The biggest mistake people make when they’re laid off is to take it personally. It’s hard not to! When you’ve been laid off (not fired), you’ll feel anger, sadness or pain, or all three, but this is a time in your life when it is crucial to be professional.
First, remind yourself that a layoff is not personal. Don’t make the termination meeting hostile by threatening or getting angry. If you get defensive or angry or indignant, you run the risk of burning your bridges with your former employer, and that can cause problems in your job search if you need a reference or other networking assistance in the field. And remember, you’re not going to change anyone’s mind by debating the reasons behind this decision, so just accept what’s happening and make the best of it.
Second, keep your wits about you. You may be offered a severance package, and you may be asked to sign a release to get it. Don’t sign anything on the spot. Instead, tell them you want to take the document home to make sure you understand it all. Then review it carefully with your spouse or attorney, in case there may be things you can negotiate, such as an extra month or two of health insurance. Also ask for letters of reference, any outplacement service, extra insurance coverage, or moving costs that may be available to you.
Third, don’t take company property with you when you leave. Back during the dotcom bust in the 90s, there was a legendary company layoff where the employees were owed past pay, so they stole pretty much everything of value in the office. Don’t take anything the company doesn’t give you. If you cooperate and leave calmly, you may later be able to negotiate
Fourth, keep your cool in the hours and days ahead as you start to grasp the reality of your situation. Once you’ve left the office for good, you may want to vent or let off steam. That’s fine, if you’re talking to a friend or relative, not a former colleague. Venting about an ex-boss to the wrong people is a big mistake, whether in person or on Twitter or Facebook. And you may want to grab a drink with former co-workers — it can be a good way to avoid isolation — but don’t drown your sorrows. If you’re the one that ends up with the lampshade on your head, that’s the image people will remember: of someone out of control.
Fifth, don’t sit at home in your sweatpants, applying to jobs on the Internet. If you want to find a new job, you need to get out of the house and connect with people. Meet others for coffee or lunch, volunteer your time, or even just take a regular walk in the park. In short, get out of the house and try to make meaningful connections. Sending an email does not cut it when you are trying to set yourself apart and get hired.
Finally, don’t spend your days focusing on doom and gloom. There are too many articles in the newspaper and online about job losses and unemployment. Instead of reading them, find the stories about companies that are growing, adding new products and optimistic about the future. Read the articles about job seekers who found new opportunities or began their own businesses. Hang out with people who look at the bright side of things, the people who always have new ideas and are willing to support you in a positive way
After you’ve been laid off, your emotional state tends to range from uncomfortable to devastated — but the way you handle yourself can either help you rebound or drive your career deeper into the ground.