Hi, my name is Suki and last month I got unexpectedly laid off, along with a third of the company where I was working. This week, I just started a new job… Let me tell you what I did to stay sane and quickly pivot from lay off depression to proactive job hunting momentum.
First, a disclaimer: I’m not a finance or career expert. These are all things I learned from friends and family members who are actual professionals in these fields. They may not apply to everyone’s situation, I’m just sharing what was helpful to me.
Get a Zoom going with other laid-off coworkers
When I got laid off I literally froze. I had no idea what to do or how to even process. I also had no way of connecting with my ex-co-workers since we all got kicked out of our company Slack chat and emails immediately. I had a few people’s numbers, but I was in such a fog I couldn’t think of what the logical next step was. I thought I would have to process this alone.
Just as I was about to disassociate and watch The Hills, another laid off co-worker texted me and invited me to a Zoom. It started with 3 people, then we started texting and LinkedIn messaging other co-workers. Soon we had about 20-ish folks in the Zoom and were able to share information, commiserate, laugh, day drink, and talk through it. It was exactly the right thing I needed in that moment, and it was incredibly healing, too!
Join (or create) an alumni chat
The giant Zoom chat spawned an alumni Slack! The trick with these is that this Slack isn’t ONLY for shit talking. You want it to be productive! There were channels for us to share job opps, severance updates, relatable memes/TikToks, and yes, there was a channel for commiserating (because it’s healthy, OK?!). Also, if you’re lucky enough to work with people you adore, it’s an active way to stay in touch and create a support system!
Reach out to people back at your job ASAP
The month you get laid off, ask for help from any managers and co-workers who survived the lay off.
Have them give references, pull portfolio assets, anything you need that can help you with the job search. You’ll want to do this soon.
It’s not that they’ll “forget” about you, but it’s best to act immediately while the lay off is still fresh and the urgency is there.
Don’t take out your 401k (yet)
If your job set you up with a 401k, keep your money in there! It’ll still keep making money for you while it sits there, and you can roll it over once you get another job with 401k benefits or when you officially decide you wanna move it into a ROTH. @HerFirst100k and @Dumpster.Doggy are my go-tos for understanding all things 401k/Roth IRA/Money stuff.
You can negotiate your severance and/or your COBRA benefits
Here’s a link to learn more about negotiating your severance.
Companies are required to give you COBRA when you leave, but NOT severance. If they won’t budge on severance, you can try negotiating your COBRA benefits too. Meaning you would ask them if they can cover the employee contribution towards your COBRA costs. So if you paid $30 a month and the employer contribution was $800 dollars, you’re asking if they can continue to keep paying that $800 until a certain date.
Here’s my script for negotiating COBRA benefits
Hey (NAME)! My time at XXX was deeply formative and I appreciate my experience and the incredible people I’ve met. Receiving the news about the layoff was unexpected and I had not anticipated such a sudden shift in health benefits. Would XXX be able to help me maintain and transition out of my current level of medical care by covering the employer contribution of the health insurance (INSERT MONTHLY EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTION COST HERE) when I switch into the COBRA continuation program until December 31st? Thanks again for everything.
…Also, be nice.
It’s tempting to focus your frustration on the company and whomever you’re communicating with. Remember, your company is more likely to help you out if you’re nice about it.
Layoffs are not something to be ashamed of!
Take the time you need to process, then make a LinkedIn post that mentions the lay offs. It might be tempting to shit talk here, but it’s more fruitful to use this as an opportunity to lift up your fellow co-workers if you can AND focus on the bad-ass skills you offer. My co-workers and I made LinkedIn posts and tagged each other listing out each of our roles, which made it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to reach out with job opps!
You can also update your resume to include it with your job’s end date [May 2021-July 2022 (laid off)].
You don’t have to process a layoff alone
My co-workers and I opened up our networks to each other. Even old friends from college and high school saw the LinkedIn posts and came through offering themselves as internal references. Be open about what you’re going through and trust that your community is eager to help!
If you have to shop for health insurance in the Marketplace…
Everyone has different health needs, but if you’re able to, get a “catastrophe plan” which means skip anything that includes basic doctor’s visits (if you can) and only get coverage for medical emergencies until you’re in a more stable position to get better coverage.
If you’re sus a layoff is coming
- SAVE YOUR WORK BITCH! I was naive to think I would be at this company for a loooong time. When they lock you out, they leave no time to grab what you need for your portfolio. Save those projects you’ve been working on or get in the habit of saving projects as soon as you finish them.
- Plz for the love of god regularly put money in your emergency savings account. @HerFirst100k has a lot of financial education on emergency savings and why they’re important.
Time for some woo woo!
Layoffs lead to better things!
I know this sounds hella woo woo but I’ve heard this from so many folks who’ve experienced a layoff and I wholeheartedly believe this. Getting laid off sucked, but it forced me out of my comfort zone and made me think about what I really wanted out of my life and my career. This helped me look at my job seeking experience from a place of abundance instead of scarcity, which let me be more selective about the places I interviewed at. After all, you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you, baby!
Eat at your mom’s house.
Or find someone who’ll happily feed you. There ain’t no shame in the free food game.
Make a list of all the shit you’re proud of
After I let myself be sad for a bit, I was like “Damn, I did really fucking dope work at that company though!”
Once I made a list of all the projects I was proud of and why, I was able to articulate this in my interviews with confidence. As someone who hates interviews, this was really helpful for me!
- You don’t have to face this alone! You have a network and support system among your coworkers.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- You need to save for your emergency fund AND your work portfolio regularly!
- Take note of all the dope things you did and wear ‘em like a badge of honor. When you’re confident you’re a bad-ass (which you are!), it’s easy for others to see that too.
GOOD LUCK! YOU GOT THIS!