Laid Off: How to Make Losing Your Job a Winning Venture

The turbulent winds of a stormy job market are here, and if the winds should blow in your direction, there is a way to handle things. Nobody likes drastic change when it comes to careers. Americans, on average, spend 70% of their waking hours, Monday through Friday, on work-related activities. That being said, to change your job is a lifestyle change. As Americans, we make our careers a part of our lives. For some a job is a status symbol distinguishing oneself in society. How quickly in meeting does a new person ask, “What do you do?” Pretty quickly.

For others a job allows a certain lifestyle. They get to join golf clubs, have big cars and expensive homes. For many people, it is a feeling of power and responsibility. Most people wear many hats, and through different reorganizations, mergers and title changes perform several different job functions. Most people don’t even take vacation without calling into the office, giving the phone number where they are or at least checking e-mail. So be smart, be informed and go ahead and prepare in the event that you are laid off.

Be aware. You might be getting laid off if –

  • The company you work for has announced hiring freezes in your department or companywide. Work harder than you have ever worked&show your value!
  • There are new rules in regard to vacation or internal processes such as expense reports. This is a process to weed out dead weight.
  • Your company’s stock has been on the “strong sell” list for the last quarter or corporate earnings have been flat or declining.
  • A merger has recently taken place resulting in two people for each position, now it is a team effort to complete one job. Show them how much they need you&that job was made for you!
  • There have been changes in your industry or geographic area that would allow you to believe that change is on the way. Keep on top of trends and show that you can adapt!

Be prepared.
All the signs are there. What next? Copy all of your phone numbers and addresses of all buddies at work as well as any contacts that you think could come in handy. This is your network. You will need it later to see where friends have gone, what positions are out there, etc. You will have a great base of contacts. If you have your resume on your computer, copy it on to a disk and take it home. You must get anything off of your computer that you need now. Once the axe falls, there won’t be any time for housekeeping.

The axe falls  be smart!
You are called into your boss’s office and given the news that you are being “let go”, “downsized”, “transitioned”, “reorganized”  basically you are getting fired. No matter how politically correct they word it, you have been fired. So now you are part of the majority. Better sooner than later. Now is when the surprises begin so be sure to leave gracefully. Prepare – they are going to walk you out of the office like you are a madman or woman. You are thinking, “I have done great things for the company. Why must I leave now with an escort?” Well that is what companies do these days&to everyone. Also, your coworkers will act differently. There will be many things that will surprise you the day you get the axe. Do not react!! Think of it as psychological warfare. The quiet one is generally respected more than the one that pitches a temper tantrum. Don’t be mad. Don’t sign anything you are given. Don’t negotiate severance yet. Do nothing except be pleasant. Even when they walk you out of the building keep it together. Although it’s hard to bear, staying calm and collected will serve you well in the long run.

Gather intelligence. Now is the time.
They have already knocked the wind out of you and now they want to talk about severance. Do not make any quick decisions or let them bully you into deciding immediately. Don’t let it happen too easily. You must negotiate. By now you have talked to others that have been laid off. You should try to get some idea from friends in the company of what offers have been made to others. Now you know how to negotiate a strong package for yourself.

Negotiate your Severance.
Now is the time to take the gloves off. This is the start of your new unemployed life. Whether or not you negotiate a strong severance will be the difference between a low stress job search and a frantic race to take the first job offered. Let’s say they offer 3 months salary and benefits. You come back with “At my level/In this declining industry, it is taking professionals one month for every $10,000 that they would like to make. Since I was making X with your current company, you expect it to take X months to find a new position. I think 10 months is fair.”
You say, “With unemployment at 5.7% and with the market so competitive I just want to have time to find a good career match rather than jump at the first position. With my tenure/contributions with/to the company I am sure that you agree. I think 10 months sounds fair.”
Play the sympathy card a little. Not too much, but a little. Say something like this, “Well Bob, I can say with all of my years with the company and the strong signals that the company sent to everyone about the stability of the company, I am a bit surprised. I am now 61 years old and I can’t help but wonder why I would be laid off after so many years of service. It is going to be difficult to get back into the job market and I really want to be treated fairly.”

