You’ve been laid-off. It sucks. It wasn’t your fault, but it’s so hard not to take it personally. Why was it you and not that other guy – you know, the one who is always surfing the net and listening to his iPod at work? It can feel like there is no justice, no reward for your hard work and loyalty. There’s no way around it, it just sucks. While it is tempting (oh boy, is it ever tempting) to focus on the negative, it’s time for a concrete action plan to move forward. We all know that it is critical to get one’s finances and resume in order? right away. In addition to these top priorities, there are many other items which should quickly make their way onto your to-do list…

What to Do Right Away (aka NOW):

Tell your immediate family and close friends

Be honest with facts and feelings. They care and want to be allowed to support you.

Review which related information from your current, about-to-be-former, employer you’ll want to have on hand

Recommendations from co-workers, bosses, clients, etc.

Contact information from these same people. You may want and need to keep in touch or use them as references for your next gig.

Keep copies of work products to illustrate your skills to potential employers. (It’s important to be mindful of any relevant workplace policies or NDAs which may restrict this).

Health insurance

If you and/or your family are currently covered by an employer-sponsored health plan, be sure to find out how you will receive information about COBRA coverage. Although maintaining this is an expense, it will provide peace of mind as it continues your health coverage while you are out of work.

What to Do Next (after you’ve taken care of all of the above, but within a couple of days of receiving the bad news):

Tell everyone – your extended family, formal connections (such as those on LinkedIn) and informal connections (other soccer/band/carpool parents)

The more people who know what you’re looking for, the more eyes and ears you have poised to identify potential opportunities.

Ask for what you need. They care, but they’re not mind-readers. They will want to help you however they can. Let them. Wouldn’t you do the same for them? Be specific when letting others know how they can help. Babysitting? A meal? Someone to help you prep for an interview? A friendly, non-judgmental ear to simply listen?

Stay healthy. Stay connected.

All those things your mother told you still apply, in fact, now more than ever – Eat well, sleep well. Get out of the house; take a walk, visit with friends, find reasons to smile.

And Then, On to the Job Search and Keeping Your Skills Fresh:

LinkedIn – Not even optional; no longer open for discussion. If you’re not using it yet, it’s time to start.

Upload your contacts and connect with those you know. Someone who has a great profile, but doesn’t appear to be well connected doesn’t make a good impression. You should aim for at least 50 connections.

Ask your contacts to recommend you on LinkedIn. Only ask those who truly know you and who are able to be specific.

Complete your profile – jobs, school, non-profit work, whatever. If it helps tell a compelling story of who you are and how you arrived to this point, include it.

Manage your online reputation. Think no one is searching for information about you online? They are. Accept it and learn how to make it easy for them to find the best parts of who you are.

Volunteer with a non-profit organization. This is a wonderful way to gain new skills, build new contacts and use your time productively.

Focus on skills and opportunities, not job titles. There may be many different and challenging ways to use your skill set in ways which you’ve never even considered.

Participate in local and industry-specific networking groups. These are a wonderful source of support and career-related resources.

Keep it positive. Never, ever trash-talk your employer online or in an interview, no matter how wronged you feel. Even when you feel justified, it doesn’t reflect well on you. Someone who is able to focus on what they’ve learned and looks forward to applying it to a new situation is someone we can see working alongside us in the years ahead.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. I’ll be addressing a number of these ideas in greater detail in? the days ahead. What have I left out? What have you found to be useful first steps?


Update: I’m excited to report that I was just interviewed by Joanna Ossinger with Fox Business News on this topic. Check out her article to get tips from several experts.