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Living in Fear of a Job Layoff? Beat the Panic With a 5-Step Plan

Aha Moment: Getting laid off from your job won’t derail your career if you plan for the bad while you’re in the good.

You may not see a layoff coming.

All of the sudden, you’re smacked in the face with the impending doom of financial burdens and career stalls that you just weren’t prepared for.

Being laid off from your job can be a difficult phase to find yourself in – personally and professionally – to say the least.

But – and it’s a big “but” – this doesn’t have to be your fate.

With the right planning, you can be back on your feet without a hitch.

If you plan for the bad while you’re in the good, you’ll navigate rough waters.

Check out the ways you can be prepared for an unexpected job loss or layoff.

1. Treat yourself to something that makes you happy

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the emotional pain of losing your job that you’re nearly paralyzed.

Once you get stuck in that place, it’s easy to stay there and wallow.

That wallowing-time is valuable – you could be focusing your efforts more productively.

Determine ahead of time that you’ll face a job loss head-on. Find the bright side and celebrate the chance for a new beginning.

Make it a real celebration – not just a halfhearted, “Yay, me.”

Go out to dinner at your favorite restaurant and make an occasion of it.

It’ll lift your spirits and neutralize the negative emotions surrounding your situation.

2. Have a layoff back-up plan in place

You should be so prepared for a potential job loss that if it were to happen, you automatically know what your first steps would be.

Here are some things you should consider.

  • Set up a network. Have 3-5 people who you can reach out to immediately. They should be entrenched in an industry in which you’d be a great fit. They can vouch for your skills and/or provide valuable contacts. Don’t forget about contacting people at jobs you may have turned down in the past.
  • Have a default entrepreneurship to pivot to. It may be something as simple as helping out with the family business or volunteering somewhere, but you want to avoid a lull in your resume. This has several benefits for you, including:
    • Bridging your time from one opportunity to the next.
    • Keeping your skills sharp.
    • Allowing you to have an elevator speech that comes from a position of strength.

3. Be financially prepared for a job loss

It may take you a bit of time to find a paying position after you’ve been laid off – possibly 3 to 18 months.

When you have three to six months of income saved, you’re allowing yourself the luxury of not being desperate.

You’ll have options.

You can take some time to think through your choices and not take the first available job that comes along.

Keep in mind that you should start building this emergency fund before getting laid off.

4. How you behave matters

The urge is strong to binge everything you’ve ever wanted to watch on Netflix.

Resist that urge.

You need to develop a routine for your days until you get back to work.

It could look something like this:

  • Spend four hours per day applying for jobs, updating your resume, sharing articles and sharpening your skills.
  • Attend three to five professional association events per week.

5. Create a job-search strategy

To get serious about your job search, there are some specific strategies you need to have in place.

  • Update your LinkedIn profile and your resume, making sure to include keywords for the industry you’re targeting in your search. Do this immediately after you’ve been laid off or lost your job.
  • Use sites like, LinkedIn, CareerBuilder and Monster to look for opportunities. You should have three to five types of jobs or roles that you could immediately apply for.
  • Leverage your memberships in professional associations to build a bigger network and get work more quickly.

Turn a layoff into a positive

It’s hard to hear that you no longer have a job.

Knowing ahead of time what steps you’ll take when you’re faced with a job loss makes all the difference.

Learn to neutralize your emotions with the celebration of a new opportunity.

Build your financial emergency fund and engage in the behaviors and strategies that will get you on the path to your new job adventure quickly.

Getting laid off can be a stepping stone you didn’t know you needed to propel your career forward.

How have you handled job losses that you’ve faced?