5 Steps to Surviving a Layoff

Layoff; box of belongings

Layoff… You may have been personally impacted or know someone who has. We’ve felt the impact in my family.

An unexpected layoff or early retirement at any point in time brings with it a lot of anxiety and emotion. It raises serious questions that weigh heavy on your mind… “How can this happen after I’ve given so much to the company for so many years? Will I be called back to work? How long will it take to get a new job? How will I continue to provide for my family? Will I have enough retirement income to pay for insurance and our monthly living expenses?”

What do you do if you find yourself downsized out? How do you exit as gracefully as you can and transition smoother than you thought possible?

These 5 steps are your keys to getting through this.

Step 1. Love yourself first

Don’t take this personal. Downsizing often happens as a matter of keeping companies profitable and competitive. In this volatile environment, these actions are a matter of survival for your employer. However, these are never easy decisions for the company to make. Don’t blame yourself or others. Blaming becomes a barrier to moving forward. Besides, it won’t make a difference anyway.

Your first step is to discover and learn to appreciate who you are and the value you bring. Reflect on what you’ve accomplished. You’ve grown in experience, talents, and skills. You have value! Create a “My Value” list by writing your reflections down. You’ll be able to come back to this list when you need encouragement. Give yourself space to deal with and work through the emotions. But, don’t stay in that space. Let the best in you inspire you.

Step 2. Leave with a good reputation

Accept that it’s time to move on. Once announcements are made, even if you have time before you physically leave, the organization is already moving on without you. Do what you can to bring some closure to current projects. If you return to work, it will be easier to initiate those projects again. Leave your work organized and easy for someone to pick up after you’re gone. Assist with the transition. Be as objective as you can. Don’t participate in negative talk. You want to be remembered for your value. You never know where paths will cross again in the future.

Ask your manager about how those affected may receive any updates from the company throughout the crisis.

Step 3. Look ahead

If you were sitting with a fortune teller, what would she see in her crystal ball for you? What would you want her to say you have to look forward to? Feel hope and look ahead to imagine the possibilities. What have you always wanted to do? What are you passionate about? Where can your experience and skills add value to the next stage of your career?

Use the resources the company may make available to help you transition. Take advantage of the benefits of outplacement services immediately. You may feel embarrassed to go to the outplacement or the unemployment office. Don’t be. Use these to the fullest. Even though job opportunities are limited now, the job market will begin to open up over the course of the next several months. Focus on the actions you can begin taking now and over the next several weeks so you’ll be ready. Update your resume, network, seek and apply for openings. Your ideal job may not be available right away. Look at this transition as a marathon, not a sprint.

Step 4. Live with Courage

You have the courage within you to move forward beyond this layoff! From your reflections in these prior steps, you know you are a person of tremendous value! The best-laid plans need action. Dedicate your attention and time to your next chapter. It will take courage. You will experience disappointments. But, remember, a “NO” doesn’t mean failure, it means “Next Opportunity”. In the animated Christmas show, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”, Kris Kringle sings “Put One Foot In Front of the Other” when he’s trying to help the Winter Warlock change his evil ways. The Winter Warlock’s first step began to change everything for himself. His life was so much better as a result. Move forward with the courage to act by taking a step at a time. You have what it takes!

The Kris Kringles in your network and support system are willing and waiting to help you move ahead. More people than you know have been in a similar situation and are glad to help you as others have helped them. It’s important to cultivate your network on an ongoing basis. Your next opportunity is often as good as your network. A word of caution, don’t just reach out to people when you need something. Relationships are reciprocal. Genuinely reach out and be willing to see how you can lend a hand.

Step 5: Look Beyond to New Possibilities 

I was recently back home in the mountains of West Virginia and was reminded of how beautiful a hike up the mountains can be in the spring. Once you reach the summit, you can look at the beauty and grandeur of the terrain. The view stretches as far as the eye can see. Like the boundaryless view of the horizon, your step forward opens new possibilities. Continue to dream! Better days lie ahead for you.

The beginning of this layoff or furlough seems daunting and uncomfortably uncertain. Have faith that your higher power will get you through this. Psalm 121 has been an encouragement to me, particularly during this pandemic. I pray that these 5 steps and this scripture will be empowering for you.

Share this with others who are attempting to navigate their way through this crisis.

Now is the time to equip your team to effectively lead through this crisis. I’m here to help. Email me directly vivian@vivianblade.com.


She’s a woman on a mission, prepped and ready to help you create resilient leaders and a workplace that is poised to succeed. Having weathered her fair share of corporate and career crises of all sizes, Vivian Blade MBA, MBB, PMP, is a global leadership expert and thought leader who equips leaders with the resilience that inspires teams to recover quickly in the face of ongoing disruption and thrive in spite of insurmountable odds.

Vivian empowers leaders and organizations as a frequent keynote speaker for association conferences and in delivering transformative leadership development programs, executive coaching and consulting for corporations.

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