We hope you'll never need this step-by-step guide to surviving a layoff. But if you do, following these steps will put you on your way to a new opportunity.

1. Negotiate a Good Deal

Layoff Checklist GraphicIt may be possible to negotiate at least some terms of your layoff. Employers often budget substantial funds for such purposes, but exiting employees don't realize they can negotiate or they are too traumatized to ask. As soon as you hear the news, cover these points:
  • Is your employer willing to pay for the services of an outplacement firm, resume writer or a career counselor?
  • When will your insurance end? When will you receive outstanding bonuses, expense reimbursements or stock options?
  • Will your manager give you a reference?
  • Are you eligible for rehire, part-time or temporary work at the company?
  • If you need time to negotiate effectively, ask if you can respond to the layoff offer within 24 hours.
  • When you leave the building, be sure to take any letters of commendation, copies of performance reviews and other documentation with you.
2. Secure Your Financial Position You should plan to live on severance, unemployment and any other income you can muster for three to six months.
  • Immediately apply for unemployment benefits, as there's often a awaiting period before you can collect.
  • Seek part-time or temporary work to help meet basic living expenses. This will preserve your savings and keep you from jumping at the first job offer that comes along.
  • Eliminate unnecessary discretionary expenses. Reduce fixed expenses.
  • Visit the doctor and dentist while your insura>nce remains in force.
  • Do your lenders offer the option of skipping payments? Find out, even if you think it won't be necessary.
  • See if you can finance any tuition through student loans.
  • Research any help that might be available through local nonprofits. Many provide services from debt renegotiation to wardrobe advice to unemployed members of the community.
3. Create a Support Structure Surround yourself with a network of supportive individuals and organizations that can provide everything from emotional sustenance to references, job leads, professional advice and financial aid.
  • Don't overlook local and state retraining programs, or training allowances for displaced workers.
  • Investigate local layoff lounges, support groups and pink slip parties.
  • Local libraries and unemployment offices offer job postings, free Internet access and courses on resume creation and interviewing skills.
4. Research the Market Especially if recent changes have permanently altered your career path, a complete career or industry change might be in order. So:
  • Complete an inventory of your skills, education and experience to identify a full range of possible career paths and uncover gaps in your resume. Now's the time to take career interest surveys and search online occupational resources to find areas that can use your base of skills.
  • Enroll in courses and seminars, read books, work with a mentor or serve as an intern to acquire the knowledge and experience you'll need to compete in a new field.
  • Talk with business leaders, CFOs, career counselors, professors, friends and colleagues about employment trends, your skills and the local market to uncover possible new industries and jobs.
  • Read articles and blogs from career experts.
  • Use news alerts to follow local companies, events and employment trends.
  • Develop a list of careers and industries that interest you, and a list of preferred employers.
5. Launch Your Search
  • Create several versions of your resume targeted toward the jobs and industries on your list.
  • Create cover letter and thank-you letter templates, so you can make changes on the fly.
  • Set-up an e-mail address dedicated to your search. Change voicemail greetings, so inquiring employers aren't greeted by an inappropriate message.
  • Use a multidimensional search strategy that includes job boards, recruiters, alumni placement centers, networking events, professional networking sites and job fairs.
  • Market your resume and skills to employers on your target list, even if no job openings are posted.
  • Create a Web page or Web resume.
  • Continuously improve your job search and interviewing skills by reading articles and books.
  • Set daily contact goals and consider creating a blog, newsletter or e-mail to update your support group about the progress of your search.
6. Follow-Up and Resilience
  • Follow-up on every resume you submit by sending a thank you note or e-mail. Also follow up on every contact you make. Continue to follow-up until you receive a rejection letter or move to the next stage in the selection process.
  • Share leads along the way with your contacts to encourage them to reciprocate.
  • As you continue, seek support from others.
  • Remember you will be successful. It's a matter of time and effort.
7. Thank Supporters Once you land a job, be sure to thank the members of your support team and reciprocate when called upon, because you never know when you might need them again. -- Leslie Stevens-Huffman