If You Were Unexpectedly Laid Off From Your Job, Here Are The Major Things You Need To Do

Layoffs never come as a welcome surprise. On the contrary, losing your job out of the blue can be highly traumatic. And even when it's part of a larger downsizing, you may be left wondering why you didn't make the cut. Rest assured that every industry sees ups and downs. Recent years have witnessed all sorts of upsets in business, such as the COVID-driven shift to remote work and the quiet quitting phenomenon. And in the global workforce, layoffs are another unfortunate reality — especially when the economy is struggling.

Take the widespread tech layoffs throughout 2022. ABC News reports that major corporations from Meta, Amazon, and Twitter to services like Lyft, Robinhood, and more all underwent major staff reductions. Undoubtedly, many of those staff members were highly talented, qualified, and motivated. But layoffs can strike even the best employees.

Sometimes, you can see the writing on the wall long before any employees are notified. But other times, layoffs seem to happen abruptly. If you've been blindsided by a sudden layoff, take a deep breath and know that you aren't alone. Many people have stood where you are now, and many people will stand there in the future. By taking sensible steps, you can weather this storm and come out the other side unscathed. Not sure where to begin? Here are several major tasks to handle immediately when unexpectedly laid off from your job.

Copy all layoff communications for your files

In the midst of an unexpected job loss, your head is probably spinning with questions, fears, and the layoff's overall impact on your life. But now more than ever, it's important to be thorough and methodical in order to protect yourself. First and foremost, ensure you have saved copies of any communications surrounding your dismissal. One great on-the-go tactic is to forward any layoff-related emails from management or HR to your personal email account, so the messages won't be lost when your company email address is suspended.

As attorney Arick Fudali tells CNBC, "Any emails, evidence, correspondence you have ... forward to your personal email, take screenshots, whatever you have to do to preserve that is important because once you're gone from the company, you no longer have access to those emails." Additionally, don't be afraid to ask HR for extra documentation, such as a laid-off letter. This may be provided to you automatically, but if not, request one. A laid-off letter is valuable evidence that you lost your position through no fault of your own, due to circumstances outside of your control (via InCharge Debt Solutions).

And as for any promises or reassurances that come from management, try to get them in writing. This includes answers such as your eligibility for unemployment. "Make sure that the company is acknowledging that your termination is unemployment-qualifying. That's something that can be discussed. Say, 'Hey, you're not going to challenge my eligibility.' ... It's self-advocacy," employment attorney Christopher Q. Davis says to CBS News.

Capture materials for your CV or portfolio

Ideally, you'll have at least a few hours — if not days — to navigate any job loss and tie up loose ends. In this case, use the time to put yourself in a good position and collect any valuable resources. For instance, exchange personal contact information with coworkers who might make good references later, so you don't lose touch when your credentials are revoked. This can be especially crucial on remote teams.

If you work in a creative position, don't forget to copy examples of your work for your portfolio. Just make sure it's all material that can be shared publicly without any legal issues. If not, consider jotting down some descriptive notes of the work you did while it's still fresh in your mind. As House of van Schneider points out, even if you've signed an NDA, you can probably at least share the name of your client and the general scope of your work there.

Unfortunately, not everyone has sufficient notice before a job loss, and it's hard to be prepared for an unexpected layoff, since it was, after all, unexpected. But if you're noticing any big shake-ups at the office, it can't hurt to lay a little groundwork in case a quick exit is on the way. Consider taking the steps above before you're cut off, plus proactively dusting off your CV or resume and updating it with recent achievements or work experiences.

Read all the paperwork closely

When you've been dealt an emotional blow like a layoff, it can be painful to scrutinize every piece of documentation. But you need to guard your rights and keep an eye out for corporate misbehavior, especially if you're being offered a severance package that may require careful thought. Request a copy of any relevant policies, such as dismissal guidelines or information about your retirement, pension, or company stocks.

Don't feel pressured to sign documents in a hurry — according to Investopedia, severance agreements typically allow 21 days before acceptance is due, plus another seven days' grace period to change your mind. Many people also don't realize that you can sometimes negotiate the terms of your departure, including severance pay amount, an extended ending date for company insurance, and even keeping company-issued perks like electronic devices.

Reassess your household budget

While you're out of work and gearing up for a new job hunt, it's important to tighten the belt on your expenditures. The budgeting gurus at Ramsey Solutions recommend aiming for a zero-based budget, which means that your budget and your income should balance perfectly. Needless to say, your expenses shouldn't outweigh your incoming cash, or you'll soon find yourself in a hole. But zero-based budgeting also encourages accountability for all the extra "petty cash" that you might have ignored before. Instead of leaving $50 in unallocated fun money, consider pushing that into another area of your budget, such as savings or your emergency fund.

Of course, if you're a single-income household, your expenses may certainly outweigh your income during your job search. But zero-based budgeting can help limit the damage and get you quickly back on track once you've acquired new employment.

Take care of your mental health

Being laid off under any circumstances can be a stressful, chaotic time. But it's also a time to cultivate resilience so you can keep moving forward and pursue new opportunities. As such, it's vital that you leave yourself space to care for your mental and emotional well-being.

Speaking to Harvard Business Review, career strategist John Lees touches frequently on the mental journey of a layoff. As he says, at first, it can cut deep. "It's a rejection — the company is saying, 'We don't need you. We can manage without you.' It feels personal." But even if you "feel flat and slightly depressed about your job prospects," Lees emphasizes that it's important to remember that "getting laid off is a manageable setback on the scale of human experience." In fact, layoffs and redundancies are quite common in the current workforce. So instead of hyper-fixating on the sense of loss, Lees suggests seeking out "positive-minded people who will encourage you and help you move forward."

You may still be reeling from the sudden loss of your job. But take heart — you can bounce back from this. Allow a little time to recenter yourself, then come back even better than before. You may even find yourself in a happier position after using job-seeking tips to score your dream job.