to potential future employers, schedule interviews, and network with friends and family who may be able to help you find new work.
Reach Out To Your Support Network
It’s common to believe that we must face tough times alone, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Friends and family are there to provide you with support and comfort during these challenging moments. It’s important to reach out and communicate with them, to let them know that we need their help and support. By doing this, we are not being a burden, but rather allowing them to fulfill their role as our loved ones.
Your personal and professional network can also be great sources of new job leads. Let others know you are looking, update your LinkedIn profile and resume, and attend networking events in your field, if applicable. People often find they “get lucky” when they’ve done all these things to put them in the right place at the right time. In other words, you can create your own luck by taking positive action.
Navigating an unexpected layoff can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. However, taking the right steps can help you overcome difficulties and find new opportunities. It’s essential to determine whether the layoff was legal or wrongful, and seek the help of an employment lawyer if necessary. Take time to process your emotions, adopt a positive attitude, be proactive in your job search, and reach out to your support network. By following these tips, you’ll be able to handle the situation with resilience and determination and find a new path forward.
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