81. What to Do if You’re Laid Off

April 6, 2023

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The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

You’ve been laid off… now what?

Being laid off can feel incredibly demoralizing. One moment you’re logging hours working on projects with people you spend a chunk of your life with, and the next your computer is locked and you’ve been called into a meeting with HR.

Know Your Rights and What to Ask For

The first thing you should do once you’re laid off is reach out to the all-seeing google and search what rights you have as someone laid off in your specific state. There are, of course, federal protections, but the laws at the local level might be different or broader.

You’ll need to get comfortable asking questions about your layoff process. Here are some questions you might consider asking your HR representative or boss:

  1. What kind of severance might I receive?

  2. When will my health insurance benefits end?

  3. Will I be able to use my banked PTO?

  4. Will my non-compete still be enforceable?

  5. Am I able to contact my superiors for references?

  6. Will I be able to apply for the company in the future?

Take Care of Yourself

If you have the opportunity to take a little time, whether it’s a day or a week, or a month for some self-care before diving into job interviews, we highly recommend taking it. Being laid off can feel traumatic, and mental health is more important than ever when you’re going through big life changes. 

This might look like giving yourself a few days before you start updating your resume or building in a phone-free day at the beach or in your favorite coffee shop. Calling a friend. Whatever is going to remind you that you are a person who is so much more than just their job.

Use Your Network and Be Bold

One of the best things you can do when you decide you’re ready to go back on the job-hunting train is getting super-specific. This looks like writing down the things you want for your next job. Get super specific –– what kind of office culture do you want? Do you want remote work, in-person, or hybrid? What kind of boss do you want to work under? Is it your turn to be the boss? 

Lay-offs are great times to re-evaluate your career, and many even pivot into new careers because they finally have the space to do so. Some start small businesses for the first time. 

Moving on after a layoff is hard, and it may affect the way you feel about your work for years to come –– but know there are many who have gone before you, and we’re cheering you along. Check out the rest of the episode for more information on how to recover from a lay-off, and check out the resources we’ve put together below.

Government Resources:

Unemployment Help
W.A.R.N. Act


COBRA Information

Helpful Articles:

What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Been Laid Off

Getting Laid Off? Know Your Rights

Free Career Resources:

How to Land the Job When You Don’t Meet the Requirements Webinar
Scripts: How to Negotiate Bills and Interest

Negotiation Workshop

Negotiation E-Book

Money Personality Quiz

Career Episodes:

Job Hopping to Increase Your Income with Cinneah El-Amin

Finding Your Career Purpose with Ashley Stahl

Nailing the Interview

Getting “Un-Stuck” with Kahlil Dumas
Negotiate with Confidence

Her First $100K Career Products:

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Cover Letter Template

Job Interview Overview
Get all 3 and save 10% –– Job Interview Guide

Navigating the Negotiation Course


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[00:00:00] Tori Dunlap: Hello, Financial Feminist, welcome back. I’m so excited to see you. I’m not so excited to talk about today’s topic, not because I’m not excited to, uh, do my best to give you some really good information, but because it’s just not a fun one, layoffs is not a fun one. Um, before we get into it though, a little bit of house.

[00:00:19] Keeping as always, you know that you can leave us a voicemail. This is actually a perfect opportunity, uh, if after you listen to this episode, after you do a little bit of processing, if you were laid off, if, uh, you were impacted by a lot of what’s happening right now, please feel free to leave us a voicemail.

[00:00:36] Tell us about your experience. Ask us any questions you have. We would love to, uh, comfort you during this time, but also be able to give you any additional resources. You can also, subscribe on your preferred podcasting platform. We’re gonna be doing a lot more episodes that are very topical about things that are happening in this moment that will also hopefully serve people for, well, really years to come.

[00:00:58] So, uh, you don’t wanna miss an episode. Stay tuned for all of that. Okay, let’s talk about layoffs. Okay. Everything feels really volatile right now, right? Um, we don’t know the state of the economy. We never know fully, the state of the economy and thinking about layoffs might not feel like a fun thing, but the only certainty in life is change.

[00:01:20] Ooh, my podcast producer wrote that, and I just read it, and I hadn’t read it before. The only certainty in life is change. . Oh God. Okay. I’m just gonna need to, I just need to like walk into the ocean after that, I guess. I guess that’s true. This is off to a great story.

