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Recently Laid Off? Here’s What to Do Next

Updated Aug 09, 2023

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  • To secure a new job after a layoff, start by updating your resume and searching for jobs on online job boards or company websites.
  • Applying for unemployment benefits can help you bring in some income as you apply for jobs or work to find other income sources. 
  • Networking with people in your current or desired career field can help you learn about job opportunities.
  • This article is for people who have been recently laid off and want to learn about potential next steps for their professional lives.

Layoffs can be permanent or temporary separations. Either way, receiving notice that you’ll no longer be working at your job can come as a surprise. It can also bring feelings of concern about your financial future and career prospects. However, being laid off can also be a time of opportunity and hope. We’ll share best practices and tips to help you smoothly transition into the next phase of your professional life.

How common are layoffs across industries?

Increasing inflation has moved employers to look for ways to cut business expenses. Since payroll ranks among most companies’ highest costs, many employers have been conducting mass layoffs. In 2022, 15.5 million employees were let go from their positions.;

Employees with tech jobs, in particular, have been strongly affected. For example, Meta, Disney, Amazon, Alphabet (Google) and Microsoft laid off more than 50,000 employees within one year. From January through mid-June 2023, tech companies laid off more than 147,000 people.

Did You Know?Did you know

Jobs most at risk of layoffs include roles associated with new product rollouts, including product management, quality assurance, marketing, finance and information technology.

How can you secure your financial stability after a layoff?

If you’ve recently received notice of a layoff, your financial well-being may be your initial first concern. Below are some tips to help you bridge the gap between paychecks.

1. Ask for a severance package after a layoff.

A severance package is the compensation an employer provides to an employee when they’re laid off. The Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t require companies to provide employees with severance pay. However, many companies offer it as a sign of goodwill to an employee after terminating their employment.

Severance pay details are often discussed during the hiring process, so check your employment contract to review the terms. You might also find severance package information in your employee handbook or by speaking with someone in your human resources department.

A severance package can include the following: 

  • One or more weeks of pay for every year worked: In many cases, a severance package consists of one to two weeks of pay for every year you worked at the company. For example, if you worked at a company for four years, your severance package might include four to eight weeks of pay.
  • Reimbursement for unused vacation and sick days: A severance package can also include payment for any vacation or sick time you didn’t use during employment. 
  • Benefits: A severance package may cover health insurance and other benefits you might need until you secure your next source of income.

“When you’re handed a severance package, it can feel a bit like you’re reading a foreign language,” said Chelsea Ashbrook, who was laid off early in her career and has since founded The Flexible Worker, a tech support company. “That’s why taking your time to understand the terms is crucial. If you feel like you’re getting short-changed, it might not hurt to speak up. In my experience, I’ve found that some companies are open to negotiation.”


Check with your HR department about your COBRA eligibility. COBRA extends employees’ health insurance coverage when they are no longer eligible for an employer’s plan.

2. Consider applying for unemployment benefits.

Unemployment insurance programs are state-run systems that offer benefits to people who lose their jobs due to, among other circumstances, layoffs or furloughs. These programs are designed to provide people with money while they look for another job or income source. 

Each state runs its own unemployment insurance program. The terms for receiving benefits and the maximum amount of time you’re eligible to receive them can vary. That said, most states provide up to 26 weeks of benefits.

You’ll need to apply for unemployment benefits in the state where you were formerly employed. The benefits you’ll receive largely depend on the state where you worked, your previous income and whether you have dependents. However, on average, benefits are around $300 per week.

To minimize the time between your last paycheck and unemployment benefits, you should file an unemployment claim as soon as you’re laid off. When you file your claim, you must provide specific information, such as your address and the dates of your former employment. From there, it can take two to three weeks to receive your first benefit check.

Did You Know?Did you know

The effects of unemployment go far beyond career and financial uncertainty. Unemployment can lead to physical and mental health issues, including depression, stress and anxiety.

How do you look for a job after a layoff?

Searching for a job is one of the first steps you’ll likely take after a layoff. “Now for the job hunt,” Ashbrook noted. “Remember, it’s not just about finding a job, but finding the right job.”

If you’re ready to return to work after your layoff, here are some ways to help you find a new job.

1. Update your resume after you’re laid off.

Your resume is a summary of what makes you qualified for a position. After your layoff, update your resume with all the information and notable experiences you gained from your previous employment. Here are some tips for your resume update:

  • Highlight your professional growth and accomplishments: Your resume should highlight your professional growth. For example, say you managed a team, landed outstanding sales, improved the efficiency of a process or added new processes at your previous company. You should include all these accomplishments and back them with data and statistics proving their impact.
  • Add pertinent keywords: Many companies use applicant tracking systems to scan and filter resumes. To increase the chances of your resume reaching the eyes of a human being, include keywords from the job description in your text. 
  • Tailor your resume to specific jobs: You should tailor your resume to each job you apply for instead of sending a blanket copy for every position.

“You should also start by thinking about why the position is open,” advised Matthew Warzel, president of MJW Careers. “What pains does the company have because it’s open? What makes you an ideal candidate? Once you can home in on that, you can start to massage in key value- and accomplishments-based content that motivates these decision-makers to invite you in for an interview.”

