It’s unlikely that people spend time thinking they’ll be laid off, and few prepare for the day that they could be handed their pink slip. Seeing a layoff coming with any forewarning is unusual. Layoffs are swift and brutal. They are typically moves of self-preservation that companies take to stay financially solvent in the face of a slowdown.
I was with my telecom company for twelve years and have laid off my fair share of talented employees. I was a loyal and dedicated employee myself. I rose in the ranks from a Project Manager to a Vice President of a region in the company. I was promoted to a partner and took much pride in being in leadership, and making decisions that made the business stronger.
That all changed in September of 2019. T-Mobile announced a nation-wide stop work order ahead of their long-awaited merger with Sprint about to come to fruition. My company needed to make cuts, and deep cuts at that. I never imagined that the layoff could impact a partner, and it did. I was laid off along with many others. This taught me some hard truths. No one is immune to a layoff and businesses will make the hard decisions necessary to ensure its longevity.
So what now? Below could be your next steps as you navigate this new reality.
Mourn. You are allowed to be mournful and feel loss. But only for a short time. My wife gave me two days. Don’t wallow in self-pity, instead accept the truth of the matter. Reflect on all of your successes, be upset with the company’s decision, and decide that you’ll no longer waste any more energy in this space. You need to ready yourself and your brain for the challenges to come. Do not spend a moment more thinking about what could have been. You’re looking ahead.
Unemployment. You need to file for unemployment quickly. You’ve been working, you’ve paid into the government program, and you’ve earned it. Fill out the necessary applications, follow up with your local agency and establish yourself as an eligible unemployment candidate to begin receiving benefits. Most families have households that rely on two incomes and will require any supplemental financial support to keep their families afloat while in between careers.
Budget. If with a significant other, sit down together immediately and reestablish a family operating budget. Cut costs where you can and be frugal. Any extraneous spending must be gutted at the core and preserving the financial viability of the family is paramount. You could be in for a long haul. The next job isn’t guaranteed and could take many months to land. Be smart with your finances and plan months without an income in mind.
Network. You know many colleagues, counterparts and people of importance within your industry and network. This is your sphere of influence. You’ve been entrusted by these people during your tenure to deliver on promises and they will play a significant role in introducing you to your next opportunity. Be open to meeting with new people and actively seek out new relationships. Ask your network to help you in your time of need. You’ve probably helped others when they’ve needed to be picked up and this is their opportunity to reciprocate. Polish your resume and begin distributing it to your network.
Health. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. Do not let your health slide in this time. Be committed to maintaining a routine of exercising on a regular basis. Put yourself first and keep your body tuned. If you can’t make it to the gym, go for a walk. Take the family and the dog, or go with a friend. Be mindful not to become a couch potato. This will be a stressful period and your body needs to be taken care of in order to survive this time of trauma. An added benefit to exercise is that it can be an outlet for your stress. Take it to the gym and let it go.
Learn. It’s important to remember that we as humans continue to learn every day. Both in our professional and personal lives, we are looking to achieve self-improvement. We’re trained to look for ways to better ourselves. Now you have the gift of time. My career coach emphasized that I create my ‘Dream List’. What are the things you’ve put off, haven’t had time to accomplish or haven’t even thought of yet? Begin thinking. Make a list of those things that will benefit you and even build your resume. Have you been managing projects, but haven’t earned your PMP? Now is the time, do it. Have you thought about a certification but never fully committed? Now is the time, sign up for the course. Be strategic and choose things that truly interest you. Fill your time with positive thoughts and accomplishments that you can talk about in your next interview.
Read. Keep your mind sharp. You are going to need to rely on your brain to aid you in finding opportunities, exploiting your strengths and being a full participant in interviews. You don’t want to come off as dull and tired. Make a list of books to read in your down time. Read those that will benefit you professionally and also read those that you will find enjoyment in. Ready your mind to ensure it can be called upon when the unexpected time comes and you’re faced with putting your best foot forward.
Volunteer. Stay active in the community. Find good causes to supplement your free time and use them as talking points in your next interview. Build your network and watch your community grow in the process. This will also help to get you off the couch and out participating with a purpose. Volunteering can fill the emotional void of wanting to feel like you are having an impact and can give you a sense of accomplishment.
Being unemployed is scary and finding a new job is a daunting task. Rely on your loved ones, family and friends to be a sounding board. Ask people to help review your resume and tap into your network to distribute it. With persistence and within due time, you will be recognized by the opportunity that awaits. Stay positive and put one foot in front of the other every day. Your vigilance will be rewarded, and the world of unemployment will feel like a blip on the radar in the not too distant future.
Paul Fanos is an experienced executive in the telecommunications industry living in Denver, CO. For the past decade-plus, Mr Fanos has been responsible building the brand of wireless technical services company INFINIGY. Follow Mr. Fanos on LinkedIn.