[00:01:38] The only certainty in life has changed okay, but this episode is also not gonna be all encompassing. Uh, we’re gonna link a ton of resources in our show notes. There’s gonna be a mix of articles, links to government websites, additional episodes that we’ve done on your career, on job interviews, on all of that fun stuff, tons of other free resources.

[00:01:55] So please, This is not the end of your learning about layoffs or processing layoffs. We have a bunch more resources. This is just like your fun little starter guide. Okay. Quickly before we, uh, talk about layoffs more in depth, let’s talk about like the three things that could potentially happen to you.

[00:02:13] and your future at the A company one is you can get fired, right? This typically means you did something , right? Or at least a company thinks you did something. Layoffs are that they did something , the company did something right? And the third one we saw, especially during the early days of Covid, was getting furloughed, which means that you’re still employed but you can’t work or make money. Sometimes you get to stay on the health plan, sometimes you don’t. That one’s a little weird. So fired. You probably did something, layoffs.

[00:02:48] They probably did something furloughed. This weird in between of that. So let’s talk about. You getting laid off. You just got laid off. It fucking sucks. Here’s what we need to know first. I need you to know your rights as an employee. You gotta get to know your rights when you’re laid off. . We wanna know how much compensation you’re due when things like health benefits end.

[00:03:15] Each state has their own rights. Some are federal rights. This is the best time to whip out the old Google and plug in quote, what are my rights after I’ve been laid off in Texas, Florida, Washington, Oregon, et cetera. You also should typically have someone at your company that you can ask these questions of, but also, please make sure you’re doing your own.

[00:03:39] We want to inquire about severance. Severance is them paying you basically . I like calling it like an apology payment. They’re like, hi, I am so sorry I laid you off. Here’s a little bit of money to like tide you over. Right. . We need to ask about benefits. We need to ask about, uh, 401k. Do we still get to contribute to the 401k?

[00:04:00] When does that stop? If we get a four oh match, does that still kick in? When does that all happen? Right? If you’re not given a clear picture, ask about all of this. I wanna always say to you that there are never stupid questions when it comes to personal finance, but especially during times where you might be feeling stressed and you don’t know what is offered to you.

[00:04:19] I need you to. It is a thousand percent appropriate to ask about an extension of benefits, especially if this is a swift layoff. If this happened really fast, if you were fucking working at Twitter, this happened really fast, right? So ask, negotiate for an extension of benefits and please know your rights.

[00:04:44] Additionally, asking for severance is common, and again, even a small amount of severance can help make the transition. Some other questions that might fit your situation if you signed a non-compete that you wouldn’t work for another company in the same industry.

[00:04:59] Ask about whether that’s still going to be enforced. I am not a lawyer, but I will also say that non-competes rarely hold up in court. Do with that information what you will. We also need to ask about any unused pto, especially if, uh, your company banks pto, meaning that you can like cash it out. My first company, you could cash out your PTO o if you didn’t use it, which was a whole other conversation about how they incentivized us not to use pto, but you could literally like cash out your pto, say, okay, I’m getting paid for this day off, as opposed to taking it as a day.

[00:05:39] We also wanna ask about references, especially if you had a good relationship with leadership. If you had a good relationship with your coworkers, other people that you were working with. And depending on your situation, you might actually qualify for unemployment benefits.

[00:05:53] These are determined on a state by state basis, and therefore there are a good amount of requirements. So make sure you’re reading through the resources your state gives you. So number one, know your rights as an employee. Know what you’re entitled to know, how the company is compensating you because they.

[00:06:10] be compensating you in some way. All right. Number two, I need you to get a little comfortable being uncomfortable and take stock of your financial situation. Do you have an emergency fund? How much is that emergency fund? If you were given a severance, what are we gonna do with that severance? Does it give you any extra time?

[00:06:35] It might feel scary to look at your finances right now, but knowing exactly how much wiggle room you have to work with, what is going on in your financial life in this next phase, it’s going to be really helpful once your job hunting begins. And if you don’t have enough to get by while your job hunting, you might need to consider part-time work or even contract work to help supplement, which brings me to this.

[00:06:58] It is rough out there, right? And you gotta do what you gotta do to get. . I know it might feel awful to go from a nine to five corporate job to having a job that’s part-time or a different situation than one that might look good on your resume, different than the field you might wanna be in. It might be a job that’s kind of like a little embarrassing or might be a little shameful for you in your head, but if you’re facing this, I need you to know that you’re a fucking rockstar for your.

