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5 Mistakes to Avoid After Being Laid Off

You Can Recover From a Layoff and Succeed at Work

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5 Mistakes to Avoid After Being Laid Off
Photo credit: Bloom Productions/Getty Images

Laid off? Maybe yours was the only position cut or maybe you were laid off with an entire department. The feelings caused by being laid off are largely the same regardless of your circumstances.

But it's important to take your next steps based on rational thought, not emotions. To start on the path to career recovery, avoid making these 5 mistakes after being laid off.

Badmouthing the Employer Who Laid You Off

You worked hard for the company, often sacrificing family time. Being laid off can feel like a denial or rejection of all that honest effort.

Don't let your hurt feelings goad you into talking badly about your employer. Remember that everyone you speak with is a potential networking contact. You don't know what opportunities your neighbor or fellow carpool parent might open to you -- and you won't find out if they think you're a loose cannon or disgruntled employee.

Try to remain respectful when asked about the layoff and your past employer, or just stay quiet. Remember what mama said, if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all.

Hiding the Layoff From Family

Losing your job can be traumatic. For many of us, our identity is tied into our work. We may not feel that we know who we are without our position.

As hard as it may be to talk about the layoff, you must do so with your spouse and close family. Don't try to hide it. You'll need their love and support to get you back on your feet.

Don't feel rushed to explain the situation to your children, though. It's okay to take some time for the feelings to be less raw. You may want to figure out your next move first, whether it's quitting work or looking for a new position. That's probably the first question the kids will ask.

Jumping Into a Job Search

Believe it or not, some people go straight from the layoff announcement to their computer to post a resume on Monster.com or a job board for contract work.

Try to look at being laid off as an opportunity to rethink your career path. Use some quiet time to list all your accomplishments and highlight those that meant the most to you. What tasks did you enjoy? Which projects inspired and stimulated you?

You may find that you would be happier in a slightly different role or job. You'll certainly come up with concrete achievements to put on your resume and cover letters.

Once you've thought through your next steps and goals, you will be more targeted -- and effective -- in your networking.

Dwelling on the Negative

Just as you shouldn't badmouth your employer, don't talk negatively about yourself! Without thinking, many working women downplay their career contributions or prospects, especially in social conversations.

Your acquaintances will be uncomfortable hearing about layoffs, because it reminds them they, too, are vulnerable. Make it easier for them by quickly turning the conversation to the positive career steps you want to take. That gives them an opportunity to help you.

When you're at a kid's soccer game and a fellow parent asks what you're doing, make sure you have a ready explanation of your layoff and the next steps you want to take. For instance:

  • Because of a recent merger, my employer eliminated a number of duplicative positions, including mine. I'm taking the opportunity to make a career move from marketing to strategic communications. I'm a marketing and communications manager with over 10 years of experience working for private companies and nonprofit organizations.
  • The recent reorganization of ABC company led to 120 job cuts, including mine. I'm a human resources executive with 15 years of experience working closely with corporate leadership and implementing new systems. My objective is to find a position where I can continue to serve as a catalyst for orderly and profitable workforce change.
  • Due to the struggling economy, XYZ company let go a dozen employees, including me. I am currently exploring opportunities that would take advantage of my engineering and manufacturing background, and my successful record of boosting sales.

Becoming Isolated or Web-Bound

You discovered this site. You know there's lots of great information on the Internet. Certainly, you can spend 24 hours a day submitting your resume online.

But Web surfing will only take you so far. To land a new job, you must meet people in person and get out of your home. The vast majority of open positions are never even posted publicly.

Here's a handy rule of thumb -- if you talk to 25 hiring managers, you will most likely get a job offer. These conversations don't need to be job interviews. If you line up informational interviews at organizations you admire, the next time a position becomes available the hiring manager will think of you.

You also need the support and positive feedback that comes from having coffee or lunch with former colleagues familiar with your best work. Set a goal, such as having 2 networking calls a day and 2 or 3 in-person meetings a week. When you talk to people you've worked with in the past, they'll learn what you accomplished recently and where you want to go next.

Now go! Pick up the phone or send an email. Reach out to the people who will lead you to your next, better job.

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