The Ultimate Job Layoff Checklist: How to Navigate a Career Transition
A job layoff is an unfortunate reality that many individuals, especially those in the tech industry, may face at some point in their careers. While it can be a challenging and stressful time, having a well-prepared job layoff checklist can help make going through this challenge an easier and smoother process. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the essential steps to take when facing a job layoff, including financial planning matters to address and where to turn for emotional support.
Step 1: Review Your Financial Picture
The first and most important step in your job layoff checklist is to assess your current financial picture. This step will help you determine your financial stability during your transition period. Here are a few pointers:
- Review Your Liquid Savings: Calculate how much money you have in your savings accounts, emergency funds, and any other liquid assets. Your liquid assets will provide a financial cushion during a layoff period. You should target a minimum of three to six months worth of essential living expenses in your emergency fund. Additionally, if you work in the tech industry and have vested stock, now may be a good time to consider liquidating the stock to boost your cash savings if needed.
- Review Your Severance Package and Employer Benefits: Many employers offer severance packages when they lay off staff, so if this is the case for you, make sure to review your severance package in detail. Often, your severance package will include a continuation of pay for a few months, a payout on unused paid vacation time, and extended health insurance coverage. All of these benefits can help lessen the financial blow of a layoff while you look for the next opportunity.
- Create a Household Budget: Take stock of all of your essential expenses like housing, utilities, gas, and groceries to assess how much you need in savings to float you for a few months. Also, make sure to review your typical discretionary spending and seek to adjust your lifestyle to match your new financial picture. This might mean canceling subscriptions, cutting back on shopping, or temporarily forgoing other activities or expenses to ensure financial stability during your layoff period.
- Explore Unemployment Benefits: A layoff can often entitle you to receive temporary unemployment benefits, so make sure to check if you are eligible for these benefits in your region. Even a few hundred dollars per month of temporary support can make a big difference while you look for a new job opportunity.
- Review Your Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plan: If you were previously contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) or 403(b), make sure to assess your different options for it. In general, you can leave the funds where they are, roll them over to an IRA, or even take a distribution if needed. In certain instances, you may qualify for a hardship withdrawal following a layoff. While taking early withdrawals out of retirement accounts is not typically an ideal option, it can be an additional source of funds to tap into. However, be cautious with any potential tax and penalty implications if you pursue this.
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Step 2: Update Your Resume and Professional Online Profiles
With a layoff, there’s no time to waste, and it’s imperative you start preparing for your job search right away. Specific items you’ll want to address include:
- Update Your Resume: If you haven’t updated your resume in a while, make sure your resume is current and reflects your most recent accomplishments and work experience. Be sure to highlight the specific skills and achievements that are relevant to your desired roles. You can use this free, comprehensive resume update checklist to assist you in this process.
- Update Your LinkedIn Profile: Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and looks professional. As the old saying goes, “your network is your net worth”. The more people you know and connect with, the better your chances of finding new opportunities. We recommend reaching out to your current and former colleagues and peers in your industry to expand your network and look for opportunities.
- Update Your E-Portfolio: Do you have past work projects that you can share that demonstrate your experience and skill set? This is particularly useful if you are a software engineer or data scientist. Companies love to see proof of your ability to bring a vision to fruition in a cohesive and high-quality way.
Step 3: Network and Job Hunt
Leveraging your professional network is a critical aspect of finding new job opportunities, as it’s often more about who you know than what you know. With that in mind, two primary activities you should pursue when facing a layoff include:
- Get Out and Network: Reach out to your former colleagues, mentors, and industry contacts. Look for local networking events in your industry that you can attend to build new connections as well. It’s also a great idea to look for any online groups focused on your industry where you can make additional connections and get involved in online conversations that demonstrate your knowledge and experience. The more people you know (and who know what you do), the better your chances of finding opportunities.
- Start Job Hunting: Explore job boards, company websites, and industry-specific resources for different job openings, and customize your applications for each position. Don’t get discouraged after sending a lot of applications and not hearing back. Job hunting in this day and age is a numbers game, and you may need to apply to several hundred different jobs before any company bites. We also highly recommend connecting with a recruiter to increase your chances of getting placed in a desirable position. A recruiter will spend the time to get to know you on a personal level, assess your skill and knowledge level, and help you find a position that is the best fit for you.
Step 4: Consider Skill Enhancement
While in-between jobs, it’s never a bad idea to take advantage of your extra free time to become more proficient in the skills that are specific to your industry. Here are a couple of ideas:
- Courses and Certifications: Explore online courses and certifications that can improve your qualifications and make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers. LinkedIn and Udemy are both great options for this, with a wide variety of different certification courses available.
- Freelancing or Consulting: Consider doing some freelance work or consulting gigs to keep your skills sharp while also maintaining a source of income. You can add these projects to your resume and portfolio to help increase your chances of finding a new role.
Step 5: Manage Your Emotions and Well-being
Let’s face it, a job layoff can be a scary time that can really take a toll on your mental health. The uncertainty of what comes next can leave you feeling uneasy and unsure of which direction to go in, but don’t get discouraged. Life is always bound to throw you a lemon or two (or many) at any given moment, so it’s imperative that you prioritize self-care and learn how to make lemonade out of those lemons. Try focusing on the following:
- Stay Positive: Keep your head up and maintain a positive attitude. Remind yourself that a layoff does not define your worth or potential. It’s merely an obstacle on the road to your destination.
- Lean on Your Support Groups: If you’re feeling down about your layoff and struggling to pick yourself up, it’s ok to lean on your loved ones. Be open with your friends and family about how you’re feeling and seek advice from those you trust. It’s ok to seek professional help too and talk to a therapist if you need. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can be therapeutic and make the load feel lighter.
Experiencing a job layoff can certainly be a challenging time, but with the right job layoff checklist and a positive and proactive approach, you can turn this setback into better opportunities, growth, and advancement in your career. By assessing your financial situation, updating your professional profiles, networking actively, enhancing your skills, and keeping a positive attitude, you’ll be ready to navigate the challenges of a career transition successfully. Remember, resilience and determination are your greatest assets in this journey toward a brighter professional future.
Advisory services are offered through Forefront, a DBA of Forefront Wealth Partners, LLC.
This material is general in nature, was developed for educational use only, and is not intended to provide financial, legal, fiduciary, accounting, or tax advice, nor is it intended to make any recommendations.