First-aid guide for the laid-off person


Paolo Kernahan

WONDERING what to do after being laid off?

There are probably a few bottles of wine around the place that could benefit from some attention. For the teetotallers there's always panic, one might suppose.

Naturally, getting laid off can be a terrifying experience. When you're locked out of your work e-mail account or lured into a poorly disguised "exit meeting" it's only human to feel winded.

People who've been jettisoned by employers grapple with financial insecurity – the house, the car, the kids and the life that the job built, threatens to topple. The axed agonise over the febrile job market they've been shoved back into. If you're in your mid-forties and beyond, those fears are amplified.

The smothering dread of getting laid off is something with which I have more than a passing acquaintance. In my earlier career as a television journalist, I was laid off – twice.

Working for two television stations that were shuttered within years of each other must have been some sort of cosmic convergence. There was no time to discern grand design from indiscriminate cruelty. Bills were mounting and I had a mouth to feed (my own).

Similar anguish is playing out in economies both muscular and anaemic. In a post-pandemic world, economic uncertainty and market convulsions are driving some job cuts. Layoffs are spreading through the tech sector in the US. Roughly 17,000 workers were sent home this year. There are ominous signs the contagion of staff-trimming in tech is spreading to Canada.

This wave of job cuts is quite different from the blood-letting of the pandemic.

Today's layoffs are attributed to slowing business growth, rising labour costs, and the somewhat nebulous catchphrase term of "changing economic conditions."

Many "restructuring" companies admit to overestimating growth projections. For those fortunate enough to get respectable severance packages the value of that compensation is perishable. Billowing inflation is diluting purchasing power. The parachutes that staff-shedding companies are doling out have holes in them. So there isn't spare time for contemplative languor among the freshly unaffiliated.

One of the first moves any unemployed person should make is a dispassionate audit of expenses. Mercilessly swing a scythe through anything that isn't necessary. Entertainment subscriptions, for example, silently siphon money you can't spare at the moment.

The employees Netflix let go have surely cut their Netflix subscriptions.

Dining out should also be abolished in favour of home cooking. With gas prices through the roof, you should consider ditching the weekly drive to the mega-grocery. Instead, you can walk to neighbourhood food shops with possibly better pricing.

In your job search, taking up an opportunity outside of your geographic location is rarely a first choice. Still, it's useful to explore job opportunities in other countries even as you try to ferret out something closer to home. This approach isn't for everyone, but if you don't have family commitments then postings in external markets could be a great way of getting a fresh start.

There's also remote work, with countless adverts online for social media content managers, content creators, and virtual assistant gigs that could be a worthwhile fit. If you've been laid off you might also think about switching careers altogether – doing something that's a complete deviation from your background and training.

Recently, I read a post from someone who was cut loose from Tesla; a casualty of the company's anti-WFH policy. That former employee has gone from talent recruitment to firefighter training in addition to running a small business.

Then there's that, starting a business.

Hanging out a shingle in a downturn can feel like sailing into a dead (or dread) wind. If, however, you measure market demand, and hammer together a comprehensive marketing plan, starting your own business (with sufficient capitalisation, of course) can be a rewarding next step.

With the broad availability of learning resources online, transforming a kernel of an idea into a viable business is more practical than it's ever been.

Even if you haven't been laid off from work, it's just common sense to prepare for any eventuality. Set up an emergency fund, and keep your ear to the ground for developments both good and bad in your industry.

Job markets are typically defined by convulsions broken by moments of relative calm.

In the haze of the moment, it's difficult to accept that there is life after the lay-off.

Getting to it may be tough and take some time. It might not look anything like you imagined. Think of it as a high-wire walk – just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. High winds will occasionally wobble your resolve. Eventually, though, you'll get across this experience.


"First-aid guide for the laid-off person"

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