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Be level-headed when laid off

Tips on what to do if you suddenly find yourself out of a job

By Elaine Varelas
December 17, 2008
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If you find yourself out of a job, and taken by surprise, don't do anything drastic!

1. First listen. Listen to what human resources has to say about your benefits. Are your health benefits continued? Will you get severance? Will you get career transition support? Take any materials you are provided home with you to thoroughly review before you sign anything. Some letters will encourage you to review with an attorney.

2. Don't bad mouth the company, and try to avoid any visible anger, and recognize that the organization you are leaving may be your best source for new employment through referrals and references. Most of us will be upset, angry, afraid, and sad – just not at the organization. Express these emotions in a supportive environment.

3. Make sure to utilize all the benefits of outplacement – sooner rather than later. They can help you develop a good "public statement." You do not want to call all your best contacts, friends and family and say you got fired. People understand position eliminations and reductions in force – which don’t have such a negative stigma.

4. Write a great resume. Resumes have changed over the years, and you will have to stand up to stiff competition, and web-based searches. Use a career coach to help you if you don't have outplacement support. You might use a one stop career center, your college or university alumni or career services office, or a professional in private practice.

5. Network! Help your contacts become your best sales force. Make sure they know what your targets are, and they can help refer you to the right people and places. Thanks each person you network with and ask how you can help them! Stay motivated – this is not a short term process.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

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