So you’ve been laid off, what now?

by Lauren Bourdages, Head Editor, INALJ Ontario

So you’ve been laid off, what now?

laurenbourdagesOn February 4 2014 my, now former manager called me into her office at around 11am, it was a Tuesday, so this was normal, we had a regular 1-on-1 scheduled every Tuesday. Because it was normal I wasn’t mentally prepared for what happened. I walked into her office to see the HR Assistant sitting at the meeting table, well my mind went into overdrive; my first thought was that I was being placed on a PIP or something. The actual reality was simultaneously both better and worse. My former manager started talking about how the organization had been working on a restructuring plan for the department, saying that I should remember that conversation, I remembered it vaguely as having been something that wasn’t going to happen for a while. From there she announced that the plan was complete and that going forward, my position managing the donor information database was not a part of the plan and that I was being laid off.

I was shocked mostly, but part of me also wasn’t surprised. My position was part time, a true low man on totem pole situation, so I knew in the back of my mind that if anyone there was ever going to be laid off it would be me. That doesn’t make the news any easier to hear though. Especially when this is your first professional job, and therefore your first layoff. I decided right there in the meeting to focus on the good however, like my former manager said in the meeting, this would give me time to completely focus my efforts on getting into a library. Aside from my first three months in that job I have been constantly actively job searching, for either a second part time job or a full time job in a library or a more information work focussed position, after all that was what got me involved with INALJ. So with the notion that I had been actively trying to leave in my mind I realised that of all the possible exits, a layoff was one of the better options. I would still be getting paid for a time but I would be free of the responsibilities of work which would allow me to really prioritize my job search. Even though I knew that mentally, I came home that day and still found myself having a what now crisis. Let me share with you how I have been handling that what now scenario:

1. Shift your thinking

This shift needs to happen, you need to find a way to focus on the positive aspects of your new situation. This can take place in the meeting as it did with me, or it can happen after you get home. Maybe like me you were trying to leave, so this gives you a chance to focus on your search without the guilt that can be associated with searching while employed. Or maybe you have a side project you’ve been working on that you can put more time and effort into now.

2. Sit down and make a plan of attack

You need to have a plan, and this plan has several components. The plan needs to include a job search strategy, a professional development strategy, and most importantly a financial component! You don’t know how long your job search is going to be, so look at your savings and your severance package and figure out how you’re going to support yourself if you’re still unemployed by the time your severance runs out. That being said, hopefully you’ve been setting a portion of your income aside for savings, and if you haven’t been doing that, start now because you never know what could happen! (Check out this lifehacker article for a good savings strategy!)

The first step on my personal plan was to re-open my availability for the local school board’s library supply list which I’ve been on since September of last year. With my regular job I had had to make my schedule for the school board so narrow I wasn’t getting any calls, and thus no experience in the school libraries. I saw my lay-off as a good opportunity to change that.

3. Start enacting the plan

Obviously the trick with making a plan is enacting it and this can be daunting. This is a scary, and probably completely unexplored territory for you, I know it has been for me! But you have to start and start ASAP to keep the momentum you have from being employed. How I did this was simple, I mentioned above that I had figured out my first step, getting in touch with the school board. So after about an hour at home, that first day, decompressing and getting my head together I emailed the school board, and that night I got a call from the automated system with a shift for that Friday. Only laid off for a day and I was already set to make more money than I had the previous pay period. That was a big boost to my morale, and that morale boost helped me keep my momentum going.

4. Contact your network

It’s very important to let your network know that you have been laid off and that you are ramping up your job search. This does two things, it lets them know that they may be getting contacted for references, but it also lets them know to keep a close eye out for openings that could  be a good fit for you! It doesn’t take much to get this moving, just a quick email to each of them, or if you’re comfortable doing so (I’m not, personally) announcing it on your social network channels.

The first person I emailed was my mentor, she had some great words of comfort and advice for me, and it helped  give good direction to our upcoming monthly phone chat.

5. Do something just for you at least once a day

We all know, and I acknowledge, that when you find yourself unemployed for whatever reason, you main job is now to find a job, and that means committing significant time and effort to that endeavour. That means searching for positions, working on applications and doing professional development. All of those things are mentally exhausting and the longer it takes the more of a toll it takes on your emotions. I am especially prone to beating myself up, so when I found myself only a week and a half into my lay off, already having a mild freak out about the fact that I hadn’t even had an interview yet (even though 95% of the positions I had applied to at that point were still open), I knew that I needed to take a step back and do something for myself every day. I am an Olympics fan, it’s the only time I ever watch sports and I am utterly fascinated by them, so I used following the Olympics closely as my me time for the day. Maybe your me time is knitting or video games, whatever it is, make sure you make time to do it!

6. Get out of your house

Without a regular job, and with all of my current volunteer commitments being virtual, I really had no reason to leave my house; I’m not even the person in my family who handles the grocery shopping. So after a week of not going out, I was starting to get a little stir crazy. Don’t let this happen to you, find reasons to get out, volunteering, errands, lunch with friends or connections, even just a walk around the block. Getting out for fresh air and interaction with people will help you feel better and more energised which will help you in your job search!

7. Get some rest (but not TOO much!)

Spend the first few days catching up on extra sleep but don’t let it become a habit. You want to take a few days to relax and unwind but be vigilant or you will fall into the same trap I have let myself fall into…you will completely mess up your sleep schedule! And that will be hard to fix once you do find a new job!

8. Learn something new

Is there a skill you’ve always wanted to learn? Or a new path you’ve been wanting to explore in your career? Well now is the ideal time to start that, while you are still being paid. Late last year I realised that UX/UI Design is an area that I can see myself getting into because I’ve always had an interest in good website navigation, so I decided to register for the Library Juice Academy Certificate in User Experience Design so I could start exploring the field and get some experience in it and see if it really is the way I want to go when I do go for my Masters. I also registered for the MOOC on Library Advocacy offered by the iSchool at the University of Toronto, and a free webinar series on using WordPress for library websites. As a result of my first LJA course and the SLA webinar, I am starting to work on a project that I had the idea for back in September, an e-library of information literacy resources directly connected to the Ontario curriculum expectations.

9. Search, search, search

This is something I’ve already mentioned, and should be fairly obviously. You’re out of a job, so you need to search. Even when you don’t feel like doing anything because you’re down, you need to get onto the computer and you need to search! Remember here at INALJ we aggregate a lot of jobs for you, use us! It’s why we’re here! One stop shopping!

10. Try not to beat yourself up

Everything I’ve said above is about balancing the need for a new position with the need to take care of yourself. Being laid off is hard, mentally and emotionally. I find myself spiraling down quite a bit, because I do have a tendency to do that as I have mentioned. You have to not give into it though, when you let yourself spiral and you start to beat yourself up you’re not going to be effective at finding a job. So get yourself someone to talk to, someone who will be firm with you and tell you when you’re being too hard on yourself and help you stop. Maybe that’s your mum or dad, or your wife or husband, a sibling, or a best friend, but find that person and talk to them every day.