Handling a Layoff – What Now?

This post was originally written for Coach’s Corner in February 2018, however, in light of recent economic events, we felt that it was especially pertinent to re-share this information for any alums who might need it now.  For additional advice, you may also view our recorded webinar, “Laid-Off, Now What?” here.


Layoffs – they happen to the best of us now and then.  Whether your company is downsizing and needs to cut departments and/or positions, or has simply decided to change their direction and deemed your position no longer necessary, layoffs can happen at any time.  Though this is a difficult situation to grapple with for anyone, there are some things that you can do in order to prepare yourself to deal with the loss of your job in the best way possible.  Below are a few tips on what you should do if you have been laid off, or are anticipating a layoff in the near future.

  1. – Check with your company about what benefits you may be entitled to

If you anticipate that a layoff is coming soon, or if you have been given notice that you are being laid off, one of the first things that you will want to do is contact your benefits representative and determine what, if any, benefits you are entitled to.  Benefits may include the continuation of health insurance, severance payments, retirement/pension payouts, and more.

Companies that employ more than 20 people are mandated by law to offer health insurance through COBRA for released employees for up to 18 months upon termination.  However, unless stipulated as part of your severance package, you will need to pay for the COBRA premiums yourself… and often they are quite expensive.  If you find the cost of maintaining COBRA insurance prohibitive, you also have the option to shop the federal Health Insurance Marketplace for insurance options.  You can compare these with the COBRA policy(ies) available to you and determine which will best meet your needs.

If you are enrolled in a 401k through your company, you may also be eligible for a lump-sum payout of your benefits upon release from your position.  The tax rules on this vary based on the specific type of retirement plan you have elected to enroll in, and your benefits administrator can generally direct you to the person(s) who can answer tax questions for you with regard to this.

Companies are not generally required to offer a severance package, and many will not – especially for non-executive employees.  Still, if you are being laid off, you are encouraged to ask whether or not this is an option for you.  The worst that can happen is that they say no – however, you might be surprised in finding that a package or settlement is offered, regardless of your seniority level.

  1. File an unemployment claim

Once you are officially unemployed, you will need to visit your local unemployment office or career center and file an unemployment insurance claim.  If you have been employed with your company for more than 90 days, and have been laid off through no fault of your own (the rules differ slightly for people who have been terminated due to actions of their causing), you should be eligible for unemployment.  Unemployment benefits pay about 60% of your working pay, up to a certain amount that is established as the limit.  This maximum limit for payment varies by state, so check with your local office to determine how much you may be eligible for.

Also, remember that unemployment insurance only pays for a certain amount of time.  The benefits do not continue indefinitely, so it is critical that you utilize the time that you have while receiving the benefits well.  Many states have a requirement that you actively apply for a certain amount of jobs per week as a stipulation for continuing to receive the benefit – you can also take classes or do additional continuous improvement as well (more on that later).

  1. Update your resume and references

Hopefully you are a person who updates his or her resume on a regular basis, keeping it fresh and ready for any opportunity that comes along.  If not, however, don’t fear.  There are many resources available on the web and in person to help you update your resume, regardless of how long it has been since you were last in the job search.  The career consultants in the Office of Alumni Career Management are one such resource, as we are happy to work with you to ensure that your resume and other job search documents (cover letters, follow up notes, etc.) are on par with what is generally expected in today’s job market and that they are showcasing you in ways that clearly define the best things about you to any prospective employer.

References are also a critical part of the job search strategy – especially since most people today are hired via networking connections as opposed to simply applying for posted jobs.  If you’d like a reference from your previous employer, make sure that you ask your supervisor or other associated personnel while they still remember who you are.  If you are employed by a large company and those that you work closest with are being terminated as well, you should ask for a letter of reference from management or human resources to ensure that you have that information to pass along to any future prospective employers.  You’ll also want to exchange contact information with any colleagues who you’d like to use as a reference for future purposes.  Remember that this is a two-way street, and offer to be a reference for them as well at some point in the future, should they need it.

  1. – Maximize your time

Being laid off can leave you shell-shocked, and unsure of what to do with yourself.  Whether this is your first time being unemployed, or if you’ve been down this road before, it is important to recognize that this is an opportunity for growth.  Sure, you’ll be looking for jobs and establishing or reestablishing connections as you work your way into a new employment situation, but remember that that isn’t all that you can do.  You also now have time to do some professional development.  This can be done by taking a few courses through LinkedIn Learning, continuing education classes through an association you’re affiliated with, or even enrolling in a certificate program through OSU!  Anything that you do to demonstrate that you are interested in continuing your growth and development will bode well by helping you make additional connections and demonstrating to potential employers that you are still capable and willing to learn new things.

  1. – Breathe

This is perhaps the most important of all the advice here today.  Being unemployed, for any amount of time, for any reason (that isn’t voluntary) can be incredibly stressful.  Make a concerted effort not to let yourself get caught up in the overwhelming thoughts about how you “don’t know what to do”.  Your situation does not have to be permanent – take things day by day, and remember to take care of yourself in the meantime. Make relaxation and self-care an important part of your re-employment strategy – you’ll feel better and be more focused as a result.

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