(3-minute read)

Unless you work for yourself, the odds are good that, at some point, you’ll be laid off. It may happen during your first job or years into a career. Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken with three people-with little in common.

One is in their first post-college job.

A second is a mid-level manager.

A third is in a senior leadership position.

They work in different business sectors, and each claims that they have contributed to the success of their company.

All were recently laid off.

With year-end pressure to project higher profits, greater efficiency and improved P & L, senior leaders are forced to deemphasize employee performance and focus on their balance sheets. This leads to 4Q job eliminations, reorganizations and layoffs.

Shift Your Mindset

As humans, we continuously strive for approval. A layoff affects us deeply. It strikes at the heart of two foundational principles: our senses of safety and self-worth. But it can also be an opportunity for reflection and a career transition.

The transition begins with reacting “well” in the moment. A shift in mindset now to think of the event as a PAUSE, not an END, will help you manage the moment better.

Here’s how to make a layoff work for you.


Plan for the Moment

Even with no evidence of a restructure, start thinking and planning what you’ll do and say at the moment you’re informed. The right reaction sets you up for a productive exit package negotiation.

Ask yourself…… “If I get laid off tomorrow, what’s the first thing I’ll say?”

Sure, you’ll be surprised, and probably pissed off. But a thoughtful, empathetic response will go far to win you the support of the people with whom you’ll be negotiating.

“Given my excellent performance reviews, I was not expecting this. But I understand how our business works. The company has always been fair. When can we talk about next steps?”

Ask yourself…… “If I get laid off tomorrow, how will I spend the day?”

Have a plan in place. Keeping your confidence high and your self worth intact is an important first step in figuring out what’s next.

Give yourself time to be upset then spend the rest of the day being nice to yourself. If you are not going to meet with your employment lawyer, do something you enjoy.

Ask yourself…… “If I get laid off tomorrow, what’s my dream job?”

It’s never too early to think about how you would work toward landing that position.



Talk with your peers and find out as much as you can about exit packages. Every company is different, but packages can include differing levels of severance, stock vesting, health insurance, reimbursement for unused vacation/sick leave and job-hunting help.

If you believe you’re worth more than what’s being offered, put together your pitch. Start with specific examples of your “above and beyond” performance. Wherever possible, use metrics.

“It’s November and my annual sales numbers have exceeded expectations in every quarter. I think its fair to include my sales bonus within my exit package.” 

Don’t wait to negotiate. Employers have the most flexibility at the beginning of a layoff cycle. Depending on your level of seniority and the complexity of the package, consider hiring an experienced employment attorney to facilitate the negotiation.



With your exit package secured, take a pause to reflect on what’s happened. This will help you solidify what you are looking for in your next position/employer. Get creative. Think outside of your current industry. Identify skills that are valuable and transferable. Combine your passions with your skills and see what emerges.

Be Strategic

Talk with people you respect and admire. Ask them for their advice. From there you can narrow your options and determine if you should learn a new skill in advance of your job search. Your network can point you in the right direction.


Don’t be Afraid

You are part of a big club. Your future employer will understand that your layoff is not a personal mark against you.

Being laid off is no one’s idea of a good time. It’s not something anyone REALLY wants to think about. But, it’s somewhat predictable and can be planned for.

Handled well, a layoff can be part of a successful career path.


Has someone passed this along to you? Sign up here!
My career transition and leadership blog will be delivered to your inbox
the first Tuesday of every month.

Thanks for reading.
If there is a topic you would like to explore,
send me Email and we’ll cover it in 2019.