A layoff or downsizing can be a devastating life event. But it can also be an opportunity to take your career in an exciting, new direction.
The U.S. Department of Labor goes to great lengths to track the number of American workers who have been laid off during a given time period. For example, in July 2011 employers initiated 1,579 mass layoffs, suddenly displacing 145,000 workers.
But government statistics can’t possibly describe the devastating impact layoffs have on individuals and households. Laid-off workers experience psychological stress, financial strain, family conflicts, depression and other fallout that can threaten your self-respect and sense of self-worth.
A promising new job can undo many of the effects of a layoff. But to get it, you’ll need to pick yourself up and get back in the game ASAP. Although you may encounter obstacles every step of the way, eventually you will claw your way back to the top – and maybe even end up with a better position than the one you lost.
Choose to See Opportunity
Outlook is everything in a job search. When you’ve been laid off, it’s tempting to view your prospects through a negative lens. So setting aside your pessimism and making a deliberate choice to see your job hunt as an opportunity is for now, your first priority.
Start Early (the Earlier the Better)
The best time to prepare for a layoff is before it occurs. If that train has already left the station, the next best thing is to kick your job search into high gear as quickly as possible. Frequently, mass layoffs flood the local job market with a wave of applicants who possess similar skills and work experiences. The later you get out there, the less chance you will have to differentiate yourself from your former coworkers.
Maximize Employee Transition Services
Employer-provided transition services get a bad rap. While it’s true that some transition services are next to worthless in terms of real employment assistance, many offer placement programs, career counseling and other services that can be extremely useful in helping you identify and land your next gig.
Frequently, mass layoffs happen when a company loses market share to a competitor. Even though your company has conducted layoffs, there’s a chance the competition may need to hire new personnel to handle the additional workload. Regardless of whether or not they are advertising openings, contact competitors to inquire about employment opportunities.
Keep Your Bridges Intact
We know . . . the last thing you want to do is play nice with the people who were responsible for letting you go. But a scorched earth exit strategy will only make a bad situation even worse. As much as possible, maintain a good relationship with your former employer. You never know when you might need them for a reference or future job.
Consider Contract Work
Mass layoffs leave gaps in the workplace. Employers fill those gaps with contractors, culled from the ranks of downsized workers. Contract work may not be as attractive as full-time employment, but it can provide a steady stream of income while you search for a better employment situation.
Reevaluate Career Goals
Like it or not, a layoff may be the push you need to reevaluate your goals and career trajectory. Maybe you’ve been putting off a dream to start your own small business. Or maybe you’ve been dragging your feet on making the leap to a new career field. A layoff might not be the most comfortable path to a major life change, but it can provide the impetus you need to start moving in a completely different direction.