I Didn’t Think You Meant *That* Kind of Pink Slip

I Didn’t Think You Meant *That* Kind of Pink Slip

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…

pink slip - I Didn't Think You Meant *That* Kind of Pink Slip

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.


  1. Napoleon (P0_P0) November 12, 2008 at 11:01 am - Reply

    I’m glad you posted this. Some places have a perennial rumor about layoffs and closures that ultimately turn out to be just hot air, but in this economic climate, who knows? I guess taking a proactive approach would be good. Start using LinkedIn right now! Looking to work for a specific company? LinkedIn has a cool feature: http://www.linkedin.com/companies. They’ll show you the career path for employees of certain companies. e.g lots of Apple employees worked at Sun before working for Apple. Cisco is a popular company to work for after leaving Apple. It shows Apple as well in the before and after, I believe this means that their title and/or position changed during their stint at Apple.

    I think even Facebook has some value in this regard. I am reconnecting with friends from school that may be able to help me out in any future job hunts.

  2. iGoByDoc November 17, 2008 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Great post Irene!

    It is very hard for folks to keep an optimistic attitude these days when no one feels safe from being cut from thier jobs.

    With Citigroup cutting 50K people today and so many other companies doing the same, it is a scary time for the workforce at large.

    No matter how large the company you work for is, or even if you run your own business, now is the time to get your network in order.

    Another great post today from @dmscott from twitter today provides additional advice for the downsized.

    Thanks for the great post, and I look forward to your follow up articles!

    – Doc

  3. Kevin Touhey November 24, 2008 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    It is very important to maintain an optimistic outlook during these times. You have to believe that things will get better, you have to find the silver lining. Maintaining high spirits and enriching your personal life during this hiatus will make you a better professional when you get back in the workforce.

  4. Irene Koehler November 24, 2008 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    @Napoleon – You are so right. Maintaining your contacts and building your network is important at all times, not just whether or not there happens to be a rumor of lay-offs at your company.

    @Doc – No one is immune right now. There was a time when working for a larger company gave one a sense of security (whether or not security really existed). Today, with these very large companies facing significant reductions, we must all be attentive to managing our own careers.

    @Kevin – Great point, attitude is key. You are no less a valuable resource just because the job was eliminated. Optimism when paired with a realistic plan will go a long way toward keeping you healthy and ready to jump back into the game when the right opportunity comes along.

  5. Nancy B December 9, 2008 at 6:45 am - Reply

    Some other things that are helping me search in this environment:

    LinkedIn Groups – College, Past Companies, Interests and Local groups – there are some great people to network with both virtually and face to face… especially in the city and state based groups.

    JibberJobber.com – or some other tracking software. I started out as a free member and got hooked… I love the companion blog… but having all of the ‘confidential’ postings stored has helped me from cross-submitting with multiple temp agencies.

    indeed.com and jobirn.com – 2 very different search vehicles that can find posts on company boards directly or regional boards from across the land in the case of Indeed or give you a chance to live chat with recruiters and hiring managers in the case of Jobirn.

    Great advice to focus on skills and not title! It’s amazing what opportunities you can find in other industries that require the same work… but under a different name!

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