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Career Development

So You’ve Been Laid Off, Now What?

General Assembly
May 7, 2024

As an economic recession looms, it seems like layoffs are everywhere. In recent months, tech layoffs, in particular, have monopolized the news, with over 100,000 tech layoffs in 2023 so far. In reality, it’s actually the arts, entertainment and recreation industry saw the highest layoff rate last year in the U.S., followed by construction. 

Despite all this, things aren’t as grim as they may seem. In contrast to layoff news, January reached the lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. since 1969. And while tech layoffs have been loud in the headlines, demand for tech talent continues to increase. 

If you’re trying to figure out what to do after a job layoff,  you’re not alone, and there is hope. This article helps break down the steps you can take to make your next move less overwhelming. 

I got laid off and need a new job: What do I do? 

Here’s what to do after a job layoff. While the specific steps look different for everyone, let this be a guide to help break down your next move into more digestible actions.

Take a Breather

First thing first, take a break. 

It’s easy to feel like you need to jump right into the next thing. But it’s important to allow yourself the time to process the news and feelings of being laid off. 

The urgency of finding a new job will vary depending on your circumstances. Here’s the truth though: Taking off a couple of days won’t slow down your job search. In fact, it’s a valuable reset so you can approach your next steps with intention.

Here are some ideas for what you can do with this downtime before diving into your next move:

  • Journal: There are likely a lot of thoughts and feelings swirling around your head: anger, sadness, relief, anxiety. Getting them out of your head and onto paper will help you process the experience.
  • Exercise: Exercising may be the last thing you want to do, but you won’t regret it. Go on a walk, visit your local gym, or take a fitness class — moving your body helps reduce the effects of stress and improve your overall mood.  
  • Talk to your family and friends: Do not isolate yourself. While telling your loved ones about your recent layoff might feel scary, having a support system is immensely valuable. Remember: going through a layoff is a normal part of working life. 40% of Americans have been laid off at least once in their lives. 
  • Rest: Give yourself time to rest. Sleep in, lay on the couch, read your book. Repeat after us: Rest is productive. 

Consider What’s Next

Once you’ve taken the time you need to regroup, it’s time to start thinking about what’s next. 

It’s easy to look for the same job you did before, in the same industry — after all, that’s what you know, and it’s within your comfort zone. But now that you find yourself at a crossroads, you have a unique opportunity to think through what you really want to do. 

Were you happy in your old job? What did you like about it, and what didn’t you like? Is it time to switch careers?

If you’re wondering how to start a new career, you have a lot of options. You can go back to school; you can start your own business — the world is your oyster. Changing paths can feel scary, but don’t let the fear of career change stop you— no matter your age.  In fact, according to this AIER study, most older adults who switch career paths reported feeling happier. 

So reflect, read your career tarotscopes, talk to your network about career change ideas, and/or conduct research online.  It doesn’t matter how you think through your next move. The important thing is that you take the time to evaluate what you want. 

Understand Your Skills

How do you find a new career? The first step is taking stock of your skills. What are you really good at, and what areas need improvement?

Now that you have an idea of what you want to do next, it’s a great time to do a skills assessment and figure out any skill gaps. Also, take into account in-demand skills that will help you land a secure job, quickly. 

For example, as the tech sector grows and touches every industry, so do the job opportunities. Advancing your knowledge in areas like coding, data analysis, UX design, etc., will be helpful no matter what industry you find yourself in next. 

In the pursuit of new skills, there are a lot of routes you can take. Below are some resources to help.  

  • On-demand courses: If you’re looking to learn new skills on your own time, check out the multitude of on-demand courses available online. Take up skills to help you transition careers or improve your resume — all from your couch. 
  • Immersive courses: Depending on your learning style and schedule, it might be valuable to consider a more immersive course. While these are more significant time commitments, they’ll expedite learning so you can get your next job faster. Plus, sometimes, being fully immersed in something new is the best way to learn.
  • Workshops: If you’re not interested in an ongoing course, a workshop is a great one-time commitment to get some hands-on experience. General Assembly hosts free workshops covering a wide range of skills and interests, such as UX design, coding, Excel, and more. Attend a workshop to better understand whether you want to dive deeper into a particular field. 
  • Networking events/meet-ups: A network is one of your best resources. Get out there and meet people with similar interests and diverse skill sets. Check out a site like meetup.com, which has a database of events for a wide range of industries and career paths. 
  • YouTube videos: For those feeling unsure about committing to developing a particular skill or aren’t quite ready to get out there, YouTube is always a valuable resource to learn more and gain a deeper understanding of which areas you’d like to focus on. 

Update your resume & prepare for interviews

You need a new job, and it’s time to update your resume. It can be tricky figuring out how to position your layoff to prospective employers. 

Firstly, use the timing to your advantage. There are a lot of layoffs happening at the moment, so hiring managers aren’t surprised when candidates are coming from a layoff. It’s par for the course and only a big deal if you make it one. 

Below we outline how to address the layoff in your resume vs. in interviews. 

How to position a layoff in your resume

While you need to be upfront about the layoff if asked about it, you don’t need to include it in your resume. The purpose of your resume is to present your qualifications and accomplishments — focus on the positive. 

If you’re worried about how the career gap will look to those evaluating your suitability, mention the layoff in your cover letter. Treat it as an opportunity to highlight how you’ve been using the time effectively. 

The layoff itself doesn’t speak to your abilities as much as how you recover from it. 

How to position a layoff in interviews 

Once you get to the interview stage for a new job, the layoff is more likely to come up. You should be upfront, but it’s okay to keep details to a minimum. You can simply explain that the company did layoffs and you were impacted. 

Similar to your cover letter, your interview is a great time to discuss what you’ve been doing with your time off. For example, if you took the time to learn new skills, take up a hobby, start your own business, etc., this can be a huge selling factor. It can demonstrate your resilience, adaptability and overall well-roundedness. 

Hiding your layoff won’t do you any favors — but neither will dwelling on it. Be honest, and focus on the positive that’s come from the experience. 

Finding your next career move

There are a lot of emotions that come with being laid off. The critical thing to remember is that it’s a temporary obstacle. Take the time you need to process, think about what’s next for you, take stock of your skills, and make the necessary updates to your resume. 

With these steps, you’ll be well on your way to finding your next job or career. When one door closes, another door opens. You’ve got this. 

Download our Do Something Different Ebook to guide you through the motions of discovery.

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