Surviving Layoffs

A rough economy has a backlash in all directions. Companies are looking to keep their investors happy. If they’re not selling products they’ll be looking to trim the fat. You may not think you are part of the fat, but the higher ups might not see it the same way. It’s up to you to insulate yourself as best as you can against being tossed back into the unemployment pool. It’s important to have a plan in place that will speed up the process of landing a new job.

I had a friend who recently was laid off. She describes her experience and plans in this email:

My Dear Friends,

Well, The Great Recession has claimed another victim – yours truly.  I was “separated” from (my company) last week, closing a 10 year chapter of my career.  The blow is cushioned with a severance package and I will receive some pay-outs of various retirement plans so I should be OK for a while.  Of course, whatever I live off of today is what I will not be able to live off of in retirement.  And while today is not the most opportune time to be looking for a job in the retail field, I have at least been equipped with outplacement services for 6 months and an astonishing network of (ex-company) executives who have banded together to form a kind of support group.  Extraordinary.  I have dubbed it the (XX) Group – (Ex Executives) – and there are 10 of us so far, including two fellow Directors and my ex-boss.  Our first gathering is tomorrow night.

So I have dusted off my resume and the outplacement firm will help me fluff it up as well as help me brush up on my interviewing and networking skills.  I have an extensive list of head-hunters, courtesy of another friend who is job searching and a good business network both in NY and overseas.  I also have some really solid friends who are pitching in and getting my name out to help with my fishing expedition.  I also have financial advisors who will help me maneuver my way through that tricky maze.

And I have my friends.  Yes, you!  I am counting on you to keep sending me amusing emails to keep me laughing, and to remind me that in spite of it all, I do have much to be grateful for, not the least of which is an army of moral supporters who will not let me down!

My plan is to launch the job search in earnest at the beginning of the year knowing that the fourth quarter is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent memory and NO ONE in my business is going to be hiring until they get their bearings on how rough and long-lasting this storm is going to be.  But business and life will continue and I will be ready to seize any reasonable opportunity.  In the meantime, I intend to enjoy the holiday season, do a lot of things I never had time for and work hard to open the next door.  And in that order!

Let us all count our blessings,


Karl’s Note – (Brackets) were used to protect identities.

D is smart and has created a system to help her recover from her company’s layoffs. We are going to break down what she did and how you can insulate yourself from going into debt. 

Your Company Network

That means staying friendly with the right people. Yes, it’s all about playing corporate politics, but it’s going to reduce your amount of time without a job. No one wants to lay-off a person that they walked through fire with and made it out the other side. They will fight for you as long as they can (basically until their job is on the line).

Eventually the cuts will come closer and closer if the company doesn’t start turning their cash flow around. That means you have two options: just wait it out until you are laid off or get your butt in gear and start connecting with people who can help you find a new job. If you do get laid off, you want to be in position to use your contacts at your old company. They will want to walk through fire with you again.

External Network

Being fired or laid off requires you to fall back on your external network (friends outside the company) to help you find a new job. You may know a good head hunter who understands what company would be a good fit or you may know the manager of your company’s competitor who needs someone like you. It’s all about continually expanding your network. If you are too busy to keep in touch with past friends and acquaintances then you are hurting your chances for future employment.

Head Hunter

Finding the right head hunter who understands your profession is difficult. You don’t want someone who finds staff for caterers; you want someone who knows your industry. The best thing you can do is interview head hunters. Don’t pick the first one that you see.

It’s all about asking the right questions. Make sure you understand their background and how long they’ve been finding people jobs within your industry. If they know what they are doing then let them do all the hard work. They will typically be paid 25% of your first year’s salary. This is paid by the company that hires you, and if the company thinks you are a good fit then they’ll happily pay the premium.


Hopefully you’ve made friends within the industry. They like your style and are willing to vouch for your ability to work brilliantly. This is where it hurts to be young. Gen Y just doesn’t have the same amount of connections as older Gen X’s and Baby Boomers. But that’s why it’s good to expand your network now. Waiting until next week to email that friend in another company, which we know will eventually be forgotten about, won’t help you find a new job.

Constantly expanding your network beyond what you think will help you in the future is always beneficial. Some of my best contacts help me figure out problems that they’ve already encountered at their company. You may just find that mentor to help take your career to the next level. You’re killing two problems with one stone, making yourself more useful at your present job and making connections with people who can help you find a new job if you need one.

I asked D a few interview questions and she was kind enough to expand on her original thoughts.

What do you do to protect yourself from being laid off?  

Kept a positive attitude, continued “business as usual” vs obsessing about the inevitable (over which I probably had no control) and tried to set a good example for my staff and peers.  (P.S.  I got laid off anyway!)

Am I leaving off a part of a networking tool that you would use?  

Contact EVERYONE – you never know who knows someone who knows someone who could be looking to hire someone.  You touched on many of the people anyone should get in touch with.  My network will include:  friends and their friends that they put me in touch with, people I used to work with daily, occasionally or only once (but I feel I made an impresssion on the person I am contacting), people I used to work with, people I went to school with (college and high school), neighbors, and business contacts. The old adage about “the network” being the most reliable way to find your next job is REALLY true!  I got my last four jobs through “the network.”  But note:  The network will not get you your next job – it will only connect you to people who are hiring.  YOU have to earn your next job yourself.

