Even if you haven’t been affected yet, statistically most people will be laid off at some time in their careers. How you respond to the news and the next steps you take will determine how successful you are at finding and landing your next, best job.

Recently, I joined Marie Zimenoff on "The Career Confidante” to discuss what to do after a layoff. To listen to the radio show in its entirety, click here.

During the show, I offered some advice for individuals experiencing a career transition, whether by choice or through a layoff. The following are a few insights and recommendations for anyone experiencing a non-voluntary (or even a voluntary) career transition.

Experiencing job loss

The layoff process begins with the notification meeting during which impacted individuals learn that their jobs no longer exist due to a larger reduction in force. Each person’s experience in this meeting varies greatly depending on the actual words used and manner in which the manager or HR person communicates the situation to affected employees.

Related content: Avoid These 5 Layoff Notification Blunders

In the best companies, the managers who are delivering that information have been provided formal notification training. Although it may seem strange, they often have a script they are following and may be working hard to stay on message while displaying empathy and care. During notification training, managers are coached to expect and deal with the emotional reactions that often occur in these situations, including:

  • Withdrawal. Some people will get very quiet and withdraw during the meeting.
  • Grief. Many people will shed tears over the news of job loss.
  • Questioning and confusion. Engaged employees may wonder who will complete projects and work with valued customers.
  • Anger. Individuals may feel the process is unfair or take the notification personally.

If you are ever affected by a layoff, expect that the person giving you the news is ready to manage your emotional reactions. Although I would never encourage anybody to have extreme emotional reactions, people should know that expressing some emotions during a layoff notification meeting is perfectly normal and somewhat expected.

Take time to plan

Some people might feel like they need to launch into a flurry of action the minute their feet hit the ground outside of their former offices. They've quickly realized that they are now in job search mode. In an effort to be as productive as possible, people will start to do all kinds of things that can backfire.

Typically, newly unemployed people will rush to:

  • Throw a new resume together that is merely an obituary of their work history.
  • Email everyone they know with the news and ask if they know of any openings.
  • Search frantically on job boards for open positions.
  • Engage in a plethora of actions that make them feel productive and proactive.

What we really recommend people do is take a moment to take a breath. That might mean a day, two or three days for some people, or as long as a week. The idea is to give yourself the gift of time and do research on the current market and to go through a self-assessment so your next steps are effective and efficient. Let yourself go through a kind of a discovery planning process to make sure that you understand what it is you want to do next.

Of course, we understand that there are those people who don't have the freedom -- or don’t feel they have the freedom -- to take extra time due to financial constraints associated with supporting themselves and their families. If possible, I encourage you to take those few days, because even though it feels like you are stalling your job search, you'll actually be in a stronger position to market yourself effectively. Taking a few days will give you the time and the space you need to do the homework necessary to position your background, experience, talents, and accomplishments in a professional value proposition. Once created, you can use that unique statement about yourself to guide you when you develop your resume, social profile, and cover letters.

Accept the help you’re offered

Of course, if you’re offered outplacement support, please take advantage of those services. Transition experts at outplacement organizations are there to help you and get you connected with people that are subject matter experts in the area of job search.

Related content: How Does Career Coaching Work?

We find that most people, while they may have had success in their careers, they're often not experts when it comes to the job search itself. It's just not a topic that's addressed on a daily basis at work! It's often a topic that individuals have not thought about since college. So, taking advantage of any outplacement services is an opportunity to benefit from expert advice and best practices and to have someone to bounce things off of for free.

A few benefits from contemporary outplacement services include the ability to:

  • Address your resume from a strategic vantage point, ensuring you’ve identified valuable skills, accomplishments, and experience relevant in today’s market.
  • Receive coaching around job search strategy and networking to learn how to present yourself in the most effective manner possible to gain the biggest advantage in your search.
  • Develop a personal branding statement that truly represents your talents and captures who you are in a succinct and relatable way.
  • Maintain forward momentum to avoid stalls and roadblocks in your search.

