4 Ways to Respond if the Pandemic Took Your Job

Read the four strategies for what to do when you get laid off.

Millions around the country have been laid off due to the coronavirus’s massive impact on the economy. And it’s likely more will be laid off as we continue to endure this global catastrophe.

Being laid off brings anger, confusion, depression, and fear — but the good news is that there are things you can do to help manage these feelings and your current situation. Below are four strategies for coping with being laid off in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

File for unemployment

This should be the very first thing you do. The U.S. government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to meet the massive unemployment effect of the pandemic. If you have been laid off, then you are eligible to receive a portion of this money, ensuring that you are able to meet your basic material needs.

The obvious benefit of unemployment compensation is being able to count on a certain amount of income each month. Filing for unemployment also serves as a tangible and concrete act to help mitigate the feelings of depression and fear. This peace of mind can go a long way in helping you cope with the reality of your situation and move on to next steps.

Re-evaluate your career goals

While it’s not what you would have chosen, the time away from work can offer a benefit: the chance to re-think your career. Did you enjoy the work you were doing? Did you feel that you were well suited for it? Did you feel empowered by your organization’s culture and management?

Sometimes, when we’re in the weeds of working every day, we don’t have the freedom or time to take a step back and make sure we’re actually enjoying our work. This forced space away can give you the opportunity to examine whether you do — or still do — find the type of work you were doing before being laid off fulfilling. If not, then there may be an opportunity to start thinking about a career shift as you begin looking for a new job.

On the other hand, you may have lost your dream job (or something close to it) and know that you still want to do this kind of work. Or you may feel that you don’t have the luxury to change your career or the type of work you do in significant ways for a number of legitimate reasons. Those are valid conclusions, and giving some time to explore them will clarify your focus. This is an opportunity to take a step back to consider how this pause in your career may shape how you move forward.

Take advantage of the extra free time

Being laid off now means you have more time available than you did before. This can afford you an opportunity to brush up on your resume, polish your LinkedIn profile, and learn new skills to augment your competitiveness in the workplace.

If you’re interested in elevating your management skills, consider reading books on organizational leadership by thought-leaders in your industry. If you would like to develop your analytical skills, consider taking an online stats or market research course. If you could benefit from developing a wider network of relevant professional contacts, prioritize using LinkedIn or attending virtual networking events during this time.

In cases where you have decided you want to make a career change (perhaps after re-evaluating your career goals), this newfound time can give you the opportunity to build up or develop necessary skills for a new profession. It can also afford you the time to conduct informational interviews with those in desirable roles (they might have more time than they would normally have to speak with you these days). There are countless ways to take advantage of the extra time from being unemployed in order to make yourself more competitive in the workforce.

But don’t forget to take advantage of the extra free time by connecting with your family and friends in more intentional ways. It can be a gift to have the time to play more with your children or encourage a friend feeling especially lonely. While the extra free time may be the result of an unfortunate situation, you can certainly put the time to good use.

There is never a good time to be laid off, but it can be something especially isolating when you feel that you’re the only one struggling with joblessness. Remember: you’re not alone. Consider taking some time to scroll through LinkedIn or reach out to former colleagues who have also been laid off as well. This can allow you to connect with those who understand your situation and with whom you can both find and offer encouragement.

Begin job searching (but with realistic expectations)

The global effects of this pandemic mean it’s not a great time to begin looking for a new job. And even for organizations that have avoided layoffs have likely frozen hiring. That’s why it’s important to be realistic about the difficulty of finding a new job, at least in the short term. That isn’t to say there aren’t some jobs out there worth looking into. But try not to be discouraged by the lack of opportunity or responses — many of us are in the same boat.

Yet, even if you aren’t actively applying for jobs, it’s valuable to be searching on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job sites to get a sense of what roles are available — either now, or a bit down the road — and how you can prepare for them. By regularly looking online for jobs you may discover a certain organization or role that you would like to pursue when hiring picks up again.

Lastly, searching and applying for jobs can help give you a sense of purpose each day. It can certainly be frustrating to apply to positions with little expectation for receiving a follow-up, but it’s still a tangible way to take action to better your current situation. Similar to filing for employment or taking an online course to develop a new skill, the structured act of searching and applying can keep you busy in a productive and healthy manner.

This downturn won’t last forever. Once things pick up again, your work during this challenging season could pay off with calls from hiring managers looking to schedule job interviews.

Grotto quote graphic about what to do when you get laid off: "Four strategies for coping with being laid off: file for unemployment, re-evaluate your career goals, take advantage of the extra time, begin job searching (but with realistic expectations)."

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