From Setback To Success – Rebounding From A Job Loss

I unpack what you need to do if this happens to you.


Months or years of economic downturn, combined with technological advances such as AI, which have the potential to make many service-oriented jobs obsolete, have resulted in a high water mark for downsizing and layoffs. In fact, in the USA, as of April 2024, layoffs had reached a 14-month high. The majority of those downsizings were within the technology industry. The most common reason was cost-cutting and restructuring (Niasse, Reuters, 2024).

These events can be home to many different euphemisms. It could be a layoff, a downsizing, a reduction in force, redundancies, or my recent favorite, ‘displacement.’ Regardless of what it’s called, if you work within an industry vulnerable to economic recessions or advancing technology, it’s essential to know two things.  First, how to prepare for the possibility; next, how to overcome the negative feelings and bounce back if you face a job loss.


Be Prepared!

Financial readiness is the first and most important aspect of being prepared for a job loss. This can be difficult, especially during difficult economic times when costs are rising and wages don’t keep pace. If possible, create a budget that eliminates unnecessary expenses. Then create an emergency fund with enough savings to cover three to six months of living expenses. Look into what your State provides as unemployment insurance to determine how much you would need in the emergency fund to supplement the insurance payments. Building up a nest egg is a good idea at any time, but it’s particularly important if you think a job loss is on the horizon.

Next, ensure your resume and online presence accurately reflect your background and experience. If it’s been a while since you’ve had to look for work, retaining someone who can help you reword and update your resume might be worthwhile. 

You can also look into free or low-cost ways to update your professional skills and expand your expertise. Several excellent online resources provide very economical training; others can provide insight into what jobs are in demand or even offer career opportunities. Some government or regulatory sites even offer the opportunity for certifications; for example, the FEMA site has numerous courses that help familiarize one with the government systems for disaster recovery.

A final step in preparing is building and working with a professional network. This is particularly important if you will be looking for a leadership role. Management and leadership roles can be challenging to find as fewer opportunities exist. A good professional network can assist in finding potential job leads, opportunities to change roles, or even possible job offers. Don’t just network from behind your computer – take as many opportunities as possible to attend networking events or in-person meetings. Physically being there makes any interactions much more personal. Look for events in your area hosted by industry groups like HDI or others, and get to know as many people as possible.


Overcoming the Shock of a Layoff

Whether prepared or not, getting the news that you’ve lost your job will be a shock. It’s normal to feel angry or apprehensive. It’s important not to suppress your feelings; allow yourself time to process what has happened. Take some time, and talk to friends or family about it. Sometimes, part of a severance package includes access to a therapist; don’t be afraid to take advantage of that provision if it’s offered. 

You may not want to jump into a job hunt immediately. Take a reasonable amount of time to focus on self-care. Ensure you’re getting plenty of exercise, eating right, and having a whole night’s sleep. Spend some time doing things you enjoy. Once you’ve centered yourself, you can move on to the next step.


Finding a New Role

Reflect on your strengths, skills, and goals as you begin your search. Look over popular job boards such as LinkedIn, Indeed, or TheLadders and examine the expectations of roles you may feel qualified to fill. Are there areas of the role that you would need to address, and are there ways for you to fill in any gaps using online resources?

If you’ve been in the workforce for a long time, you may be able to leverage a variety of skills. As you look through postings, search for keywords that align with your skills to find possible positions. It can also be a good idea to have variations on your resume highlighting the skills needed for specific roles. For example, you might have a different resume and cover letter for roles within the Service Desk, Asset Management, Operations, or Desktop Support. A tailored document with specific keywords can increase the chance of a call-back.

If you’ve taken the time to build a network, now is the time to activate it. Let them know you’re on the market, and attend events when you can. If you have an interest in moving from one industry to another, speak to someone who currently works in your target area to get ideas on how to customize your job search.

Finally, stay positive. Finding a new role may take time, so a positive outlook will help you get through some of the hard times. Leverage your time to continue professional growth and keep learning.

Coping with downsizing can be a shock and a struggle, but you can overcome this setback with proper preparation, a positive outlook, a good professional network, and a persistent approach. Often, hindsight will allow you to look back, and maybe it was a positive change! 

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