What to Do in the First Minutes, Hours and Days After Being Laid Off

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Maybe the word came via email. Maybe a meeting with your boss and the head of HR. Either way, there’s been a reduction in staffing and you’re being let go. Deep breaths before next steps, you know—but what are those exactly? We asked Blair Heitmann, a career expert for LinkedIn, to break down the best way to proceed.


Blair Heitmann has worked at LinkedIn for 10 years as both a career expert and as someone who helps advise professionals on how to best use LinkedIn in their professional lives.

What to Do in the First Five Minutes

According to Heitmann, it’s clichéd but true: Whether you expected to be laid off or not, it can feel stressful, confusing and overwhelming, so take a moment to breathe. “You’ll probably have a million thoughts going through your mind, so take the time to pause and understand what this means for you.”

Reflect on any follow-up questions. Often, you’ll be offered a severance package on the spot. Take a minute to consider its scope before you make any immediate moves or decisions—in other words, you don’t have to sign the exit agreement the minute it hits your inbox, Heitmann says. (An expedient answer is usually required, but don’t sign anything you haven’t fully reviewed.)

Ask HR for the specifics. Again, they’ll likely deliver a full breakdown of your benefits and severance right away, but it doesn’t hurt to dust off the employee handbook to find out exactly how your company handles payment for unused vacation days or PTO post-layoff, when you can expect that last paycheck and what will happen with your 401(k) and insurance. Also, keep in mind that there could be room to negotiate your severance package.

Leave with grace. Now is not the time to let your emotions get the best of you. You can let your peers know—via text, not company platforms—but don’t burn any bridges, despite how much you want to. “It’s a small world and your network of former employers, managers and colleagues might all end up being great resources and potential references for future opportunities,” Heitmann says.

What to Do In the First Few Days

The shock of it all is lingering for sure, but now is the time to get a few critical details in motion, Heitmann says.

Register for unemployment. HR can help with specifics, but depending on your severance and when you’ll receive that final paycheck, you may need to activate your claim urgently. (Bottom line: Make sure you understand the timeline.) In addition, your eligibility, the amount you’ll receive and the length of coverage varies by state, so you should check the local branch of your state’s Department of Labor and unemployment office to understand the scope.

Update your LinkedIn profile. Yes, this is coming from someone who works at LinkedIn, but it’s true: You need to get your digital resumé in order. Some first steps to take, according to Heitmann: Make sure your photo is up to date and embodies who you are as a professional, but is approachable and shows off a bit of your personality. Next, update any new skills you’ve gained from your recent work and add those to your profile. (Heitmann explains that more companies are shifting to skills-based hiring over other requirements that keep people out, like degrees, so you want to really showcase what you can do.) Finally, toggle on the “Open to Work” feature to quietly signal to recruiters that you’re available to be hired.

Tap your network. There’s a stigma around being let go, but the quicker you start asking for help and letting others know you’re looking for a new job, the sooner doors may start to open up. Reach out to colleagues past and present, set up lunches and track your progress. (Heitmann suggests writing down the steps you’re taking as a motivator—it works!)

What to Do in the First Few Weeks

Per Heitmann, now is the time to really kick your job search—but also a bit of self-reflection about your next move—into high gear.

Build a routine. You lose a piece of your identity when you lose your job—and that’s hard to process. Maintaining a schedule can help offset some of that grief. For example, getting up at the same time and getting dressed. Heitmann also suggests filling the time with things that are just for you, like going for walks, watching a favorite show or prioritizing a passion you haven’t had time for.

Jot down a list of accomplishments. A layoff often feels personal, even when it’s not. Create a brag sheet or list of big wins in your last job in order to help boost your confidence and remind yourself that this bump in the road doesn’t define you, Heitmann says.

Be thoughtful about your next role. What made you happy in your most recent job? What did you loathe? As you begin to job search, now is the time to really make that list. Again, LinkedIn can be helpful—use the site’s job search filters to search exclusively for a hybrid or remote role, for example, and identify job requirements that best suit your needs.

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