11/15/22 | Career

What to do after you’ve been laid off

As the CEO and co-founder of OwnTrail – the social timeline that helps people own their stories and work towards their next milestones – I’ve seen first-hand the confusion and uncertainty that many people work through as they navigate being laid off. I’ve also seen how powerful it can be to own your story and think big about where you could go next. In fact, many people end up looking back on a layoff as a really positive turning point in their lives. If you’re going through a similar transition, I hope these tips help you. 

If you were one of the 100,000 people laid off from tech jobs this year, you’re likely wondering: Now what? Being through a layoff can not only bring a load of logistical questions into focus–it can also make you question the identities and labels you’ve internalized, the role that work plays in your life, and the direction you want your career to take. That’s a lot to process. 

While it might be tempting (and financially necessary) to figure out your next steps as quickly as possible, this is a crucial time for you to be intentional about where and how you move forward from here. 

There is no one right path to navigating a layoff, but here are some steps that can be universally helpful. 

1. Recover 

What to do: Get enough sleep (you might need to get extra to make up for the toll that stress has taken on your body), eat healthy and comforting foods, spend time with loved ones, do your favorite activities. This step isn’t about being productive–it’s about nurturing yourself.  

Why: You can’t embark on your new journey without gas in the tank. Taking some time to rest and heal isn’t a selfish or lazy act–it’s a strategic step that will prepare you for what’s ahead. 

2. Reflect 

What to do: Think about where you’ve been. This isn’t just the job titles you’ve held, the certifications you’ve earned or the accomplishments you’ve shared. Those are important, but so are the obstacles you’ve overcome and the ways your personal life has played a key role in your professional life. Afterall, the two are inherently intertwined. 

Pay attention to any patterns or behaviors that have served you well, and those you want to leave behind.

Why: Paying attention to your past experiences can help you be intentional about how you want to move forward. Many of the skills, experiences and perspectives that you’ve been building will help you with where you go next. 

3. Analyze

What to do: Sit down and make 3 lists:

  1. What you’re good at. Think beyond your credentials and job titles, and include any “soft skills” you’ve honed along the way. This could include things like being a good communicator, an ability to bring people together and get them aligned, analytical or problem-solving skills. Even your ability to perfectly follow a recipe could come in handy in unexpected ways! 
  1. What you’re passionate about. Pay attention to what activities or topics give you energy. You’ll always do your best work and have the most capacity for doing it when you’re working on something that energizes you.
  1. Where you’re needed. This could be as simple as a well-matched job listing, or as entrepreneurial as recognizing a problem that needs solving and deciding that you’re the one to solve it. 

Why: You’re most likely to find fulfillment in your career when you are doing something that involves all three of these answers. They won’t tell you exactly where to go next, but they’ll give you a good idea of what direction to be looking.

4. Imagine 

What to do: Picture where you’d like to be in 5 years, both in your personal and professional life. This can feel particularly difficult to do when you just left a job, but that also means it’s one of the most meaningful times to do this exercise–without the mental constraints of being on an existing path. 

Once you’ve imagined where you’d like to be, list out the milestones involved in getting there. Some of these might be obvious and tactical, and some might be bigger moonshots. List them all.

Why: When you visualize where you want to go, you’re more likely to get there. 

5. Ask for help 

What to do: Ask for help with any of the next steps you need to take. This could include having someone review your resume, make introductions, or give advice from having been there before. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable to ask for help when you’re not used to doing so, so here’s a simple template for how to ask: 

  • What do you need help with? (e.g. “I need help reviewing my resume”) 
  • Who do you need help from? (e.g. “…from someone that’s seen a lot of resumes, like a hiring manager or recruiter”) 
  • In order to do what? (e.g. “…in order to ensure that my resume puts me in the best possible light for future employers.”) 

Why: You’re not in this alone. People care about you and want to help you… they just need to know how. 

6. Keep Going 

What to do: Set goals for small steps you’ll take each day. Not every opportunity will be the right one, but as long as you keep working towards your aspirations and calling in the support you need, you’ll eventually find your next. 

Why: Finding your next role can take perseverance and patience. While you shouldn’t expect it to happen overnight, you should find ways to keep yourself motivated and moving forward. 

Many of the life milestones that feel the most difficult in the moment end up being the best thing that could have happened after you make it through and look back on them. This is very often the case with layoffs. The more you take steps to be intentional about where you go next and how you get there, the more likely you are to look back on this moment with gratitude for the opportunities it opened up. You’ve got this!

Rebekah Bastian

Rebekah Bastian

Rebekah Bastian is an entrepreneur, writer, artist, tech executive, mentor, wife, mother and aerial acrobat. She is the CEO & Co-founder of OwnTrail and was previously vice president of product and vice president of community and culture at Zillow. Rebekah is the author of Blaze Your Own Trail, is a contributor to Forbes and is a frequent speaker on social impact, career navigation and building AuthenTech companies.

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