What Not To Do After You've Been Laid Off

So, you've just been laid off. Don't panic: You're not alone. With widespread layoffs across major companies, even the most talented of workers can be affected by these circumstances —over 150,000 employees in the U.S. in 2023 alone (via TechCrunch). Getting laid off can have significant psychological consequences, including feelings of stress, shame, and failure that can trickle off into one's personal life. However, it's important to note that getting laid off does not necessarily indicate your work ethic, employability, or value as a person. 

If you've just been laid off, you may have been prepared for this outcome after reading the latest news headlines. Or maybe the rug was pulled out from you quite suddenly. Either way, you're likely overwhelmed and looking for the next steps — but knowing what not to do can be as important as figuring out what to do. While it's probably common sense not to post anything nasty about your former employers on social media, there are some other significant no-nos to being laid off that you might not have thought of. Here are four common mistakes you should avoid for your financial and mental health after being laid off, and what to do instead.

Don't burn your bridges with former employers

Keep in mind, there's a difference between being fired and laid off, as being fired may have a stronger impact on your ability to secure a new job in the future. If you got laid off instead, your employers most likely didn't want to let you go due to your personal performance — they were likely forced to due to insurmountable issues such as budget cuts or restructuring. It may be difficult not to be resentful given your circumstances, and you may be tempted to omit them from your life forever to make the process of moving on a little easier. However, it's important to take a step back and not play the blame game here.

The first thing that you should do is get some clarification on the nature of your termination. Once you've officially established that your layoff was no fault of your own, you should contact your boss or manager and ask them if you can put them down as a reference when you apply for jobs in the future. Nowadays when looking for a new job, many employers will ask for three recommendations from leaders in prior roles in order to officially seal your new position in the hiring process. That's one reason that maintaining a good relationship with your former employer is essential.

Don't delay looking for a new job

You don't necessarily need to force yourself into a new job right away, especially one that doesn't suit you. It's okay to relax, pause, and breathe after getting laid off to focus on your mental health. The timing of your self-care period is subjective and valid, and your worth isn't tied to your productivity. As CNN points out, more employers are starting to look at resume gaps more openly, due to the unpredictability of the job market.

Yet for some people, too much downtime may backfire. In some cases, the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to pick things back up again. According to Psych Central, prolonged periods of unemployment of a year or more have been linked to increased rates of depression. This is because many may get stuck in a cycle of fear of rejection, so they keep procrastinating starting the job hunt. Something else to note while looking for a new job is that future employers tend not to be judgemental about layoffs, so it's okay to be transparent about your situation as you jump back in the game, rather than avoiding the job market for fear of an awkward conversation about why you left your last position.

Don't be shy about severance pay

So what exactly does a severance package entail? According to CBS, a severance package may include "financial compensation" and "extensions of benefits", stock options, and even potential career coaching assistance. More specifically, the standard typically ranges from a "week's worth to four weeks' worth of pay per year of service", meaning if you've worked at your company for one year you could get a week's worth to four weeks' worth of your salary.

While not every company is legally required to offer severance packages to laid-off employees, many still choose to so they can protect the company's reputation and relationship with existing workers. Even if your company doesn't offer severance to you outright, it is still important to go out of your way to ask and get as many details as you can. And remember, negotiation may be possible, so be sure to stick to your guns. Cis women are often less likely to negotiate in the workplace due to being conditioned to be more agreeable (via The New York Times), so now is the time to be assertive and stand up for your potential rights as a worker.

Don't neglect your resume

It may have been a long time since you've touched your resume, but don't ignore the process of revamping it, especially if it's been a while since you've been job hunting. You shouldn't assume that the resume format you created a few years ago is going to catch the attention of those on the hiring team, as the process has changed significantly in the past few years. According to Business Insider, most job applications are online nowadays, and most companies use a software to filter out resumes that don't meet keyword standards before they even reach human eyes. So, it's best to structure your resume using keywords that highlight skills according to the job description. 

You may also be wondering how exactly to incorporate the job you were laid off from in your resume. Business Insider also suggests that if you choose to include it, be honest about the dates you worked there to not make future employers feel misled. If you also feel inclined to put your reason for leaving the company on your resume, be sure to keep the explanation brief, as it's better to fully address the situation in the interview.