What To Do When You Get Laid Off—Steps to Survival

I was laid off back in November 2007, and this is how I have kept my sanity:

One: Take time off. I got laid off from an investment bank so you can imagine that free time was somewhat of a luxury up until my layoff. It was necessary for me leave NY for a bit (3 weeks) and decompress back home, which happens to be a cool city by the beach.

Two: Think about the job you just lost. What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it? Do you want to go back to a similar role? Hell, if you could have the perfect job what would it be?

Three: Review your severance package over a glass of wine. Did they screw you? Did you get health insurance for a few months? Unless daddy is a millionaire who will foot your legal bill, there is probably little you can do to change your severance package. Sign the package and drink your wine. There is nothing you can do about it….but, please learn from the misdeeds of your ex-employer. Promise to treat your own employees better should your future uber-successful MD self ever have to orchestrate a layoff.

Four: Have fun making an excel model of your financial situation:

  • Checking Account + ING Account + Liquid Assets + $405 unemployment benefits/week = What you have
  • Rent + Utilities + Cable + Going Out Expenses = What you need.
  • Figure out how many months of float money you have, and plan your job search accordingly

Five: Start talking to recruiters…assuming you are emotionally ready to look for a job and are confident that that is the job you want. Here are some recruiters that I found to be helpful:

Six: It’s time to create a daily routine now that you are back in your apartment looking for a job. Here is a glimpse of mine:

  • Wake up at 9am
  • Make coffee and play with the internet for awhile (gmail, facebook,, bloomberg, dealbreaker, favorite blogs)
  • Be productive for 3-4 hours looking for jobs, studying for the GMAT/LSAT/CFA/Etc, etc.
  • Work out for 2 hours
  • Grab lunch somewhere (if you’re poh, then make a sandwich)
  • It’s summer time, so chances are that you can find a cheap happy hour with a few of your other recently laid off friends.
  • Watch some tv
  • Go to sleep

Seven: You need to start thinking about a Plan B. Mine was going to business school so I studied for the GMAT, applied to a few programs and chose to study somewhere in the Midwest. Your Plan B might include grad school or perhaps moving to a new city or maybe teach English in Spain for a year—-if there is a time to hit the “start-over” button in your life, it is now. Use this opportunity.

Eight: Know who your friends are and use them for support. The whole layoff process is quite a roller coaster. First you are angry that you got laid off, then sad, then freaked out, then confused, then freaked out about the future, then etc etc etc. Your good friends will be there for you, so will your family and other support mechanisms like Church/Therapy/Etc.

Nine: Relax. Think Macro. Think long term…life is long, and it is normal to experience at least one bout of unemployment in the 80 or so years that you will live. You are not the first nor are you the last person to get laid off. In fact, last I heard there were 48,000 of us roaming the streets of NYC, London and whatever banking city is out there going through the same exact motions. You are smart and ambitious enough to have landed a good job in the first place…this is not a worst case scenario. Getting laid off and then being diagnosed with a terminal illness or getting laid off because your entire industry is being outsourced to India…those are worst case scenarios. Keep this in perspective.

Ten: This is by far the most restorative thing that I have done since gotten laid off—GIVE BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY—Find a nonprofit and spend a few hours a week helping them out. I volunteer at The Door, an after school center for inner-city kids in NY. I help them study for the GED or the SAT or practice their reading, whatever. It’s fulfilling and it gives meaning to my dance with a massive layoff. Look here to find other interesting volunteer opportunities in your hood.