What To Do When You’re Laid Off

group of people who were laid off line up for a new job interview

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you, we may receive a commission if you clickthrough and purchase. Read our full disclosure here

Losing a job is rarely easy, and getting laid off can sting as it often comes by surprise and leaves us with many questions. Unfortunately, in tough economic times, layoffs happen more frequently, and we saw after the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic that some of the most secure jobs aren't always so.

In this article, we'll discuss what it means to get laid off, what you should do when you're laid off, and how to find a new job once you've been laid off.

Let's jump right in.

What Does Getting Laid Off Mean?

The important thing to remember about getting laid off is that it's not your fault. Being laid off, versus getting fired, is because of something going on with the company. Some potential reasons include that the company is reorganization its structure, it's downsizing, or having other sorts of issues.

It may feel like you've done something wrong or that your performance wasn't up to par, but when you're laid off, it's simply that the business is changing, and it can't keep you employed.

Unlike being fired, which is when you are at fault, getting laid off gives you the opportunity to some perks.

Take a deep breath. Here's what you should do if you get laid off.

What Should I Do When I Get Laid Off?

Part of a layoff generally involves getting pulled into HR's office suddenly and being informed that you're being laid off. This can come as a shock, and you may feel emotional and upset, but it's important to stay calm and get a few things in order as quickly as possible.

Find Out Why You Were Laid Off

The first thing you should do is ask the person laying you off why you were laid off. Most companies will let you know the reason. This will assure you that you weren't at fault. You'll also find out if this layoff is permanent or if you'll be able to come back in the future. By finding out why you were laid off, you'll have something to discuss on your next job interview when you're asked why you're no longer at your previous job.

Keep Your Contacts For Networking

Get the contact information of your now-former colleagues. If this information is on your computer, try to access it before you leave the building. By having this information, you'll be able to network with them when you begin looking for your next job. This will also help you stay in touch should anyone else is getting laid off and will be looking for open positions at other companies.

Once you've gotten their information, you'll be able to reach out to them and let them know you're no longer with the company. You may be able to leverage them to see if they know of anyone who is currently hiring and ask if they can introduce the two of you.

Determine If You're Getting Severance Pay

When you're being laid off, ask about severance pay. If you've been with the company for a long period of time, you may be eligible to be paid for a specific number of weeks or months. It makes sense to ask. If you find out that you're being offered a severance package but feel it isn't sufficient compared to your industry's standards, you have the option of consulting with a labor law attorney.

Check out Wall Street Journal's guide to negotiating severance pay when you're laid off.

Ask For Your Last Paycheck

Before leaving for the day, make sure you know when you're getting your final paycheck. With the loss of your job, you may not know when you'll start making regular money again. If possible, request to be paid your final paycheck immediately. If your company can't offer you this, ask your HR or payroll representative to confirm the date when you'll receive your last paycheck.

Get Information On Your Benefits

Some companies may allow you to keep your health insurance for a period after you're laid off. It's a good idea to ask for any clarification you may need in case your employer doesn't give you this information.

Another option is you you'll be eligible for COBRA, however, you'll have to pay premiums yourself. If affording this is difficult or purchasing COBRA is undesirable, you will likely be able to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act at Healthcare.gov. Because your family income has likely significantly dropped, you may be eligible for assistance in paying for your health insurance premiums.

Also, determine what will happen to your unused sick days and vacation time, as you'll want to find out if and when you'll be paid for this.

Stay Professional

Loss of a job can cause anger and resentment, but it's important to stay calm and professional. While you may be tempted to cause a fuss or flame the company online, it makes more sense to simply depart your former employer on good terms. Remember, this layoff was at no fault to you. In addition, it will be easier to request your former employer for a letter of recommendation to future employers by leaving on good terms.

Apply for Unemployment Insurance

If you were laid off from work, that is, you did not quit, nor did you get fired for misconduct, then you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. When you are accepted for unemployment insurance, you'll get financial assistance while looking for future jobs. While on unemployment, many states have representatives that can help you find your next job so that you can start earning money again sooner than later.

Find Out About Your 401(k)

When you get laid off, ask your HR representative about your 401(k) plan. Sometimes, you can keep your plan with your former employer, whereas you can open a rollover IRA other times. You also will have the option to cash out your 401(k).

If your balance is below $5,000, your employer will have the option to remove the money by writing you a check.

Assuming your balance is above $5,000, you might decide to remain on your employer's 401(k) plan, but you'll be limited to the investment options in that plan, and you'll no longer be able to contribute to it.

You may also take the option to move your old 401(k) into your next employer's 401(k).

Request a Layoff Letter

By requesting a formal letter that you were laid off, you'll have it in writing that you were not let go due to poor job performance. This is useful in case future prospective employers ask about your previous job. You'll be able to furnish proof that your termination was not the result of something you did.

Questions to Ask When Getting Laid Off

When sitting down with the person who is laying you off, it's critical to ask some key questions before you finalize anything.

Will I Receive Severance and What Are the Terms of My Severance?

You may receive severance with your layoff package. You'll want to ask about if you're receiving any and what are the terms. Some additional questions include, “Will I continue to receive severance if I find a new job?”, “How much severance will I receive?”, “Am I allowed to tell anyone about my severance pay?”

Will I Still Receive My Bonus and Commissions?