2. Research job openings after being laid off.

You can take a few approaches when pinpointing interesting job openings:

  • Use online job boards: Several websites can help you find jobs within your career field that match your desired salary. Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter are a few of the many available online job boards. In addition to job info, many platforms provide valuable data like company reviews and salary expectations. You can use this research to determine whether a job is a good fit for you.
  • Submit applications on company websites: If there are specific companies you want to work for, consider visiting their websites directly and submitting applications through their online portals. This can be more effective than using online job boards. “There are many cases where company websites list many more roles than you would see on LinkedIn or Indeed,” noted Melissa Trager, founder of Resume All Day, a resume-writing company.
  • Apply in person: While online portals offer you the convenience of applying from anywhere at any time, you might prefer to place your resume in a person’s hands. (Some small companies might even appreciate the extra effort.) If this is your preferred approach, dress appropriately for the job you’re applying for. Visit the company during a time of day when a hiring manager might have the most time to speak with you. This could mean dropping by in the late afternoon instead of first thing in the morning.
Did You Know?Did you know

Experts say January and February are the best time of year to job hunt, while you may want to avoid looking for a new job during mid-summer.

3. Tap into your network after a layoff.

Don’t be afraid to ask the people around you if they have leads or can recommend you for an open position at their company.

“Networking plays a huge role in the job hunt,” Ashbrook explained. “After my layoff, I reached out to my old colleagues, professors, friends ― basically, anyone who could help me get the word out.”

To expand your professional network and learn about more job opportunities, research relevant online communities to join and look into local and online industry events. You should also refresh your LinkedIn profile so recruiters can view your work experience and a summary of your skills. From there, they can contact you about job opportunities that match your profile.

“There’s no stigma or shame with losing your job in this landscape,” Trager noted. “If you are comfortable doing so, I would draft a thoughtful LinkedIn post sharing with your network what happened regarding your layoff and ask for employment opportunities.”

How should you address a layoff during job interviews?

Once you’ve applied for a few jobs, it’s only a matter of time before you receive interview requests. When hiring managers contact you, you must ensure you’re prepared with the right interview skills to address your layoff. 

“Speaking of layoffs in interviews can be tricky,” Ashbrook conceded. “The key is to be honest but also positive and forward-looking. When asked about it, I would say something like, ‘While it was challenging to experience a layoff, it gave me the opportunity to explore my capabilities and focus on where I want to take my career.’ It’s all about spinning it into a growth experience.”

Call your interviewer’s attention to how you’ve been productively spending your time since receiving notice of your layoff. Talk about classes you’ve enrolled in, certifications you’ve achieved or new hobbies you’ve taken up. Find a way to relate your endeavors to the job you’re interviewing for. Showing your resilience amid changing situations and your willingness to learn may help impress potential employers.


Certifications are an excellent way to improve your career skills and shore up your resume. For example, customer relationship management certifications, project management certifications and sales certifications can help your resume stand out.

How can you make a career change after a layoff?

Suppose you’ve been laid off from a job that wasn’t the best fit for you. In that case, you might consider a career change

Exploring potential careers can start with a simple online search. Search “free career assessments” to take a quiz. Once you’re finished, the website you use will produce a list of careers and jobs that might best suit your interests, goals and work style. From there, you can research classes and certifications to make your resume stand out amid a career change

“Highlight your transferable skills ― what you are currently doing at your job that can relate to what you would be doing in the new role,” Warzel advised. “Highlighting these skills can help the hiring manager see your ability to slide into a role with minimal training.”

Networking is also a key step. You can speak to and learn from people already working in the field. They can offer industry insights, give advice on landing a job and recommend courses and certifications that get hiring managers’ attention.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway

Explore online platforms to boost your business skills. For example, Coursera and Udemy ― and some Ivy League schools ― likely offer free digital learning courses on subjects within your current career or new fields.

Should you start your own business after a layoff?

According to a Clarify Capital survey, 63 percent of tech workers said they started their own businesses following layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 91 percent of these entrepreneurs say they’re now competing with the companies that laid them off.

No matter the industry, starting a business can be challenging. However, maybe you’ve considered turning an idea or hobby into a lucrative income source. With the extra time on your hands, now could be the ideal time to take the plunge.

“If starting a business is something you’re passionate about, a layoff can be the push you need to make it happen,” Ashbrook said.

You might plan to work on your new venture while applying for jobs or maybe you’ll focus solely on starting your business. Since you’re likely working with less income than before your layoff, It’s important to consider the startup funding you’ll need carefully. This money could come from the best business loans or something more novel, such as crowdfunding.

To start working on your business, assess your skills and interests and the market demand for your products or services. From there, you can work on developing a business plan that details your ideas for funding and growing your business.

Opportunities for growth

While experiencing a layoff can be concerning, there are several ways to move forward and grow to become an even better professional ― and even land your dream job. Building a larger network, updating your resume and applying for jobs can launch you into a much better place in your career. With consistent effort and the right perspective, endless opportunities await.

Shayna Waltower
Contributing Writer at
Shayna is a freelance content writer and producer who enjoys helping businesses communicate their specialties and brand values to current and prospective customers. She has been passionate about writing since she received her first journal when she was five years old. She’s worked for TV news stations, live production companies, and radio broadcasts outside the writing world.
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