I suggest you research LinkedIn – the largest online network of professionals in the world.  You can look for a job, look for someone to hire, potential clients, venture capitalists, potential partners, business contacts etc.  It is the professional equivalent of Face Book, etc. and my outplacement counselor advised that the first thing I do is build my contacts in that system.

If you’ve been laid off, what tools did you or are you using to find a better job?

Prepare a professional resume (2 pgs MAX) – no tricks, just the facts.  ALWAYS include your address, email address and phone number.  Have your resume on an e-file that you can email it and have several hard copies ready to be sent as well.  Use GOOD stationery and even if you email a copy, always follow up with a hard copy – it’s a good excuse to stay in their face.

Print professional looking business cards.  Once you have your cards printed, always carry a supply with you AT ALL TIMES.

Recruiters – good advice to seek out specialists; use as many GOOD recruiters as you can (if you are unemployed; if you are still working, BE DISCREET!)  It’s a numbers game so you want the most people trying to find your next opportunity.

Think about your strengths/weaknesses and match that to the next job – don’t go into (or continue in) sales if you hate working with people!

Research companies you admire and would like to work for – see if you can network your way in.  If not, try a “cold call” with a compelling cover letter.

Encourage companies to invite you for an exploratory interview even if no job exists – it’s good practice, and something may come up in the near future.  Go in with a reason why they should hire you.  Be confident, but not cocky.

Research the company you are interviewing with BEFORE the interview and find a way to drop a few pearls about what you know about the company

Keep a diary and be religious about following up with phone calls, letters – companies are not returning calls these days because there are too many applicants.  Which applicants do you think they are going to remember – the ones who just sent a resume or the ones who follow up with phone calls and/or letters?

ALWAYS follow up an interview (phone interview or in person) with a thank you note – I personally prefer a hand-written note because it shows that you took the time.  But many people find an email acceptable these days.

Consider relocation – it opens up possibilities. Consider one step back now to make one step forward later.

Think about transferable skills – maybe you were a “user” consultant and part of a pilot group that launched a new system in your company and found that you are really good at IT.  Maybe you ran a few training workshops in your company and it turns out you are good at it – could you be an HR training specialist in your next job?

Are there any job fairs in your area?  Do a little research and if there are recruiters for companies you are interested in and are recruiter for your level, you should definitely attend!

Are there any networking events?  These can be quasi-social so might actually be fun.  THIS IS WHY YOU NEED A BUSINESS CARD WITH YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFORMATION

(P.S.  don’t forget to file for unemployment!)

Thanks D! I know that it’s always good to brush up on all these suggestions because you never know when you’ll need them.

What would you do or what have you done to secure your future? What are you doing to stay in touch with old friends?

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Image courtesy of rickz

11 thoughts on “Surviving Layoffs”

  1. Hi Karl,
    My big take away here is the importance of having and using your network of friends, family, business associates, and other colleagues. And that leads me to remember that it’s important to strengthen those relationship before a situation like the above comes up.

  2. Since I’ve never been the “career” type (mostly administrative/executive support positions) so I wonder how much of this applies to me. I do keep my LinkedIn and Facebook contacts (ex co-workers, etc) close and I do check in every now and then to see how they’re doing. I will be relocating in the next six months so this will be even more crucial for me.

  3. Pingback: Posts about Ebooks as of January 12, 2009 | The Lessnau Lounge

  4. Hi Karl: I think your friend is going to be fine because she sounds like the type of person everyone wants to be around. A lot of people have a tendency to isolate themselves when things are tough, but one of the best ways to reduce the stress of difficult situations is to reach out to your support group. A “we’re in this together” mentality is much more helpful than an “every man for himself” mentality.

  5. Hi Lance, a network is so important to finding that next job. It takes work to keep it up, but it pays off in the long run.

    Hi Marelisa, D is a smart woman. She’ll land on her feet and find a job that will let your use her talents. She has already created a foundation, not it’s just a waiting game.

    Hi Carla, I really believe that a great network online and offline helps everyone at every level. You never know what you will need help.

  6. Great and timely subject! Wonderful advice. One of the keys is to stay connected at all times, not just in times of need.

  7. LifeMadeGreat | Juliet

    Hi Karl

    Very interesting…and useful. I like the way you have presented the topic

    I’m really hit by the importance of networking. That would definitely be an area that I need to work on.

    And great tips on the head-hunter.


  8. Costco Job Applications

    There are 2 million people who were laid off last year and 500,000 of them in December. This is a very good article — very informative and helpful for those of us who need jobs.

  9. Great post, Karl. Your article described the importance of networking.
    What should we do if we get laid off? Just you have said as well, don’t just sit back on the chair and waiting for others to help us. Find activities to make us busy, like contact our friends, find something related to job seeking in the internet, send many job applications, and so on.
    As long as we keep trying, there is always a way for us.

  10. Nice advice. Your network of contacts, especially those closest to you that you can trust with your life, is definitely important. Scouring the hidden job market is really a more effective method in a bad economy.

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