Some employers offer regular bonuses and commissions. You'll want to ask if you'll still get paid for any upcoming bonuses and commissions that you were expecting. Additionally, ask if they will be paid in full or prorated to your layoff date.

What Happens To My Health Insurance?

As health insurance is important to have, find out if your health insurance will be terminated immediately, at the end of the month, and if you need to apply for COBRA right now. Additionally, find out when COBRA materials will be sent to you if you intend to use COBRA to continue your health insurance.

Do I Need To Train My Replacement?

If you aren't being laid off immediately, ask if you're responsible for training a replacement and will you still receive your severance pay if the replacement is not fully trained by your last day.

What Happens To Tuition Reimbursement for Courses I'm Taking?

You might be enrolled in courses that your company has been or will be reimbursing. Ask your employer if they will continue to reimburse the current courses you're taking or if you'll need to cover those courses now that you're being laid off.

Will I Be Able to be Rehired in the Future?

Some companies will rehire employees that were formerly laid off. If you have interest in returning to the company in the future, ask your employer how much time must pass before you can reapply for a job and if they will reconsider you in the future.

How Do I Pay My Bills When I Get Laid Off

The sudden loss of a job can be tough on your bank account. There may be a great deal length of time before you start your next job, depending on the job market, so let's talk about what you can do to pay your bills when less or no money is coming in.

Here are four ways you can take care of your finances when you're laid off from work.

Prioritize Your Bills

If you're low on funds and can't pay your bills, the first thing you'll want to do is prioritize them.

Focus on paying for these four things first:

  • Shelter: Make sure your rent or mortgage payments are made, or you make payment arrangements with your landlord or lender.
  • Food: Feed yourself and your family. Here's some tips to save money on groceries that will get you started.
  • Utilities: Keep your electricity, heat, and water running. Without these, you won't survive. Make arrangements with your utility companies if you're having difficulty keeping up with your bills.
  • Transportation: Whether you use mass transit or have a car, you'll need transportation money to get to and from places, such as job interviews. Budget some money aside for getting around.

Cut Back on All Discretionary Expenses

Your next move is to check your budget and see where you're spending money on things you don't need. For now, you'll want to cut this spending as much as possible.

Consider going on a spending freeze where you only spend money on required expenses.

Remember, this change isn't permanent. You just need to cut back while you restore your income.

Tap Into Your Emergency Fund

Your emergency fund acts as a financial support in times where money is tight. If you've done your homework, you'll have saved between three and six months worth of living expenses and can lean on this money while you look for a new job. This is the perfect time to use your rainy-day fund, as this is what it was designed for.

Pick up Temporary Part-Time Work or a Side Hustle

Whether or not you're into hustle culture, now's a great time to start something part-time while you continue to search for full-time work. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Drive for DoorDash. You'll earn tips for delivering food from restaurants to customers who live in the area.
  • Tutor on Chegg. Earn money tutoring students in various academic topics.
  • Do yardwork: Make money shoveling, raking, and mowing lawns.

Check out this guide of 40+ ideas to earn money on the side to pay your bills while you look for work.

How to Find a New Job After I Get Laid Off

Getting laid off might be a good thing. It'll open your next opportunity, which could really change your life. You might find a job that makes you happier or pays you more money, or both. Perhaps your next job will have a shorter commute, more growth potential, or better benefits. Whatever the case may be, here are some tips for finding a new job after you've been laid off.

Ask Yourself If You Want To Stay On This Career Path

You might decide it's time to get a fresh start on a new career path. A career change might be in order. Ask yourself, “Was I truly happy doing this line of work?” If the answer is no, then it might be time to check out other ideas. This may be an opportunity for you to go back to school or start your own business. Of course, if you're perfectly happy with your current career, it makes sense to follow these next steps.

Polish Up Your Resume

Update your resume with your previous job and touch up other jobs and your skills.

Here are some ways to get your resume noticed by a future employer.

  • Sell yourself. Make sure your resume is free of spelling and grammatical errors and uses data to show how valuable you are as an employee.
  • Be brief. Your resume should be one page long at most.
  • When writing about previous jobs, use keywords that are relevant to the job description.

Update Your LinkedIn Profile

Recruiters use LinkedIn to find prospective employees. By keeping your LinkedIn profile updated, you'll be more easily found by recruiters as well as easily apply to jobs on LinkedIn. Use a professional photo and use your connections to seek recommendations and testimonials about your work.

Network With Your Contacts To Look For Work

Reach out to contacts on LinkedIn, and from those you worked with previously. Leveraging these contacts may be key to finding your next position. Let them know you're looking for work and ask them if they can connect you with anyone they know who is hiring in your field of expertise.

Check Job Websites

Websites like IndeedGlassdoor, and Monster are great places to look for work. If you haven't already, the first step is to create a profile on each site that makes sense to you and then start applying to jobs. Customize your cover letter for each job, as this will increase your chances of getting contacted for an interview.

Apply To Jobs Regularly

Check out job postings and apply as frequently as you can.

According to a study done on Bright.com, the best day of the week to apply for a job and advance in the interview process is Monday.

By applying as often as you can, you greatly increase your chances of landing more interviews and eventually finding a new job.

Wrapping It Up

In this article, we discussed what to do when you get laid off and how to find a job after it happens.

Losing your job isn't easy, but remember, it isn't your fault. It may take some time to find your next job, but stay positive and stay focused in the meantime.