[00:07:31] And, uh, to quote Eleanor Roosevelt, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. So know that you gotta do what you gotta do to get by. Okay, so we need to take stock. Do we have an emergency fund? How much can we cover? How much is in that emergency fund? If you were given severance, what are we gonna do with that severance?

[00:07:50] Does it give you a little bit of extra time? We also wanna take stock of our finances, including making sure we’re literally taken care of, physic. . If you have lost health insurance, you may qualify for a special enrollment period at healthcare.gov or cobra. COBRA is a program that allows you to keep the group health insurance that you are on at the job.

[00:08:12] You were just laid off from under certain circumstances, we’ll link more resources to this. I have seen though, when I had my fun little, uh, situation where I was leaving the last job before I was taking her first a hundred K full-time, I was, uh, I had the ability to go on Cobra and let me tell you that this was gonna be like a $1,500 a month kind of health insurance thing.

[00:08:36] Um, which one told me how lovely the health insurance I had was that I was leaving, which was a whole fun existential crisis, but also I was just not comfortable paying that amount of. . So please look into if Cobra is the right thing for you. There might be a similar health plan or even, you know, a health plan that just covers you but is way cheaper that’s out there.

[00:08:58] Again, healthcare.gov is where you want to go. Um, I would also say though, if you have a preexisting condition, if you have something going on health-wise right now, you might just have to pay for Cobra, right? Because you can’t have the transitionary period right now. Take stock of your finances, get a little comfortable being uncomfortable.

[00:09:18] We have multiple episodes about how to review your finances, how to save money, and how to navigate, uh, times of economic or personal uncertainty. We’ll link ’em in the show notes.

[00:09:35] So number one, we are knowing our rights as an employee.

[00:09:37] Number two, we are taking stock of our financial situation. Number three, if you have some time, please take it. The mental load of getting laid off is a. Uh, it’s kind of traumatic, depending on how severe it is. It, it’s , it’s a source of trauma for a lot of people. If you can even just take a day to process what’s happening before throwing yourself back into, you know, the job hunt and navigating all of that, give yourself some kindness.

[00:10:12] Give yourself some rest. . I know this isn’t a luxury for everybody, but any amount of self-care you can do in the next few weeks or months while you’re looking for a new opportunity is going to be so important. I think it’s also common when you’ve been laid off to think, uh, it was a personal failing, right?

[00:10:31] Like I failed. It was my fault. They wouldn’t have laid me off if I was a spectacular, hardworking person. the answer is likely no, that’s not true. Layoffs are extremely complicated as someone who does own her own business, uh, and knock on wood has never had to lay anybody off. I know that, uh, very, very rarely does it come down to work performance or, uh, how much I like the person.

[00:11:00] It’s literally just preservation of the company. And that’s really hard to accept sometimes. But please know that this doesn’t really have anything to do with you, like we talked about before, right? Layoffs has everything to do with a company or what they believe the economic state of the world is. It is not your own personal or professional failing.

[00:11:23] Please offer yourself a lot of grace right now. All right, number four is when you’re ready, let’s start reaching. It’s a great time to update your LinkedIn to pull out those old business cards from a networking event and to share with your network what is happening? Posts that I see on LinkedIn are getting like so much traction right now when people are really honest.

[00:11:47] Like again, that shame of like, oh my God, I was laid off. I don’t want anybody to know. Can actually be used to your advantage. So for example, I was let go from XYZ company where I doubled profits on every project I worked on, including in this specific example, right? I’m looking to work on a digital marketing team as a marketing manager, coordinator, whatever, use keywords.

[00:12:07] Look at how we just outlined that, right? I was laid off from X company, I was kick-ass at said company, and here’s what I’m looking for now. We wanna get specific about the industry we want to work in. We wanna get specific about, again, the, the performance and the, uh, value that we added. The more specific you get, the more likely someone from that industry will come along the post.

[00:12:29] This is also again, a great time that if you do have connections on LinkedIn, if you do have people in your network who you know could connect you to somebody that you want to speak with, leverage that connection. I will say there’s two, uh, especially amazing times to be on LinkedIn. One is, hi, I’m a student , right?

[00:12:48] I’m a student and I’m looking for 15 minutes of your time to ask questions. And, uh, again, unfortunately, but fortunately now is I got laid off. Can you help me? We also wanna make sure our resume and LinkedIn is up to date. Add whatever relevant information you can. Like I said before, get really specific.

[00:13:07] Talk about the tangible ways you helped the company or added value. Uh, for some, for example, something I did at one of my corporate jobs was I instituted a stan
dup meeting in the mornings to help boost morale and to build community. It was something I was able to talk about in my interviews. It wasn’t.

