What to Do if You Get Laid Off

Steps to take to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and begin your job hunt.

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Lindsay Olson
Getting laid off from your job can be emotionally and financially draining. You may feel unsure and lost at sea.

These tips will help you take care of the paperwork and loose ends involved, begin to heal from the hurt, and move on to your next role:

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1. Talk to human resources. If you walked out of your boss' office stunned, you might not have heard what you needed to do to tie up any loose ends at your job. Speak to the HR manager to see if there are any papers you need to sign, or any resources that can help you with your job hunt.

You may be eligible for a severance package, which can help tide you over until your next job. Ask about that, as well as the vacation time you've accrued and any other stock options or financial values you're owed.

2. Consider unemployment. Sure, it's a fraction of what you were making, but unemployment benefits can help ease the pain as you wean-off your previous salary. You most likely will qualify for unemployment, but requirements vary by state. Know that if you were a freelancer or contractor, you may not be able to get unemployment benefits. Typically, you can receive these benefits for up to 26 weeks, or until you find your next job.

[See How to Handle Getting Fired.]

3. Leave room for your feelings. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. These are all valid feelings when it comes to being laid off. Don't bury them, or they could come back to haunt you later. Instead, address them head-on. Write in a journal or talk to your spouse, friend, or counselor about how being laid off makes you feel.

Getting these emotions off of your chest can help you feel ready to move on to the next part of your journey: job-hunting.

4. Assess before looking for your next job. Were you happy in your last role? What would you have changed? It may be time for a career change, and this is the perfect opportunity for it.

Once you've decided what you are looking for in your next role, determine whether you will need to acquire new skills and training to fulfill the needs of your next position. If you can afford it, now could be the perfect opportunity to gain experience through continued education, volunteer work, or internships before focusing on your full-time job search.

[See 3 Reasons Job Rejection Isn't Always About You.]

5. Start hunting. If your plan is to get back to work as quickly as possible, then get your resume in order. Hopefully, you've been updating it while employed so you can just make minor changes and not have to start from scratch. Let your professional network know you're on the market and the types of opportunities you are interested in. Then do the obvious and get online to see what positions are being advertised. At least you can begin by applying for what's advertised while you research your target companies and networking strategies to uncover the less obvious job opportunities.

Being laid off isn't the end of the world, though it can feel like it. Remember that a company's decision to lay people off is never personal, and sometimes the opportunity to return to your old position may surface once the company reconciles its issues. Until that time, make sure you're focusing on what you need professionally and personally.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.