How to Survive a Layoff

Easy strategies for coping with a layoff or furlough.

Posted May 16, 2020

Think about the first questions you ask someone after you meet them. Immediately after learning someone’s name, the question that follows is almost always, “What do you do?” Our identities are so closely aligned with what we do for work, that knowing someone’s occupation gives you just as much information as knowing their name. Retirees often report feeling a loss of identity after retiring and giving up that lifelong career, as well.

So it comes as no surprise that the loss of a job, even under circumstances everyone is going through together, can be a major blow to our sense of purpose and identity. As job losses total in the millions and the unemployment rate soars, it’s important to remember that you have value as a human being outside of your working life and we will all get through this together.

We Are Living in Unprecedented Times

As we navigate the new normal of mass unemployment and the danger of a new disease, it’s important to focus on what’s important and give ourselves a little grace. If you’ve never lost a job in your life and are facing unemployment suddenly, it may make you feel as though you’ve done something wrong. Just focus on the fact that you are safe and healthy and that this period of tribulation won’t last forever.

In the last several weeks, more than 30 million Americans have filed unemployment claims, and across the world, the picture is much the same. Even those who are keeping their jobs may be doing so with reduced hours, fewer clients, or cuts in other areas. On top of all this bad news, we’re also caring for relatives and homeschooling children in a dramatic shift to a life we never asked for.

Go Easy on Yourself and Others

It has been well documented that in difficult economic times, shame and all the social problems that come with it spike. Losing a job is disorienting enough, and losing a job when there’s also a deadly pandemic happening right outside your window is a level of stress that most people alive today have never experienced before. The stress of trying to keep yourself or your family safe from a pandemic at the same time you are going through difficult economic times is monumental, and you are not alone in feeling that way.

It’s crucial to try to find some constructive ways to deal with your stress. Trying out some new hobbies, like baking bread, is a great way to refocus your mind on something constructive. Likewise, working on your resume or taking some online courses is a great way to get yourself ready for what comes next. And the best part is that many organizations, such as LinkedIn, have made online content free for this very reason.

Get Financial Help

The first step after you lose your job, whether it’s through a layoff, furlough, or even a decrease in hours is to apply for unemployment benefits. While requirements and reimbursement rates vary from state to state, many have relaxed requirements to make it easier for those experiencing economic hardship to get the help they need.

Even if you work part-time, are a freelancer, self-employed, or a gig worker, or even if you quit your job for reasons related to the pandemic, chances are you qualify for unemployment benefits. The federal government is also adding $600 a month to many payments in order to stave off a massive economic downturn.

Most states have waived waiting periods and job search requirements and have extended the period of time you can receive benefits.

Apply online if you are able, but if you don’t have access to a computer or the internet, you can still apply in person in many places. If you live in one state and work in another, apply in the state in which you work.

Learn more about how to survive a layoff or furlough here.

Today's blog post is by guest blogger Maggie Kimberl.