[00:13:22] you know, I increased our social media growth X percent, but it, like hu made a huge difference in the community and the collaboration of the company. And especially for it being a small company, it made a huge impact. We have, uh, a job interview guide, uh, that has been completely revamped for 2023. We have, uh, a resume template, cover letter templates, how to answer frequently asked questions.

[00:13:45] In a job I. How to structure your LinkedIn to stand out. We will link all of that down below in the show notes, and we also have an incredible one hour free workshop called How to Land the Job When you Don’t meet the requirements for people who are either graduating college or transitioning industries, or maybe just applying for a job that you feel you’re slightly underqualified for how to stand out in that job interview process.

[00:14:09] We’ll also link it in the show notes. 

[00:14:13] So next, if we’re thinking about a career change, this actually might be the best timing ever. I’ve had countless friends and, uh, even some team members of H FK that came here during a career change after a layoff. Hello, podcast producer, Kristen. And sometimes layoffs can be a sort of blessing in disguise.

[00:14:31] And please know it’s also okay if you’re just like, no, it’s not a blessing in disguise. This just sucks. So if you’ve been laid off, it might actually be a great time to reevaluate what. What are you looking for? Where do you wanna work?

[00:14:43] What kind of job do you wanna do? What kind of field do you wanna work in? And even if it’s not in a new field, maybe you just had a boss that you fucking hate it, or you had, uh, tasks constantly assigned to you that were out of your scope. Maybe you did a lot of non-pro promotable work tasks. We’ve talked about that on a previous episode.

[00:15:00] Write this all down, like journal about it, the good, the bad, the ugly. And use that to help craft a wishlist for your next. What went well, what didn’t go so well, what really didn’t go so well, right? And what do we wanna look for as we progress? It’s a little bit different. I quit under my own volition, but I talk about in the first, uh, or the introduction of my book, Financial Feminist, that I took a very toxic job that I had to quit after three months without another job lined up.

[00:15:28] And I spent three months unemployed. And I was able to do that because I had an emergency fund. But also I gave myself enough time to not just. a job, but a job that felt like a good fit for me at that point in my career. and by taking time and by like journaling and reflecting about what I wanted, I was able to be really intentional about choosing my next career opportunity as opposed to just like whatever came along.

[00:15:54] Now I understand, again, if you’ve been laid off, it’s a little bit different, but do everything you can to reflect on what does make sense for you. Where do you see yourself? What uh, kind of environment do you work best in? And if there was some toxicity or some bullshit at your previous job, reflect on that.

[00:16:11] Understand that you can and will find better. Finally. We will give you a bunch of other resources for after you’ve been laid off. We’re putting together an extensive list of resources on our show notes page for this episode, including additional articles and advice from other personal finance and career experts.

[00:16:29] We’re linking some of our popular career episodes. We’re giving you, again, links to our job interview package and our free workshops, so please take advantage of all of that. We’ll also put a link in the. To our free script for negotiating bills. This is a really good thing to do, especially when you’ve been laid off.

[00:16:46] But really anytime, it’s easier to convince somebody to give you a discount on things like your car insurance or your phone bill if you can call them and say, hi, I’m going through a period of economic turmoil. Right? I just got laid off. What kind of flexible options do you have for.

[00:17:05] We have a whole script, a whole step-by-step process that’s linked in the show notes that’s free that you can take advantage of. I wanna wrap this episode by again saying, this is not a moral failing. This is a really sucky situation. that unfortunately, but also comfortingly happens to literally millions of people all of the time.

[00:17:26] So if this is you, if this is maybe somebody you love, feel free to, uh, again, continue deep diving into our resources. Share this episode with the people in your community, maybe other, uh, coworkers who are also laid off, but know that you are a, not alone, and B, you will get. You will get through this and you will learn to navigate it, and you might look back, hopefully you’ll look back someday and be like, cool.

[00:17:50] That was a really incredible time that built some of my resilience, even if it absolutely sucked. We are always here to support you on your financial journey, on your career journey, navigating all of this, especially during times of economic volatility. We appreciate you being here. We appreciate your trust in us.

[00:18:07] We are cheering you on every step of the way, and we would love, if you’re willing and able to share some stories about what’s going on with you, about any questions you have, please feel free to leave us a voicemail. Thank you as always, Financial Feminist. We hope this was helpful for you and we’ll talk to you.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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