Career & Finance

How to Keep Your Career, Finances, and Sanity In Check After a Layoff

a step-by-step guide
Source: @matilda-wormwood | Pexels
Source: @matilda-wormwood | Pexels

I thought my toxic habit of doom-scrolling would disappear after the pandemic. You know, when it was no longer necessary for me to seek social stimulation through my screen—and I could connect with *real* humans in *real* life. I just sort of assumed my digital dependency would once again fall back into a healthy range. But this being the world that it is political chaos, Taylor Swift’s many Easter eggs, and ACOTAR #BookTok royalty, all brought back The Endless Scroll™. But even with the appeal of these topics dangling in front of me, doom scrolling didn’t become relevant again until recently—when an industry we once considered all but impenetrable was entirely upended.

I’m talking tech, of course. The tech sector has seen a recent wave of massive staffing cuts at high-profile companies, including Meta, Google, LinkedIn, and Microsoft. But these giants aren’t the only organizations turning to layoffs to cut costs—workforce reductions are happening across industries.

If you’ve been impacted, know this: you’re not alone. And while the experience of being laid off can bring with it financial anxiety and emotional trauma, there are actionable steps you can take today to not only open up opportunities but take care of yourself along the way.

A low-down on the labor market

In short, what’s happening in the labor market is a bit… confusing. And while some headlines might make you believe that a recession is imminent, there is still some promise of a strong labor market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated in January that over the last three months, nearly 900,000 new jobs were added, which is the fastest three-month period of job growth since March 2023. Amidst interest rate increases that analysts predicted would see higher unemployment rates, “the strength of the job market appeared to give consumers the financial wherewithal to maintain reasonable spending levels,” U.S. Bank stated, which, in turn, fueled demand for workers.

However, in an effort to cut costs, many companies are turning to layoffs. And while the tech industry accounts for many of them, tech-adjacent and non-tech companies are laying off employees as well.

Classic brand Estée Lauder announced that it would lay off up to 3,100 jobs to support their restructuring plan. A company we once assumed was impenetrable due to its pandemic- and remote work-fueled need, Zoom reported 1300 layoffs at the beginning of last year and is continuing to cut jobs even now. In the media industry, Vice Media plans to lay off several hundred employees and no longer publish material on, and Sports Illustrated has severely diminished its staff leaving the fate of the magazine unknown. Instacart, Wayfair, Audible, and even influencer-favorite Rent the Runway have all been affected—and of course, countless more.

Record-high inflation rates, the possibility of a looming recession, and a tumultuous stock market all seem to be contributing to the companies’ decisions. For the sake of brevity, I won’t be diving into the complexities of why recent layoffs have disproportionately impacted tech workers. However, much of it dates back to how the industry was built and initially funded.

What to do if you’ve been laid off

Many of us, early in our career journeys, are experiencing the impact of being laid off well before we could get comfortable as a young professional. (If you haven’t experienced it yet, the transition from college to work life is jarring!) After the initial shock wears off, you’re likely wondering: what do I do now? Below are resources, tips, and tangible advice to support you professionally and financially, and to help you take the best care of yourself right now.

What to do: professionally

Review your documents and benefits

1. Review your documents and benefits. When you’re laid off, you’ll receive an official letter from your employer. Review this and any initial contracts you signed when joining the company. Reviewing these documents gives you a full scope of your rights as an employee—including severance pay and benefits like unused PTO/sick time.

Tip: Talk to other employees who have been impacted to understand what others are receiving and asking for. This can help you in negotiations (that’s right, negotiate!).

Request a letter of recommendation

This is a key next step to help you in your job search. Ask your supervisor and/or department lead if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you. In their letter, they’ll speak to your work ethic, skills, and any major accomplishments you contributed to the organization.

Update your resume

Of course, you’ll want to include your most recent experience at this company. However, now could be the best time to overhaul your resume. (That’s right, the resume-building tips you learned in college might not cut it anymore.) For what really to include in each section of your resume, read this.

What to do: financially

File for unemployment

This is perhaps the obvious, but most daunting part of the financial process post-layoff. Filing online is going to be the (relatively) easiest approach. File an unemployment claim with your state—a simple Google search of your state name and “unemployment” will get to the right page. If you’ve never filed before and aren’t sure where to start, provides comprehensive resources tailored to your situation and state.

Get your health insurance squared away

If your employer-provided your health insurance, you’ll need to research alternatives. If possible, discuss your options with the organization’s HR lead. Temporary insurance options include:

Source: @samson-katt | Pexels

Make any necessary spending changes

Now is the time to review your budget. As you begin cutting your spending costs, first identify the obvious luxuries. Food delivery, any subscriptions you don’t use, clothing, meals and drinks out, etc. You’re likely experiencing a lot of financial shock, so don’t overwhelm yourself. Pare back to necessities and look for ways you can shift your lifestyle as a result. Opt for Netflix with your girlies in lieu of a GNO. Take up cooking as a hobby and challenge yourself to get creative with what you have. There are many ways that reducing your spending can create opportunities for change and growth in your life.

What to do: self-care

Create a space for your feelings

I’ll say it again: what just happened to you is a shocking—and for many people—traumatic experience. Layoffs take place through no fault of your own, and it can be overwhelming to take in the event itself and the many ways it’ll change your life in the short term. You’re allowed to feel those feelings. You’re allowed to cry in a safe space. And you’re allowed to pour your heart out in your journal or take your time snuggling up on the couch in your pajamas.

Rest today, make a game plan tomorrow

Similar to the tip above, it’s important to give yourself the time and space to rest. With the emotions this experience has brought up, you’re likely feeling a lot of adrenaline and having a difficult time processing your emotions. The best advice? Pause. Now’s not the time to make any drastic decisions and you don’t have to take any significant steps in the immediate aftermath. For right now, work through what happened, lean into your emotions, and recognize that you’ve been through something extremely challenging. Tomorrow, you can start crafting your plan forward.

Seek out support

The upside of these sweeping layoffs? Many people know what you’re going through. If you feel comfortable talking to other employees who were affected, reach out. It can be supportive and reassuring to know that you’re not alone in your feelings. Similarly, give your parents a call or send a trusted friend a text. Actively receiving the love and support that’s all around us can help us heal.

Re-engage with something meaningful

You’ll likely have a lot more free time than you’ve had in the recent past. Please take advantage of it! And no, I don’t mean start pouring everything you have into a side hustle. Reconnect with a hobby you haven’t picked up in years. Or, start making progress on your TBR list. Get in the habit of taking long walks to gain a new perspective on your city. There are endless ways to find meaning in our lives outside of what we do. Start getting into the practice of prioritizing these things today.

Take care of you

It can’t be emphasized enough. You are still and always deserving of self-care and love. Brainstorm a list of things you can do to show yourself that love each day. Maybe it’s making a nourishing meal, getting dressed even though you don’t feel like it, or taking a long bath. Whatever feels supportive to you, be sure to do it daily. Things may be difficult now, but trust me: as someone who’s been where you are, it does get easier. And simultaneously, you get stronger.