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What should you do if you've been fired or laid off?

·9 min read
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The pandemic saw a huge shakeup in the employment sector. Some industries crumbled under the effects of lockdowns, while tech companies thrived and grew as Canadians moved online for their needs.

Shopify was one example, doubling its employees by the end of 2021. Then Shopify announced last month that they were laying off 10 per cent of their staff. Since then, Canadian tech and ecommerce companies like Hootsuite and Article have announced substantial job cuts.

Rising inflation has led to consumers spending less, and the tech sector alone has witnessed tens of thousands of layoffs. Even giants such as Amazon are shrinking their workforce by 100,000.

With the economy in a period of unpredictable flux, you might question your own job security, no matter what industry you work in.

If you are fired or laid off, you want to ensure that you have enough money saved to weather the storm of unemployment, while also searching for a new job.

So the question remains, what do you do if you suddenly find yourself out of work?

When the dust has settled

Your company may offer a severance package that can help you through the transition. If you’ve been downsized, inquire what benefits your employer offers. Some companies offer career counselling or have relationships with other employers that will be willing to meet with you.

Ensure that a copy of your record of employment has been issued so that you can apply for Employment Insurance (EI) as soon as possible. EI benefits can help you stay afloat while you search for a new job, and the Service Canada website also provides tools that can assist you on your search.

If you have any outstanding debts, be sure to speak to your bank and explain your situation. You might be able to consolidate your debts (which is always a good idea). If you own a home you might be able to get a home equity line of credit or HELOC.

How much should you have saved?

While you’ve been working, you’ve been hopefully setting aside money in an emergency fund for exactly such a situation.

The general rule of thumb is to have three to six months worth of salary saved in an emergency fund. According to Statistics Canada, the average weekly salary for full-time employees was $1,249.23 in late January.

That means the average emergency fund would have between $14,990.76 and $29,981.52.

That’s a lot of money, and might not be a realistic expectation in the current economic climate.

Since you might be short on savings, you’re going to want to figure out how to stretch the money that you have.

Take an honest look at your daily expenses, and cut out unnecessary expenses where you can. Every dollar you save while searching for work will help out.

unemployed-interviews
fizkes/Shutterstock

Know your story

When you’ve been let go, it’s critical to take the time to reflect on your experiences.

“Your stories contain all these gems, even the things that you didn’t like,” Mark Franklin, practice leader at CareerCycles, observes.

The ability to “identify transferable skills from your stories and finding new ways to deploy them is kind of like a superpower when it comes to career development, to dealing with unemployment.”

Alan Kearns, managing partner and founder of the people and culture firm CareerJoy, complements this, noting that you need to see “the fullness of your skills and fullness of the experience. Not through a title, but through a much more comprehensive view.”

“Mostly, you can connect the dots and find something relevant,” comments Franklin. “That person who did the drama degree… they realize that the drama training was actually helpful for their sales efforts in talking to prospective clients.”

It’s crucial to identify your hidden strengths when on the job hunt. This will allow you to identify new opportunities, and bring new perspectives to future jobs.

Strengthen your network

While a résumé is important, the network of people you know is one of the greatest strengths you have when looking for work.

Kearns emphasizes the importance of this. “Continually nurturing and building your network, and also getting mentors and other people around you that can open doors and connect you to their network,” he says. These connections can bring you new opportunities you might have not otherwise found.

Be sure to refresh your résumé with your most recent employment as well. It’s beneficial to have someone review your résumé for you to ensure there are no errors, or that your résumé highlights your skills and experiences effectively. Many public libraries offer résumé services for free, so be sure to take advantage of the service.

Early career job loss

When you lose your job at this stage, you might be desperate to find work.

As you start off your career, you more than likely have student debt in addition to your day-to-day expenses. At this point, you haven’t yet reached your maximum-earning potential, nor will you have a lot of savings.

With your personal finances in limbo, you might feel fairly desperate for money. One of the worst things you could do, though, is take on more debt. Using your credit card or taking out loans to pay for expenses can create financial chaos for your future self. You could find yourself carrying debt loads greater than you imagined due to the high-interest rates you might be paying off.

