10 Things to do After a Layoff

So, what have you been doing since you got laid off?”

Whenever you’re between jobs, you can bet on prospective employers asking you this question. Your answer is sure to affect the hiring manager’s perception of you. When anyone gets caught in a round of layoffs, you must learn to face this question head-on.

While bouncing back from a layoff and making a career transition can be tough, you must regroup quickly and focus on what you are doing during the time between jobs because it matters greatly. First a foremost you are looking for a new job but before you jump headlong into that process you need to create the narrative of what happened to your last job to discuss with potential employers but also with your own ego.

Have a narrative that explains what happened at your last job, why I was no longer there, what I accomplished when I was there, and how those skills and experiences will make you successful in the next role.  Also, have talking points on what you are doing between jobs to improve your skills to continue your professional journey toward an ultimate goal.  Some people go to work as their goal but high performers use their jobs to improve their skill set and personal development toward a great goal. A job is a tool for reaching their goals, not a destination. While I don’t wish layoffs on anyone, I do recommend using the time off to position yourself to land a great new opportunity that furthers your development and influence on others.  Below are 8 insights I can share to get back on your feet and continue your career development after a perceived setback.

1. Leverage your network

Your network of contacts is the lifeblood of your career in good times and bad, the people you connect with in school, at work, or at social gatherings all have value and you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out. The moment your career takes a turn whether up or down you should be engaged with your network to enhance the situation or get back on your feet if you are knocked down a peg. It’s crucial to have people in your corner because they will go to bat for you and make introductions, give referrals, and prep you for interviews. In fact, most people who are moderate networkers report that 80 percent of the conversations and interviews they get were the result of a connection. Your network is your biggest asset! For more information check out this blog post.

2. Tighten your social media presence.

Don’t underestimate the power of your online profiles on sites like LinkedIn and Indeed. Employers and recruiters scour these sites looking for top talent and leadership for positions can present themselves because your activity on those networks puts your profile on the radar of hiring managers and recruiters in your industry.  Before you begin applying, make sure your information is updated, grammatically correct, and uniform across all platforms. Your online profile on sites like LinkedIn is more powerful than your resume and should be the first thing you update.  I also recommend updating all photos with a recent professional headshot and getting recommendations on LinkedIn from previous managers, coworkers, and clients. Check out this post about using LinkedIn to your benefit. If there’s anything you can do to make yourself look better online, do it.

3. Polish your story (Tell the truth!).

The story of your career is the most important narrative you have. Many people make the mistake of under-emphasizing or hiding their career story for fear the truth will turn employers away.  In reality, a lack of transparency in job changes or a lack of communication can drive a wedge of mistrust between you and the hiring manager or recruiter which will destroy your candidacy.    You must be able to talk about where you’ve been, where you are, and why you want to go in the direction that you’re pursuing. If you were laid off then say you were laid off and give as much color as you need to give the situation, focus on what you did in your role, where you were successful, your goals overall, and how the new role will help you get there. Your resume can only do so much. Once an employer gets you in the office or on the phone, your story can drastically outshine your resume and it should. Resumes don’t interview, people do, you’re going to be talking to another person who wants to hear a logical flow of events that landed you in front of them. When you are asked why you’re interested in a new position and your answer begins with, “Because I like…” then you’re probably headed in the wrong direction. Your narrative should be well thought out with clear objectives, show real passion, and be able to display a track record of interest by connecting the dots from job to job, hobbies, charity work, and extracurricular activities. 

4. Improve your skills.

When you are out of work you need to stay busy and keep improving your brand and skills.  Take a course or certification that improves your skills and marketability in your industry or the industry you want to get into.  I recommend this for two reasons: first, the new skill can help make you more marketable in your industry or others and shows potential employers that you have a drive that extends beyond your job. Second, it keeps you busy and puts you in contact with similar people who are bettering their skill sets and are great networking opportunities.  This shows employers that you are not complacent, but rather, a proactive learner who is willing to put in the extra work to achieve goals. This is a huge differentiator. 

5. Reach out to Influencers.

If you see a job opening that interests you, take a crucial step prior to applying, make it a habit to identify the appropriate influential person or the decision-maker at that company on LinkedIn, usually, this was the department director or team manager. If you get that person to engage with you personally, then they are the perfect advocate for you. Don’t be naive or shy.  Introducing yourself and speaking with the person gives your resume more muscle as it goes from words on a page to being connected to a live conversation or meeting.  Getting to him or her first could be the difference between radio silence and a second interview because it’s human nature to lean toward the familiar rather than the unknown.

Making contact prior to applying might enable you to provide the decision maker or recruiter the ability to review your resume without discovering it in a database of hundreds.  At the end of the day, the objective is to get a “yes” from the decision-maker. If you make a positive impression on them early on, then you’ve made your job a lot easier. Also better to hack the system rather than relying on luck.

So, how do you reach the decision-maker? An intro from a mutual connection is always the easiest and fastest way to build repose, but that’s not always an option. When possible I recommend cold emails over LinkedIn messages because you never know how often someone checks their LinkedIn inbox. However, I believe using both can be effective to get their attention and show their tenacity. Given the amount of SPAM and noise in email and on LinkedIn, make sure your subject line grabs their attention and try to mention something you have in common, whether it’s a mutual contact, academic connection, a hometown, or a specific interest.

6. Follow up!

Balancing follow-ups can be hard, but don’t drop the ball. Persistence pays. Always send a thank you email by the morning after an interview or conversation. In the case I don’t get a timely response, I’ll send an additional follow-up two days after the initial email and a second follow-up five to seven days after that. If I decide to follow up again, I wait at least another week. If you feel awkward about follow-ups then just ask when you should follow up during your interview. The objective is to gain a better understanding of the timeline and the status of your candidacy.

7. Keep working.

Even though you are looking for full-time work, I recommend volunteering and charity work, anything that keeps your mind engaged and your network growing. Staying active is a great way to relieve stress during the job-hunting process and keep you networking. You never know how the people you meet could benefit your career now or in the future. Let them know you are looking for work, and give them information on your interests, you will be surprised how helpful people can be and open to networking to help you. 

Networking is seldom a fast process and hard to turn on like a light switch but being skilled a networking is like farming.  You plant seeds, water and nurture those plants over time and they will bear the fruit of those labors over time.  I have yet to meet anyone who said their professional and personal networks were a detriment to their lives but the opposite is surely true. 

8. Keep living life.

It can be hard to stay motivated while you’re between jobs and hard to stay optimistic about your future.  You must understand that you have no control over who calls you back or when they choose to do so.  Set up your days as you would at work, have designated job search times, networking time, and external networking events, and do your hobbies. The job boards are no longer a beneficial resource to job seekers, they have become overrun with fake jobs, bait-and-switch scams, and a lack of personal contact.

Be proactive and create opportunities for yourself.  Figure out a short list of companies in your area that are in the industry you want to work. Next search their career pages to see what types of roles they are actively recruiting for and if they match your interest and skill set.  If you find ones that match then find the hiring manager and/or recruiter and try to contact them via email and LinkedIn. 

If no open roles exist find the person in a role similar to the one you are interested in and identify their boss or you could contact them directly. See if you could have coffee or lunch to network and learn more about future opportunities or where they came from for another avenue to work. 

Stay positive and have faith that you are going to get your next opportunity.  Every no, and every closed door is one step closer to a yes and an open door. Companies don’t want to hire low-energy, stressed people! I needed to continue doing the things that brought me joy, and once I brought those things back everything started to fall into place.