Lay-offs happen. Nearly 5 million people were laid-off in the first three months of 2021. Knowing what to do if the ax falls will put you in a position to take the best, quickest advantage of your situation.
Stay Calm and Composed After Being Laid Off
First and foremost, you need to stay calm and composed when it comes to getting laid off. This is not the time for you to freak out on your employer or manager — it is crucial to stay composed. Easier said than done, we know, but there is no changing your situation, so worrying about it or letting your emotions get ahead of you won’t help at all. Take a deep breathe and calm yourself. Your mental health is more important than a job.
After you calm yourself down, move on to taking actions that can help improve your current situation for a quick recovery or smooth transition into another opportunity.
Gather Any Information Your Employer Will Need
Gather together any documents that connect you to the company. This includes company credit cards, keys (office keycard), login credentials/passwords for company accounts, including payroll. You will need to give these back to the company. It will go a long way if you prepare a document with all your passwords and usernames and hand them to your boss. I am sure you have experienced the tedious duty of having to reset a password to a website. It is a process.
Gather Any Information You Will Need
Getting let go doesn’t feel great, but make sure you leave on a positive note in case they are other opportunities for you in the future.
Collect physical items you have created/produced for them, such as marketing materials or new product prototypes. Depending on your company’s policy, you may be able to take these home with you after being laid off to use for your portfolio when you start applying to new jobs.
If possible, gather together any given bonuses or incentives that were promised to you but haven’t been received yet. Keep this information organized and safe until you have decided on your next step in your career path.
Inform Your Team
Immediately inform all of the individuals that will need to know about what has happened with you. This includes anyone who works directly with you, for you, is employed by the same company as you that works on your team, or relies upon your presence at work. Ensure they are aware of your current situation so they can take immediate action if necessary.
If you happened to be laid-off for a specific reason, sometimes an employer will suggest you not to say goodbye to anyone before leaving the job. In this case, make sure to hand in all the information to your manager before you leave with all the information they will need to continue your job (passwords, accounts, etc.).
Do you have a list of all your usernames and password? If not, start creating one. This will not only save you time and headache, but if you are in the situation where you do get let go, you will have full access of this list that you can easily send to your manager.
Need help figuring out what your password it? We attached an image of the top 100 most common passwords used in 2021. Are any of these your password?
Assuming you have not been terminated for a certain cause, but, rather, your job has been eliminated for reasons outside your influence — restructuring, economic reversals, mergers, buyouts, relocations, and so on — a lay-off letter explaining the circumstances to you (and prospective employers) most likely will be part of your farewell package.
Take the time to read carefully and digest anything that might be relevant to your next step as soon as possible (including any severance agreements, confidentiality or non-compete contracts, etc.). You can always go back and look over your materials later.
Collect Final Paycheck
The next step would be the collect your final check. Depending on the circumstances of your lay-off, you may receive the final check on your last day. Make certain is the correct amount.
Ask if any benefits such as health or life insurance were ended with your employment or can continue on a COBRA basis.
“The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal law passed in 1986 that lets certain employees, their spouses, and their dependents keep group health plan (GHP) coverage for 18 to 36 months after they leave their job or lose coverage for certain other reasons, as long as they pay the full cost of the premium.” Learn more at Medicare Interactive.
Not all, but some companies also provide employees with the option of taking company equipment home after they leave. In this case, call HR and find out if this might be an option for you. This could be especially beneficial in your next job search if you are applying for positions where you would have to purchase similar materials/equipment yourself.
It may be difficult but try not to burn any bridges during the process of being laid off.
Figure Out Your 401(k)
If you have a 401(k) with your former employer, you have options.
If it is a traditional 401(k), you can leave your money where it is as long as your employer permits this (some do not, like Google).
If you are leaving for another job and want to transfer the funds elsewhere, contact your former employer’s HR department before you leave. This way, they will know to expect the incoming paperwork and won’t reject it. You’ve already been laid-off therefore they’ve sent out documentation or notifications about these changes; if you inform them early enough they should have no reason to refuse the transfer request.
If you receive a severance package, make sure to carefully review it. The information may be part of the lay-off letter you were given. Here are some items to consider:
Your sign-on bonus, commission structure, and any bonuses should be included in this package. If they are not, ask for them. Be especially careful if your sign-on bonus was paid out over time (e.g., $5000/year). Ask about any remaining balance owed to you; it may or may not need to be repaid if you receive other severance pay.
Any accrued PTO (vacation) days can usually be cashed out as full days even if your employment lasted less than a year (check the details of your PTO plan). The same goes for sick days.
Register for Unemployment and Start Applying
The last step on what you should do when you are laid off, before you start applying for other jobs, is to register for unemployment. You can read more about that by simply searching the phrase “How to get unemployment benefits” . It is important that you follow any rules and regulations put forth by your state’s unemployment office.
Keep in mind: Your state’s unemployment requirements could change even if nothing else seems different elsewhere. Keep checking their website for updates until you find work or become ineligible.
Now that you have taken the proper steps after your lay-off, it is time to start looking for new employment.
Refresh your resume and cover letter and get in touch with your previous employers to see if they are planning on hiring anyone else, even if it’s temporary.
Don’t forget to use the tools at your disposal. There are plenty of online job boards that allow you to post or search for jobs. We highly recommend contacting a staffing agency like ours. Staffing agencies are a free resource for job seekers.
In addition to contacting them through their website, you can also call the staffing agency directly and ask if they have any opportunities that would fit your skillset.