When you get laid off, it hurts. You're thrown completely off-course, and usually at the worst possible time. Whatever your reality was in the morning, it's completely different by the afternoon. But fear not, here are five steps you can take to regain control of your career:
1. Negotiate your severance. Everything is negotiable, even with a company that has no money. If negotiation scares you, this is the time to practice your skills; you literally have nothing to lose. You can ask for more severance, the ability to keep your work computer, or to receive extended insurance. In this situation, ask for the moon, and you'll probably end up with something.
Even if you've been notified to pack up your things already, you can still make an appointment to talk to your supervisor or human resources department again. No one expects you to have it together when you're being told you've lost your job. And remember, don't sign anything until you're in the right frame-of-mind.
2. "I'm happy to make this as easy as possible." You feel hurt, ashamed, and embarrassed. It's OK to feel those things, but there's no reason to. And you should know it's just as embarrassing and gut-wrenching for the company. They don't have the money to pay you. Stay professional, keep your tears and anger for the phone call with Mom, and be the bigger person. Make sure to communicate with your colleagues that you're happy to make the transition as easy as possible.
3. Ask for a reference. Being laid off has nothing to do with your performance, so you should definitely ask your boss and colleagues if you can use them as a reference, and it doesn't hurt to see if they know of any opportunities either (another reason why you don't want to burn bridges). Let team members know you've enjoyed working with them and to keep an eye out for you. People want to help. Don't try and act like you don't need it.
4. Contact your networks immediately. The only way to get back on your feet quickly is to put yourself out there immediately. While it may feel awkward to tell people you've been laid off, it's important to let your network know exactly what you're looking for. Try to email your peers within a day or two of receiving the bad news, like tearing off a band-aid. Then, be open to opportunities that don't quite fit your ideal situation. Consulting, side jobs, and exploring new industries are all great options that quickly allow your financial and emotional wounds to heal.
5. Look at your budget. For peace of mind, you need to know how much of a financial runway you have, even if it's the last thing you want to do. Look at your budget, decide what your minimum living expenses are, and get a good sense of the size of your safety net. Hopefully you'll have three months worth of salary in your emergency fund, but in today's market, six or twelve months is better. When you know, you can breathe (or hustle).
Those first few hours of dread and disappointment suck. But if you can push through, you'll be able to regain your shaken confidence and take back control of your career. Remember, you've got this.
Rebecca Thorman's goal is to help you find meaningful work, enjoy the heck out of it, and earn more money. Her blog Kontrary offers career, business, and life advice that works. She writes from Washington, D.C.