How to handle the news that you’ve been laid off

Personnel Matters

Whether you got handed an actual pink slip, opened a startling email or suddenly realized the company reorganization doesn’t include you, it’s always hard to weather news of a layoff.

Layoffs nationwide are approaching 200,000 in 2023, so you’re not alone; nor is your future hopeless. But first things first. Ideally, when you begin searching for your next position, you will have a recommendation in hand from the employer who laid you off. There’s no shame to being laid off, but it helps to show the next hiring manager with whom you interview that you were not let go due to performance issues. 

Be proactive in talking with a potential employer and offer who you reported to and that person’s title, and if you have arranged it previously, a cell number where that person can be reached. Most human resources departments prevent giving out personnel information, but if you have a boss who is willing to vouch for you, don’t be shy about offering it.

Be honest and lead with the truth in your conversation. Doing so and inundating your new potential new boss with the positive along with evidence to support what you are saying will leapfrog you ahead of the next guy. Address it in your cover letter, too, to remove any doubt up front. Taking away a concern before it is a concern prevents you from playing defense later.

Layoffs often happen because certain industries become obsolete, often due to evolving technology. Ask any newspaper reporter, blockbuster manager or travel agent about that. Don’t wallow in what no longer is. If you’re in an industry diminishing in growth or eradicated, you will almost surely have skills that transfer to other professional areas. Still recognize when you change your discipline or in effect, start over, you’re unlikely to draw the salary you’re accustomed to. While that doesn’t prevent you from succeeding in a new industry, it does call for you to be realistic about your salary expectations. You could receive close to entry-level pay even if you were in senior management in your former job.

Getting yourself in front of the right people as quickly as possible is often a difference-maker. Put on a business suit and take your cover letter, resume and ideally that recommendation from your former employer and walk in the front door of the company where you want to work. Ask if there’s anyone you can speak with about the advertised position. If not, hand your package to the receptionist. Even if you submitted all your materials online, they could often get lost in that abyss called bureaucracy. That’s less likely to happen when you hand off printed materials. 

Are you an introvert, squirrely about showing up without an appointment? Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s never a bad idea to take initiative and make a genuine connection.

And, it’s always a good idea to partner with a recruiting firm. As tempting as it might be to sign up with every firm in town, it’s not good to look desperate. Having more than one recruiter contact a potential hiring manager can raise a red flag. Pick one, or at the most two, to align yourself so you can maintain control of who has your resume. Do your homework before selecting the right firm. You want to have a good sense of how the firm’s recruitment team works and its success in industries applicable to you.

Some practical advice not to overlook: Make sure you file for unemployment benefits. Don’t be shy about getting a part-time job in retail or in another market, if you’d rather. Most employers like to see initiative and finding a way to earn income demonstrates that. Do your best to maintain a schedule and not get discouraged. Rest assured, good jobs are out there, and you will find one! 

About Eric Kean 8 Articles
Eric Kean is principal at The Lee Group, executive recruitment and headhunting firm, serving in multiple roles as one of the firm’s leaders and visionaries. He manages business across all of The Lee Group locations, collaborating with the leadership team on key decision making and strategy. Kean can be reached at 873-0792 or by email at