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Job Searching After a Layoff: What Not to Do

job searching after a layoff

Job searching after a layoff? Wondering if you can take some time before hitting the pavement? Worried you didn’t stand up for yourself or ask the right questions before walking out the door? Losing a job—however it happened—is devasting. You’ll need some time to collect yourself. But don’t take too long before getting back out there. Here are some mistakes to avoid on your journey:

Don’t Pass Up an Opportunity to Explore New Sectors

Expert opinions vary on whether we’re heading into a recession (or are already in one), but no one can dispute that the economy is cooling. That affects our local job market. As we recently covered, Austin jobs are faring well so far.

“We see signs of layoffs in certain sectors while others like semiconductor manufacturing and consumer packaged goods (CPG) are ramping up,” says The HT Group Founder and CEO Mark Turpin. “There are great opportunities in Austin, but you might find them in sectors you’ve never considered. So keep an open mind if you’re job searching after a layoff.”

And guess what: Keeping that open mind can really pay off. One ResumeLab study shows that people who found employment in a new industry after being let go were more likely to be satisfied with their salary than those who stayed in the same industry.

Don’t Burn Bridges

You’re expected to have a flood of emotions when being laid off, but how you handle those emotions can make or break your path forward. After all, your attitude determines how successful you are in job searching after a layoff.  

Follow these tips from Indeed, including remaining professional (try not to badmouth the job or management, especially in a public forum like social media). Follow the instructions given to you, including returning company equipment and data. But you can also take control: ask for performance feedback, find out if the layoff will affect your ability to receive positive references, get the answers you need from HR about benefits, severance, and other details, and transition your workload as graciously as you can.  

And then find a way to adjust your attitude moving forward and job searching after a layoff, even if you’re still feeling hurt.

“Degrees and credentials won’t carry much weight if the hiring manager thinks you’re defensive, moody, arrogant, unmotivated, insecure or uncooperative,” says Minnesota State Mankato Dean of Students, Dr. Mary Dowd, adding that, conversely, “Speaking well of former employers even if fired from the job shows balance, fairness, accountability and self-awareness.” 

Don’t Let it Affect Your Confidence

Yes, that’s easier said than done. The impersonal nature of a mass layoff can be easier to recover from than being fired for “reason.” But they both happen. In the case of layoffs due to reduction-in-force, many brave job seekers are announcing their job losses on social media, even calling out and promoting the skills of fellow laid-off coworkers. And according to the Wall Street Journal, many of those job seekers are glad they did—they received new job offers within days.   

If you were fired for reason, on the other hand, making a public announcement may not be a great idea. It’s important to understand, though, that it has happened to the best of us. Comparably reports that at least 50% of workers admit to being fired at some point in their careers by the time they’re 65 years old.  

How will you move forward? Follow these tips we shared previously on how to explain it to a prospective employer. Most importantly: Find the lessons learned and be able to explain those lessons briefly and truthfully if asked while job searching after a layoff. And if imposter syndrome seeps in, learn to address it here.  

Don’t Leave Without Your “Stuff”

One of the worst parts of being laid off—aside from the sting and shock—is the complicated pile of paperwork needed to ensure you leave with everything that’s owed you. There’s no time to waste when it comes to finding out:

  • Your health insurance coverage. How long will you be covered before deciding on COBRA versus another option, and what will it cost you?
  • Accrued compensation. Find out how unused PTO and days off will be treated (will it be paid out in your final paycheck, for instance?). And, speaking of your final paycheck, find out when to expect it and that it includes the correct amount.
  • Retirement savings. Find out your options for any 401(k) or pension plans you have. Chances are you can leave the money right where it is for now, but double-check to be sure.
  • What about a severance package? If you’re offered one, find out the terms. Chances are it was part of your original employment agreement. Texas workers may be offered a similar arrangement called wages in lieu of notice (a good faith offer that employers aren’t obligated to pay). Both severance and wages in lieu of notice can affect unemployment benefits.

Don’t Wait to Start Job Searching After a Layoff

It can be tempting to wait out unemployment or a severance-package period to get serious about searching for your next job, but that could be a considerable career misstep.

Of course, to receive unemployment benefits, you must go through the motions to get a job. In fact, it’s technically against the rules to even turn down a decent job offer while receiving benefits (something that became a sticking point in 2020 when COVID-19 unemployment benefits were as plentiful as job openings).

Otherwise, check your severance agreement if you have one (there’s a chance a new job could offset payments). And review any noncompete agreements that could be in place. Chances are you’re free to get a job as soon as you’d like, and doing so will give you the best opportunity for success. Why? It may take longer to job search and interview than you expect. While working with a recruiter can speed up the process, it can still take more than a month to secure the job of your dreams. LinkedIn reports that engineers face the longest average time-to-hire of 49 days, while customer service representatives can wait an average of 34 days before receiving an offer.

Job searching after a layoff may be one of the hardest things you ever do. You may be eager to get back out there, or you could want to hide under your covers for months. Either way, those feelings are valid. For help on how to proceed, drop us a line and send us your resume. You may find that your recent raw deal could have been a blessing in disguise.