Top 10 most important things to do when you’re laid off

Most executives, sometime in their lives, will be faced with the loss of a job. This can be seen as a disaster or an opportunity. Regardless, there are some common-sense things that anyone faced with job loss should and should not do. Here are the most important ten things to help you survive right after termination.

1). Respond, don’t react. Before you do anything, take a very deep breath. Then, with dignity, shake hands with the person who laid you off or fired you, thank him or her for the time you’ve worked at your company, and ask what needs to be done at that point. Remember that these people will be giving you a reference. Leave them with the impression of a professional.

2). Do not do any “parting shots,” like putting a virus in the computer system that plays Johnny Paycheck’s “Take this Job and Shove It” the next morning when the boss logs on. Leave everything in order and cooperate in turning over any unfinished projects and any other necessary information.

3). Check your zeros. Check to make sure that your severance check has the right amount of zeros in the correct places. Also make sure that you understand all of your severance package. Do not sign a release form (or severance package form) the day you’re fired or laid off to get a check. Take the form to a lawyer or advisor and have them look it over first, so you know what you’re signing.

4). Negotiate as you’re leaving. To get the release signed, your ex-company may well negotiate some perks for you, such as a skilled executive transition coach, more severance pay, use of some corporate resources and so on. While most executives don’t get a golden parachute, you can at least get a working one. Don’t let the depression of being terminated keep you from asking for help to survive the transition and get re-employed.

5). Be calm. Contrary to what you might have heard, there are plenty of jobs out there even at the CXO level. They’re just flying under the radar. You’re not going to starve. No panicking!

6). Tell your family. You are, theoretically, someone your family loves and wants to support, not just a paycheck. Let them know that things might be different for a little while (or forever) and that you need their support as this is difficult for you. Don’t pretend to go to work each day, as some people do. This is very dysfunctional.

7). Take time…but not much. Don’t try to crank up your job search the week after you’ve been given the pink slip. Don’t send out a résumé to anyone for a while. You need to get your ducks in a row before actually beginning a search.

Conversely, after your first two weeks post-layoff, do not go on vacation or be unavailable until you’ve been employed for at least six months You need to be available as opportunities arise, and make the most of your starting time.

8). Evaluate what you really want. Too many executives take the first thing that comes along without evaluating what they really want in life. See this time as a gift to allow you to truly evaluate what you want. Talk with your family, advisors, your clergy, and, if necessary, a professional career advisor or therapist and decide if you really want to return to the same world you were in. Many people don’t. Now’s the time to make that change, if you want to.

9). Plan the rest of your career. Too many executives are blown to and fro in their careers. This can cost them literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in the life of that career. Take this time to plan, not only this move, but the next couple, as well.

10). Crank up your support group. Now is the time to reach out to your network, your friends, your loved ones, and any one else who can support you. Do not be afraid to speak to your family doctor or a therapist if you’re feeling very anxious or depressed. These are common reactions to unemployment, and there is help for these feelings.

Being let go is a very emotional time. Your judgment is impaired, and you might do things that are unwise for your career. Trust your support group’s judgment, especially right after termination. Soon, you’ll be employed again, all the wiser for this experience.

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