Getting laid off is perhaps the most professionally traumatic experience you’ll ever have.
“The old adage that it’s not about you is nonsense,” says John Lees, the UK-based career strategist and the author of “How to Get a Job You Love.” “It’s a rejection – the company is saying, ‘We don’t need you. We can manage without you.’ It feels personal.” While it’s natural to feel this way, you mustn’t lose perspective. All in all, “getting laid off is a manageable setback on the scale of human experience,” Lees says. And it can even lead to something positive.
“Try to think about it as an opportunity that’s ultimately going to do you some good,” says Priscilla Claman, the president of Career Strategies, a Boston-based consulting firm. “A lot of people stay in their jobs for too long; they get stuck and can’t move on.” A layoff gives you a fresh start.
Here are other ways to bounce back from this difficult and often stressful situation:
– Take a hiatus: “The first phase is recovery,” says Lees. Don’t make any big decisions in those first few days and don’t rush into the job market the day after you’ve received the news. You need time to process what happened and “how you feel about it.”
– Do a financial assessment: “Figure out how long you have to look for a job – and give yourself as much time as possible to do so,” says Claman.
– Talk it out: When your emotions are still raw, you may feel a lot of “anger and resentment,” says Lees. That’s natural, and it’s important to talk about those feelings. But share that story only with trusted friends and “people with whom you don’t need a script and who have no agenda,” he says.
– Frame your layoff: Once you’ve moved past your initial layoff story, work on crafting asimple explanation for your layoff that you can share with professional contacts and potential hiring managers, suggests Lees. Something like: “My former company went through an extensive restructuring. I’ve been given an opportunity to rethink my career, and what I am looking for now is XYZ.”
– Surround yourself with positivity: As you begin to think about what your future may hold, it’s common to “feel flat and slightly depressed about your job prospects,” says Lees. The remedy is to surround yourself with “positive-minded people who will encourage you and help you move forward.” This group – comprised of mentors, former colleagues and other professional connections – will help you catalog your strengths, remind you of your past accomplishments and achievements and give you good ideas about what to do next.
– Explore opportunities: “Make sure your social media profile is up and running and [if applicable to your industry] that you have work samples in order,” she says. Then think about your job search in the broadest terms possible. Reach out to former colleagues and friends who work for organizations that interest you.
– Sustain momentum: A job search requires incredible dedication. “It’s a volume game,” says Claman. “You need to have a lot of activity going on in order to get ahead, and if you get one callback for every 20 resumes you send out, you’re doing very well.” Populate your calendar with professional meetings and networking events. “At least once a week, you need to put on smart clothes and take someone out for a business lunch,” says Lees. It will be a “positive, reinforcing experience for you.”
– Tend to your well being: Take care of yourself.“ Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep. ”You need to keep your spirits up and your energy high,” says Claman.
(Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist in Boston and a lecturer at Wesleyan University.)
© 2015 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate