One Thing to Do Right After Getting Laid Off (That’ll Have a Big Payoff Later)

published Apr 4, 2024
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A couple of years ago, I was laid off from my role at a tech startup. The writing was on the wall: In the seven months I’d been there, they’d seemingly lost about half of their headcount. The day it actually happened, I was ready — maybe even relieved.

And the very first thing I did, besides making sure I’d saved all of my significant projects for my portfolio, was send off a few quick LinkedIn messages and texts to former colleagues and friends. 

At the time, I wasn’t sure what I should be doing with the long, unscheduled stretch of time in front me, but, according to career coach Ashley Rudolph of Work With Ashley R., that is exactly the right first move.

Reach out to five people.

“After a layoff, I recommend going through your LinkedIn and finding five people from your past that are doing work that you think you might be interested in and send them a brief note to reconnect,” says Rudolph. She typically recommends picking three you know are likely to respond and two that are a stretch. The three near-guaranteed responses are helpful and a confidence boost, while the two that are a stretch could prove to be a welcome surprise. 

While reaching out to people might seem like the last thing you want to do after a layoff, Rudolph encourages people to see the community aspect of looking to others for support. “Why reach out to people so quickly? Layoffs are isolating and it can feel lonely, like you’re the only person going through what you’re going through. The longer you wait to re-engage with your network, you might also feel shame that might prevent you from reaching out sooner.” 

Hearing from others helps build a sense of connection during a time when you might feel alone. “Building in time for connection makes the experience a little less lonely,” says Rudolph.

Plus, reaching out to someone is a much lower lift than updating your resume or scouring job boards, and that might be all you can handle in the first day or two. Stuck on exactly what to say? Here’s a message template Rudolph recommends.

“Hey, [Name]! It’s been awhile since we’ve connected; I hope things are going well. I’m reaching out because I was recently impacted by a round of layoffs and I’ll be starting my job search soon. I’m reaching out to you because I admire your career journey and am potentially thinking about exploring opportunities [in your industry/at your company/etc]. Let me know if you have any availability to chat next week or the week after.”

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Then, take care of yourself.

Besides sending those messages, Rudolph advises clients to take time to themselves in the first couple of days. “Layoffs are incredibly traumatic and you’ll need some time to process it.” 

She also suggests taking long walks, ideally near trees, plants, and nature. “The data shows that being close to nature or spending time in nature has positive effects on your mental health,” says Rudolph, who also recommends journaling to get in touch with the range of emotions you might experience. (Although if you just feel like having a day where you stay inside, therapists say that’s OK too.)

Start your search when you’re ready.

Then as you begin to regain your footing and feel ready to dive into the job search, Rudolph recommends updating your resume and cover letters — ideally having a friend proofread them both and provide feedback. 

“Look for open opportunities on LinkedIn, not just in the Jobs section. You can sometimes find roles that aren’t posted on LinkedIn’s job board by using search,” recommends Rudolph.

She even has a job search hack that could help you find under-the-radar opportunities. “You can search ‘I’m hiring’ and ‘[the job title you’re looking for].’ That’ll generate a list of posts from hiring managers or recruiters hiring for those roles.”