From Laid Off to Learning: Getting the News

Dawn Papandrea | January 12, 2010

It’s a new year, and with that, we decided to take the next few editions of the Insider’s series, From Laid Off to Learning, in a different direction. We’re reflecting on what we learned about layoffs during the tough 2009 year, and how we can prepare ourselves should it ever happen to us. This week’s focus is on what to do in the immediate aftermath of getting the news.

Be sure to check in each Monday for some additional expert tips and inspiring stories of layoff survivors heading back to the classroom. Even easier, subscribe now.

lotlIn today’s economic climate, there’s a good chance the inevitable can happen to you, your spouse, or someone you know. No matter how safe you feel your job is or how many years you have invested, no one is immune to getting laid off.

What to do when you get the news >>

Emotions will run high. Panic might set in. But before you do or say something you’ll regret later, take it all in, and then put together a game plan for moving onward and upward.

* Make a timeline. How long will severance pay run? When do you need to enroll in COBRA coverage? When can you sign up for unemployment benefits, and how soon after that will they start? Sit down with a piece of paper, says Darcy Eikenberg, a professional coach and mentor, and map it all out. “Most post-employment deals are full of dates and deadlines, but they rarely are listed all in one place. Take the time to figure them out and put them in date order so that you don’t miss one by accident.”

* Go over your severance package with a fine-toothed comb. Read all the materials you’re given immediately, highlighting passages that aren’t clear, adds Eikenberg. “If something in your documents is different from what you heard from your boss or HR person explain, do not hesitate to ask for clarification. Handling layoffs is still new to a lot of companies (especially smaller organizations). Sometimes the people tasked with handling the details are still learning how to handle each layoff situation.”

* Take what you can get, then ask for more. In other words, says Aricia E. LaFrance, a professional certified career coach, you can and should try to negotiate your lay off package. “Many people just take the package offered and walk away, but often there is wiggle room.  Consider not only the money, but the perks.” For instance, she explains, sometimes you can negotiate a longer period of time to have your health insurance covered – that can be a savings of $700 per month for some people!

* Get your references lined up. As soon as you know the layoff is coming, don’t hesitate to ask for a letter of recommendation from your employer, recommends Dr. Colleen Georges, a NJ-based resume writer and career coach. “It should not only indicate what you have to offer, but also that the loss of employment was due to a layoff or mass-layoff,” she says.

* Be ready with questions. Your last day will no doubt be emotional, but as it approaches, keep a running list of questions to ask at your exit interview. Go into that exit meeting with questions like: When do my benefits end? Who do I call? When is my last paycheck? Can you be a reference?

Although layoffs may come as a shock, with these points in mind, it doesn’t have to be completely out of your control.

Check in next Monday when experts share tips on dealing with money matters and health insurance when you’ve been laid off.

-Dawn Papandrea

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