Once you’ve met with your coach and professional resume writer, you’ll be able to leverage your branding materials and messaging effectively throughout your job search. The services are always free to the impacted employees, so there is very little downside to taking take advantage of outplacement if it's made available to you.

Identify your strengths and accomplishments

Identifying accomplishments can be challenging for people who feel like they go to work, do their job, and come home. Often people are valued contributors to a company, but don’t understand how to communicate those accomplishments – or they feel like they just don’t have any worth mentioning. When identifying accomplishments, think of them in three different ways:

#1 Accomplishments that show scope of work

Scope of work accomplishments are the basic facts associated with the job. For example, somebody in a support position might say, "Okay, I supported 26 staff people in the corporate office. I was an assistant to 120 field locations around the U.S. or around the globe." Somebody else might say that, "I managed a client roster of 200 accounts." These are all the facts, the data, associated with the job, they're indisputable and verifiable.
 
#2 Accomplishments that are accolades

Accolades are times when you've been recognized for doing a good job. And in some cases, this is like employee of the month because you did something special that month. It could be customer service representative of the month because you attained some level of accomplishment within the job or you did something extra in the position. Some companies have recognition programs like a special idea of the week recognition program. You get these types of accolades by simply going out of your way to do a really good job in the daily work that you do.
 
#3 Traditional ideas of accomplishments

These are the things that are quantifiable and an area where you improved something, or you changed something for the better. Some people might say, "I saved in a $7 million account from leaving the organization after rectifying a long-standing issue." Somebody else might say that they reduced turnaround time of support tickets in an IT position from two weeks to three days. Somebody else might say that they introduced five new programs to an organization, which resulted in X number of dollars of revenue.
 
There are a multitude of ways that we can establish our accomplishments by showing the scope, by sharing accolades, and also sharing the quantifiable improvements that we've made to the business.

Related content: How to Land Your Dream Job – Start With a Professional Value Proposition

When you get stuck

If you get stuck, think about a few projects you’ve worked on. Once you’ve identified some memorable activities ask yourself a few key questions to remember and discover your various accomplishments around those assignments.

Questions you can ask yourself include:

  • What were the quantifiable results of those projects?
  • Did you meet project goals?
  • What challenges did you overcome?
  • Did you improve processes or quality?
  • Were you able to save money or time?
  • Did you bring in new business?

Most people are evaluated on specific performance metrics associated with their roles. Look at your performance against those metrics and compare your accomplishments or your achievements of those metrics as related to your counterparts at work. Were you the number one salesperson? Were you wanted the top 10 customer service representatives? Did you close the most claims in a year in an insurance position? All of these things can be questions that you start to ask yourself, to remind yourself just how good you are at your work and what you've been able to achieve for the benefit of the company.
 

Building a career doing gigs

The gig economy is an area that's getting a lot of attention right now. And we're seeing statistics everywhere that prove how fast it’s growing. There's a lot of studies coming out from various industry organizations saying that people in the gig economy number about 35% of the entire workforce. And at RiseSmart, our own job seeker study results agree with that number. We've surveyed our own participants of our program and we have found that about 32% to 36% of our participants are actually funneling themselves into the gig economy as part of their career transition.

Related content: 4 and ½ Things to Consider When Joining the Gig Economy

There is no debate that the flexible workforce is a large part of our work world and it probably does affect just about every type of position and every industry out there right now. The gig economy used to be limited to a few different types of positions, but it really has exploded and affects just about every industry. For job seekers in transition, entering the gig economy is one way to fill the financial gap while they wait for the right position at the right company. In the meantime, being part of the flexible workforce offers individuals a way to explore different roles, industries, and types of opportunities. Sometimes, these short-term contracts become long-term employment opportunities.

Final thoughts

Having your job taken away is not welcomed news for most people. Even though you may not be in control of the situation, you are in control in your response to it and your next steps. Follow these ideas to put yourself on a positive road to your next career step.

To hear more on the topic and the full episode of "The Career Confidante,” click here.