Proven Strategies for Having a Thriving Life After Layoff

finding a job Dec 17, 2023
woman packing up things after a layoff

To say a layoff is stressful would be an understatement. But I’m here to tell you, you CAN have a truly successful life after layoff.

Believe me, I’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt. I’ve been laid off 3 times - the first 2 during the tech wreck of the early 2000s, and then again in 2012.

If you’ve ever been laid off, you know that panic, shame, and fear set in quickly, and it can be difficult to know what your next steps should be. But when I work with professionals surviving a layoff, my goals for them go beyond simple survival – I want them to thrive!

The difference between surviving and thriving is how quickly you can move from that reactionary freakout stage to badass proactive mode.

Of course, this is easier said than done.

Even those with a million dollars in the bank freak out a bit when they’re laid off. It’s an unexpected change that throws a major wrench into your day-to-day life. So today, I’m sharing 8 concrete steps that you can take after a layoff.

These strategies help you make a seamless shift between surviving a layoff and thriving through the process. In fact, you’ll end up benefiting from the experience.

9 Steps to Surviving a Layoff and Thriving Through the Process

Going through a layoff is a high-stress event. You may not be able to recognize your right from your left!

But with these 8 strategies you won’t just muddle through, you can actually be better for the experience. Just remember – one step at a time.

1. Take a breath

Before you take any concrete steps, your first task is to take a deep breath. (This works for any freakout, not just layoffs, BTW.)

It sounds simple enough, but some people get so over-anxious when they’re laid off, they end up making bad decisions straight from the beginning.

Take some time to breathe, lowering your initial panic and clearing your head. Do this before making any agreements or signing anything - especially a severance agreement.

2. Tend to the logistics

After you’ve given yourself a chance to breathe, it’s time to deal with the nitty-gritty logistics. This refers to any severance agreements or unemployment benefits. You’ll also want to consult a lawyer if anything feels off, or you want a second opinion.

Whatever you do, don’t just listen to what the company is telling you. The company serves itself first and foremost - not you.

If you have any questions about the terms of your severance, don’t be afraid to take a few days to read it and consulta lawyer.. You can take the time you need to read it over and get legal advice if needed.

Once you’ve got that in hand, apply for unemployment *immediately*. Most states have a waiting period before you can get benefits, and the clock starts ticking when you file, not when the company notifies you of the layoff.

Don’t let your employer tell you that you have to wait to get unemployment until your severance runs out, either. It is *never* to your advantage to delay filing for unemployment - it can only benefit the employer.

According to the US Chamber of Commercethe amount employers pay into state unemployment funds is based in part on how many former employees have claimed unemployment benefits. This means that employers have a financial incentive for you to not file for the benefits you are entitled to.

It’s certainly possible for your severance to be structured in a way that delays your unemployment eligibility, but let the state tell you, not your employer.

After tending to workplace logistics, assess your personal finances. Evaluate your financial position and budget based on this transitional period. Take into account savings, unemployment benefits, and any severance payment. This will give you a truer picture of when you *truly* need to be back at work, and also where you can downgrade your lifestyle temporarily.

Though stressful, full financial knowledge is much better than hiding your head in the sand.

3. Take stock of what you want

Once you’ve calmed your initial panic a bit and dealt with the practicalities, It’s time to look toward the future.

This is the step where most people want to start, but it’s important to hold off until you can make clear, well-thought-out decisions.

Take stock of what you want in future employment. Think about the kind of work, leaders, environment, and culture you want to be a part of. This helps you create a clear goal - and is necessary for an effective job search anyway.

The reason it’s so important to wait on this step is so that you don’t panic and accept the first thing that comes your way. The goal here is thriving, not just surviving.

4. Own your status

I often find that layoffs also come with a lot of shame. Professionals panic, unsure of how to address the lay-off in future employment opportunities.

Perhaps my biggest piece of advice in surviving a layoff is to shed the fear and own your status.


There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when getting laid off. NOTHING. So don’t act like you are Cersei Lannister being walked through King’s Landing by the Shame Nun.

It is a regular occurrence in the corporate world. And if you feel shame about it, this shame is going to impact everything you do.

When you’re networking or in interviews, resist the urge to over-explain or justify your lay-off. Instead, own it. Yes, your company had a lay-off, you were impacted, and you’re looking for something new.

It’s as simple as that.

5. Do things that make you feel good

In any job search, whether you’re surviving a layoff or not, make sure that you’re doing things that make you feel food all the way through.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that finding a job is a 40-hour week. For some, it’s all they can think of 24/7! This will only lead to more burnout, feeling bad about yourself, and diminish your drive and opportunities.

Leave room to nurture yourself through this difficult process.

Schedule therapy, get back to the gym, engage in hobbies, take a cooking class, or get a pedicure! Engage in happy-making activities that will fuel your spirit and job hunt.

6. Ask for support

If you don’t kick the lurking shame that can come with a layoff, you can end up isolating yourself from others, trying to take everything on at once without any help.

Some will engage in a full-time job search, along with taking care of all the housework at home because, technically, they’re out of work.

This is a one-way ticket to burnout and bad decisions. Why?

Because it doesn’t allow any room for you to take care of yourself. Instead, ask for the help and support you need (and deserve!) both personally and in your job search.

Your loved ones are there to support you in hard times; let them!

7. Be open

Experiencing a layoff isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can open you up to new experiences and opportunities that you’ve never considered before.

Throughout your job search, I recommend that you stay open to talking to new people, trying new things, and mulling over new ideas.

In my own career, I’ve had three layoffs. And in each one, being open to simply meeting new people was super important in finding a new job. This wasn’t about agenda or networking; I was simply open to whatever the world had to throw me by actively seeking newness.

Don’t restrict your openness to talking to people in your current role or industry, either. Sometimes the person who connects you to your next great job isn’t a former boss or colleague, it’s your hairstylist or that one guy from your D&D game who knows a VP at your dream company.

While surviving a layoff, you may also want to stay open to alternative career options like freelancing, consulting, or an industry change.

It is never a bad idea to consider your options.

8. Consider professional development

While definitely not planned, a layoff provides you with a unique period to reinvest in yourself. You may use this time to seek further professional development, honing your skills to help you both personally and professionally.

If you’re worried about the expense of such training, don’t be. There are tons of options to make professional development more accessible. Options include inexpensive course platforms such as Udemy or Coursera, state workforce development grants, and reasonably priced skills training or certifications from major companies like Google and Microsoft.

9. Targeting and starting the job search

Finally, it’s time to start the job hunt. Explore job postings through networking, job sites, recruitment agencies, and more.

Remember to update that pesky resume, including any new skills or professional development.

For advice on resume tips and job search strategies, subscribe to my blog. And if you want one-on-one advice, book an intro call with a career coach to help guide your job search.

Final Thoughts from a No BS Career Coach on Surviving a Layoff and Actually Thriving

When we experience an unexpected bomb like a layoff, it’s natural to fall into fight-or-flight mode.

But if you can take the time to think through your initial reactions, you can quickly turn this unfortunate experience into a building block in your career.

I hope that you can use these strategies to thrive through your layoff, take the time to care for yourself, remain open to new possibilities, and change your career trajectory for the better. Good luck!