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Unexpectedly laid off? These 6 steps will get you back on your feet

Consider this your ultimate job search guide in the midst of a pandemic.

Unexpectedly laid off? These 6 steps will get you back on your feet
[Photo: AndreyPopov/iStock]

There’s no way around it: The job market is undeniably bleak right now. So if you’re reeling from a recent layoff, remember first and foremost that you are not alone. From the retail industry to the aerospace sphere, tens of millions of Americans’ lives have been disrupted by COVID-19.

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Despite the grim circumstances, many of the tried-and-true job search methods are still useful. Check out these unemployment resources and support networks, and begin the process of finding a new job with these six tips:

1. Consider how you’ll frame things

When you are finally in front of a recruiter or speaking with your network, chances are they will understand your predicament. But you should still think strategically about how you will gracefully address the layoff, piecing together a thoughtful response that will emphasize your strengths.

For this type of job dismissal, it’s okay to go with the straightforward facts. In most circumstances, layoffs are outside of the employee’s control—especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

As Stacy Pollack from Glassdoor explains, keep it simple, with a statement that relays what happened factually, such as “There was a restructuring within the organization, and unfortunately my role was impacted.”

2. Share the news

It’s important to let people in your network know you’re on the prowl for a new position. But rather than just sharing the news indiscriminately, share this information in a targeted way.

Make sure to think about what kind of support your contact may be able to offer. Though you may be aiming to broaden your search, approach individuals from your network with a tailored elevator pitch and refresh your memory about what their background is first. Here are some helpful templates from Jaclyn Westlake of The Muse that you can use to tailor your message to everyone from a casual LinkedIn connection to your college mentor with whom you’ve fallen out of touch.

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Tone is especially important in these messages, says Fast Company contributor Joseph Liu. “Do this delicately to avoid seeming self-centered amidst a global pandemic.”

3. Try digital networking

Considering the pandemic’s “Zoom boom,” you can more easily transition your networking efforts to a virtual medium. Use email to reach out to prospective contacts and then schedule meetings with videoconference tools to remotely conduct informational interviews.

As Liu points out, many contacts who were difficult to get in touch with for face-to-face interactions may be more receptive to forming a connection during this unusual time.

Like many of us, leaders are isolated in their home offices conducting business. They’re not immune to bouts of loneliness either. In fact, some are ramping up their schedules to include a more pronounced effort to connect with others.

4. Refine your résumé

Now is the time to take a fresh look at your résumé. Seriously. As always, consider the role you are seeking and do your best to highlight your most relevant experience.

Peter Yang, chief executive of résumé-writing service ResumeGo, says a double-page résumé is no longer an application faux pas. So when refreshing your experience, take this additional page to explain the reasoning behind your professional pause. Yang mentions this period during the coronavirus outbreak is tenuous, and if you’re able to eloquently explain how you took time off to care for a sick family member or to protect vulnerable individuals, a person who is hiring will likely not use it against you.

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5. Assess your current skill set

It’s an appropriate time to think about where you want to land after the crisis passes, including if you will have job security in your current industry.

CareerOneStop.org, a website created by the Department of Labor, offers skill assessment tools to get laid-off workers back on their feet.

Looking to upskill or reskill? Artificial intelligence and data analytics are two practical capabilities that consistently appear in demand, according to Wesley Connor, the “chief reskilling officer” at talent acquisition company Randstad Sourcelight.

6. Don’t forget your mental health

Lastly, try to find methods to keep yourself positive and invigorated to start the job search. It’s completely expected for you to feel shocked and temporarily distraught after a layoff.

Locate an activity that fuels you, like listening to your favorite podcast or exercising, says Liu. Find that means of inspiration, energy, or mental serenity to rid yourself of stress and anxiety.

Grinding yourself down with self-doubt and worry will only hinder your eventual professional progress. This is a unique time period, and it will take hard work to get back to a semblance of normal. Nevertheless, many folks are in the same boat with you.

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As Renee Schneider, a psychologist and clinical research expert, writes for Fast Company, “Taking care of ourselves and each other—including our families, friends, and coworkers—should be the first order of business right now.”

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About the author

Diana is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. Previously, she was an editor at Vice and an editorial assistant at Entrepreneur

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