Franklin observes that at this stage, “[you] may need a stop gap approach. So [you] might find a temporary job or a stepping stone job.” If this is the case, this shouldn’t be a roadblock in achieving what it is you want.

“Here’s a chance to be much more intentional about your next step,” he notes. Franklin suggests taking a course or re-tooling some of your skills if needed, a step that will make you “attractive in a new way to prospective employers.”

unemployed-interviews
Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Try different roles and industries

While things may seem overwhelming, now’s not the time to panic. Instead, focus on building on the experience you gained at your previous job and leveraging this into your next.

Franklin notes that “people bounce around a lot in early career,” so if you find yourself having to change careers you should “ just normalize it and say…I have skills and abilities to move forward.”

If you’re laid off early in your career, there are many opportunities available to you.

“Take a lot of risks,” says Kearns, “use the early stage of your career, to try different things to try different roles, try different organizations, try different sectors.”

“Take a lot of what I call smart risks.”

Mid-career layoff

This is possibly the toughest time to be laid off from your job. You’ve spent time developing your skills and working in a specific environment, and have probably grown comfortable with what it is you do.

Now, you must find a new career while still saving for retirement, paying your everyday bills, and supporting any dependents you have.

Kearns sees both the opportunities and risks that present themselves when you’re mid-career.

“Good decisions can be really amplified. And poor decisions can be really amplified in that phase”

Franklin notes that at this point, “you’ve amassed some skills, and some experiences,” and you need to ask yourself ‘do I want to stick with this trajectory, or do I want to change?’”

Alan Kearns echoes this sentiment. He observes that at this juncture, you need to look at your time as an investment.

“Where are you going to invest the next three to five years in your life? And what’s the return on your investment?”

Taking this into consideration will directly impact the career choices you make.

Analyze your skills and manage debt

This is a good time to look at your skills, discover what you liked and didn’t like in your job. “When you’re ready for that career exploration, this is where a career professional can really help to reflect on your experiences,” says Franklin. This will allow you to “generate meaningful possibilities” for where you want to go next.

From a financial standpoint, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re paying off any high-interest debts before others. You don’t want these debts to become more cumbersome, so carving away at them — even if it’s by making minimum payments — ensures that you’re saving yourself from future headaches.

Speaking with a financial advisor can help you solidify a plan for making it through this period a little easier. You may need to tap into your savings for a while and minimize your expenses.

Late-career job loss

Despite being closer to retirement, Kearns notes that your age shouldn’t be regarded as a limitation.

“Age is an information piece that isn’t always the decision-making piece for many employers,” he notes.

He observes that knowing what type of pressure you want to be under and what responsibilities you want at this stage is crucial to your decision making. You need to be aware of what type of role you want to fill, and be cognizant of the impact it will have on your life.

Franklin echoes this, noting that at this juncture, “people have a bit of a different pattern. Sometimes they want to start their own thing, like consulting.”

You can also use your knowledge and experience to help others through their own careers.

“Often, people want to give back and they look for opportunities to teach,” notes Franklin.

Financially, while you may not have children living with you any longer and you may be able to live with a reduced budget, you need to consider what costs you have and how your unemployment and early retirement will affect you.

mature-employee
Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock

Consider early retirement

If you find yourself suddenly unemployed in late-career, you might consider taking an earlier than anticipated retirement. If you are considering this option, be sure to take a close look at your finances and consider what the financial implications are. Do you have enough retirement savings to sustain you and any dependants? What potential costs will you have in the future?

While 65 is the average age to start collecting the Canada Pension Plan, you can begin to receive it as early as 60. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Remember: the later you tap into your CPP, the larger each payment will be.

Being unemployed at any stage can be difficult, but if you embrace the opportunity for change and approach this time with a positive mindset, the transition will be much simpler.

As Franklin observes, “it comes back to mindset. The next employer you have is lucky to have you.”

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.