Something like this will be a good response because it puts responsibility back on the company and opens the door for negotiation. Of course you will probably meet in the middle somewhere, but the more you can get the better you will feel. However, if the company has a written severance policy that clearly spells out severance benefits, negotiations may not be allowed. Normally this is the case for very large companies or for organizations that are undergoing major layoffs.

Unemployment  Why not? It is on the company anyway.
You went out to lunch with the boss many times and the company paid. Did you feel bad then? Of course not! You shouldn’t feel badly about taking unemployment either. Think of it positively. They have been “nice” enough to set an account up for you the whole time you have been with the company in the event of the disaster that has become your termination. They have saved it for you all of this time. Now is your time to get some payback. File for unemployment! Some people think it is embarrassing. Some people think it is some kind of loan, like they are asking for help. It is not. It is quick, it is easy and you can do it with very little pain. Some states even allow you to file by phone. Following is where you go to find the office in your state. The U.S. Department of Labor can help you out.

Now remember, state laws vary, but in general when you get severance depends on your last month of payment from the company, including severance. If you received severance in a lump sum  divide it into monthly increments of your typical salary to see when you are actually able to receive unemployment. If you receive severance monthly, as soon as it stops you can go.

Job search  It could be tax deductible!
The IRS will allow you to write off a lot of your job search. It could be tax deductible! You can deduct certain expenses incurred in looking for a new job in you present occupation, even if you do not get a new job. According to IRS tax regulations, you can deduct amounts you spend for typing, printing and mailing copies of a resume to prospective employers if you are looking for a new job in your present occupation.
Be aware that you cannot deduct these expenses if:
1.) You are looking for a job in a new occupation,
2.) There was a substantial break between the ending of your last job and your looking for a new one, or
3.) You are looking for a job for the first time.

In order to claim a deduction, you must itemize these expenses on Schedule A of your tax return (NOTE: miscellaneous deductions, which include job search expenses, must exceed 2% of you adjusted gross income). Obviously, you should consult with a tax professional for specific interpretation of any IRS rule. For more information on claiming job search related deductions, visit the IRS website at: and search for “Job Search Expenses” under “Forms and Publications”.

Make your resume irresistible.
Now it is time to forge ahead with your job search. Since your resume is what employers will see to set you apart from the many people vying for the same job, you have to bring it up to today’s standards. A good start will be to look over your old resume. Many people haven’t even thought about their resume in years. If that sounds like you, trends have probably changed since you last updated your resume. For instance, resumes should have buzzwords (jargon from your industry), key words (words resumes will be scanned for) and high-impact action words (established, eliminated, streamlined, structured, formulated). In the past you could just find a copy of your job description and put it into your resume. Those days are long past. You have to be smarter, more competitive and outshine your competition to make it to the recruiter’s or human resources person’s desk.

Internet job search, but don’t stop there.
As you already know, is the best online job board, but don’t stop your job search there. You may not know that many of the country’s newspapers have a CareerBuilder section listing all current classified employment ads.

Also, a few years ago, many people could just post their resume and immediately a company would call with a position. Today, you need a more aggressive approach. Maybe you should upgrade your resume. It is offered on the various job boards and will put your resume in front of the recruiter faster. Think of it like they have a stack of resumes on their desk. If you upgrade your resume, you will be closer to the top of that pile. The higher you upgrade your resume, the closer you get to the very top of the pile. Use other areas too, like resume distribution services or your local paper.

Finally, start calling the people that you know in your industry, old friends and co-workers to see if they know of any available jobs. Call your old recruiters and touch base. Get the word out that you are on the market. It is critical to find a good job in today’s market.

Just as clouds seem to hover over the question of your career, potential employers also face wading through a downpour of underqualified candidates. Think of it this way&you could be a potential employer’s ray of sunshine. By following these tips, you are sure to find shelter from the storm.




by Chandra Fox

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career, job, jobless, jobsearch