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What To Do When You Get Laid Off

Losing your job is never easy. It can happen unexpectedly, and most of us aren’t prepared for the possibility of losing our source of income in an instant. As emotionally and financially stressful as it may be, rest assured it’s not the end of the world. Once you get over the initial shock, it’s time step to dust off your resume, reconnect with your LinkedIn buddies and get back out there.  

1. Reach out to your supervisors, mentors and peers

As corporate budgets get smaller and job responsibilities seem to grow, it can be tough to navigate the job market as an entry-level employee. Recommendations and leads from friends are key to landing your next gig. Don’t be afraid to ask your superiors, co-workers and HR at your former company for letters of rec (LinkedIn recommendations are great too!) or to connect you to anyone they know in your field. Chances are the people who hired you before, know other people who could hire you.

If you have good working relationships, people will probably be willing to pass your resume along and set up coffee chats—okay let’s call them what they are, informational interviews. If you have kept in touch with college professors or former classmates, reach out and see if they may be able to send you a few leads. Don’t be afraid to ask. It is isn’t shameful. It’s networking, and one day you may be able to return the favor. 

2. Have a financial game plan

What does your savings account look like? The general rule is to have 3-6 months worth of living expenses put away for situations like this. Chances are if you’re like most young professionals just starting out, you may not have much. This is the time to take a hard look at your finances and figure out how you can get by without your regular source of income. 

If your savings aren’t able to do the trick, is there a side-gig you can pick up while you search for something full-time? If you have an apartment or a house, are you able to sublease or potentially move in with a family or a roommate?  If you have student loans, are you be able to defer or refinance them? Would you potentially qualify for unemployment benefits? 

These are the questions you need to be asking now. It can take months to find a new job, and being honest about your bank account is the first step to surviving this drought. 


3. Update your professional profile

This goes without saying, but you should always keep your resume, LinkedIn and portfolio/reel up-to-date. Sending out applications is daunting enough without the task of going through all your past work looming over you.

Are you active on social media? Tweet about it! Post it on Facebook! Tell your story, what kind of work you’re interested in and share a link to some recent projects if possible. Be sure to not include anything negative about your previous employer, even if you aren’t fond of them. Use your network to amplify your skills and what you can bring to the table. Don’t discredit yourself by trying to bring your former employer down. It’s not about them, it’s about you and your search for a new job. You never know who may come across your posts.

4. Contact your university’s career center

Many college career centers offer services to alumni, too. Angel Iverson, a University of Florida Career Resource Center director, says it’s a resource many students and alumni aren’t aware of.

“We offer one-on-one career planning appointments with via phone or Skype up to a year after graduation,” says Iverson. “After that, alumni are welcome to come to career fairs on campus and info sessions with employers.”

UF also offers virtual career fairs and webinars covering a variety of topics such as networking, LinkedIn and how to explore new careers. Be sure to follow up with your alma mater to find out was resources are available to you. 

5. Lean on your support system

Ayana Lage, a recent graduate of University of Florida, was laid from her job at a digital marketing firm when they lost a major client. For Ayana, losing her job was an emotional experience, but with the help of her family, she was able to pick up the pieces and begin to move forward.

“Allow yourself to mourn and cry for a couple of days, but set a deadline,” Ayana says. “View it like a breakup. You need to process, but you need to move on.”

Ayana says she was lucky and found her a new job within a few weeks, but that didn’t stop her from worrying about the future.

“Luckily, we had money saved up, and our family and friends were kind enough to give Starbucks gift cards, groceries and home-cooked meals during that first week. Cling to your friends and family, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.”


6. Don’t be so hard so hard on yourself

A lot of the pressure to find a new job and have the “perfect life” may be coming from within. Try not project societal expectations onto yourself. You are not your job, and it’s okay for everything not to be perfect. Take time to reflect on what you’re looking for in your next chapter; your ideal compensation, the kind of projects you’d like to work on, your schedule, work-life balance and what you’d be willing to negotiate on. It’s good to have these things thought out before you start heading on interviews. You can also take this time to enjoy a little “fun-employment.”  

Iverson suggests volunteer work as productive way to use your time, and gain new skills in an area of interest. Bonus: It can also be used a to fill the employment gap on your resume!  

Ayana recommends catching up on sleep and “things like doctor appointments and coffee dates you’d been putting off.” How about taking an impromptu trip to Rome (only if it’s in your budget, of course), falling in love with an Italian pop-star who turns out to be a fraud, and realizing you had the ability to make your dreams come true all along? Wait, was that the plot of the Lizzie McGuire movie? Oh well, you get the point.

Losing your job may be a major blow to your ego, but you are so much more than your career. Don’t let this trying time make you believe anything else.

Ebony Joseph is an award-winning journalist who is currently teaching and writing in South Korea. Before saying goodbye to her life in New York and small, overpriced Manhattan walk-up, she was a tape producer and researcher at NBC's flagship morning broadcast, The Today Show. She began her career the University of Florida, learning the foundations of journalism through public radio. During her time at UF, Ebony interned at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. and ABC News in New York. She has also produced and anchored newscasts for NPR-PBS member stations across Florida, such as WLRN in Miami and WUFT in Gainesville. Ebony’s work has been featured on the Today Show, World News Tonight with David Muir, ABC News Digital, Good Housekeeping, The Huffington Post, BBC America and The Miami Herald. She's also had the honor of being featured as a #HerConference panelist in both 2017 and 2018. When she's not stressing over whether or not she is "adulting" properly, you can find her planning her next international adventure or catching up on the latest Real Housewives drama. You can follow her ramblings and musings @wheresebony.
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