I lost my job today. What now?
A comprehensive guide to surviving layoffs
If you wake up today alive, then there is a 38% probability that your livelihood will impacted or worse you may get fired soon.
We will be kidding ourselves if we don’t know this already. Even before the COVID-19 started, we were facing several macro-economic issues. The world was trying to adjust to the trade wars and new-aged companies, and the unemployment levels in major economies were already at an all-time high. To make things worse comes the COVID-19 pandemic. Now when half of the world population is locked in their homes and only essential services are allowed, many industries including travel, hotel, and retail will optimistically need at least 4 to 6 months to come back to normal, if at all.
We have depression (and not recession) looming over our heads.
So in the next few weeks, many of us might lose our jobs and the only silver lining (only psychologically) is that you are not alone in this, there are almost a billion others.
So what now?
Having gone through tons of articles and webinars on this topic to assuage my own anxieties around the job market situation, I can summarize my learnings into a comprehensive flow chart below.
1. Acceptance: The first thing you need to tell yourself is that it is not your fault. No matter how good or bad you have performed individually, there are only so many lifeboats available and there will be some unfortunate casualties. Think of it as an accident, you were caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. Talk to your family, friends, mentors about it and try to see things objectively without getting overwhelmed.
2. Reality Check: Once you have recovered from the shock, comes the most important step: evaluate your personal finances and answer the question, “Do you have enough to survive through the next 6 months”?
Ideally, we should be having our personal balance sheet, income-expense statements, and a running cash flow statement, however, most of us don’t have expertise or time to maintain this, hence I recommend using a simple excel sheet showing monthly income and expenses like below (click to download)
Always start by noting the expenses. I use splitwise app to keep track of all my expenses. Based on the past 2–3 months data you can easily forecast the expenses for the next 6–12 months in the sheet similar to one above. This will take care of all your liabilities.
Once you have expenses populated, start counting the eggs in your basket and filling the income fields. The difference between income and expense will tell you how bad the situation is. You can always go back to the expenses rows and try to ration. Remember, the sole reason why you are being laid off is that you were an expense in your employer's statement which couldn’t be sustained with reduced income. So thin down on your expense as much as you can.
After doing this exercise, if you feel comfortable that you have enough savings or your other income to take care of expenses for the next 4–6 months, then you can jump to the next step of evaluating options. However, if your answer is no, then comes the fire fighting stage.
3. Fire fighting - Ensuring continuity and seeking help: With or without income, one cannot live without providing for absolutely essential things like food, clothing, accommodation, utility payments, etc. Diligently check for all the available help you can gather;
3.a) Check with HR(employer): Severance package, Notice period, Visa extension, Healthcare support, Education support extension, etc. basically, anything that was sponsored or was linked with your employment.
3.b) Check with Government: Governments have come up with several relief measures and unemployment funds. Do check on their websites or seek help online for more information.
3.c) Check all the long term investments you have made and see if you can liquidate/encash or get a loan against them to support the immediate requirements.
Once your immediate requirements are met, it is finally time to evaluate your options.
Let us start with the best option- 4.To Retire: if you were smart and lucky enough to have amassed enough assets which can give you guaranteed sustained earnings, then is no need to read further. You can relocate to any place convenient for you to enjoy the rest of your life. You have my jealousy!
As you are still reading, let us continue with not so great options. Again you have a decision to make. Do you want to use this opportunity as a career break you always dreamt about? Maybe you want to take up further studies or want to start your own company or maybe utilize this time to hone a hobby or two to a professional level.
But if you choose to stay on the same career path and 5. Seek employment, you need to be extra diligent. Lockdown will soon be over, the economy will crawl back to normal. It may not happen immediately but if you are lucky, you should start getting interview calls in a month's time. There are a few industries that are doing better during this crisis and are likely to hire talents. It's a good time to explore roles in sectors like essential-service providers, E-commerce, etc.
While a job-hunt demands an article in itself, few quintessential steps are as follows;
5.a) Scouting for opportunities: For the next few weeks, make LinkedIn your default social media app. Do your research on the job market, extensive reading on relevant topics, engaging with experts, and so on. This research should give you answers to 3 questions-
- What kind of job descriptions/roles will be best suited for me? You may come up with 3–5 types of roles that may suit you.
- Who are the people I need to engage with for mentorship, referrals, etc.? For each of these roles, you should be able to find a few contacts.
- What kind of upskilling is required? Lastly for each role, before applying check if your resume is fine-tuned and focussed for it. Think of a project, a short stint you would have done related to the role, and highlight it religiously. Take feedback on the resume from people at hiring positions before applying.
5.b) And while you are doing your research and applying for a job, start “networking”. It is the most important skill in today’s time, period. And you don’t have to be an extrovert or sound desperate or make cold calls to people. Networking, on the other hand, is about building mutually beneficial relationships. NO ONE has the time or altruism to help you unless they don’t benefit from it. Start engaging with your friends, mentors, alumni, and all those who can add value in your life in a positive way. Make new friends. Have meaningful discussions and debate which is value adding to everyone. Attending professional webinars, joining online discussions, Toastmasters, etc. will help you connect with your mentors, sponsors, recruiters, customers, fans and friends. And this will be your life-long treasure.
5.c) Lastly, use this time to upskill and upgrade. Marketing’s first rule is -the better the product the lesser you spend on selling it. Invest in yourself. There are tons of online courses, books, YouTube videos, and documentaries available on every topic you want to improve on. The job-market research and networking with the right audience shall tell where you need to invest your time and energy. Try to gift the world a better version of yourself post-COVID19, the version which has enhanced social network, and is powered by new technical skills and is ready to take on any ambiguity with tons of positivity. That’s the homework we should all do while at home.
However, if you want to take a career break, the time cannot be more apt. The three options with you are;
6) Further Studies: For those of you who had plans for further studies but couldn’t find time to study for entrance exams or fill applications, this is your moment. Now that the work pressure is low, start your preparations right away. Not only the tuition fee and education loans will get cheaper, but during the time you spend in college, the macro-economic situation will be back to normal.
7) Start your own business: For the entrepreneurial lot, who had an idea but somehow didn’t pursue it, this COVID will make everything required to start a business cheaper and easily available, including a talented workforce, capital, rents, etc. Take this time to hover over your ideas, develop a prototype, and start bringing your founding team together. Necessity is the mother of invention and right now, society is in dire need of invention in healthcare, mobility, connectivity, and household services. Just think and Act!
8) Pursue your inner calling: This is for the artists, writers, photographers, painters, social media stars, and freelancers who have always struggled to keep up with the irrelevant rat race and have long kept their inner calling dormant. Now is the time to unleash your magic, to lose commitments, and take your hobby to the professional level. The aim should be to develop an alternate stream of income so as to escape the corporate race forever.
I wish none of my readers have to actually lose their jobs and go through what I have written. However, it is always wise to hope for the best and be ready for the worst.
“Preparation doesn’t assure victory, it assures confidence.”
― Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words
The options presented above may seem far-fetched to some but with time and sincere efforts nothing is impossible. The list presented is mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, however, you can pick one or two items from it and make yourself future-ready in your own way.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experience on the same which will help me grow myself. Cheers to the thought of happily ever after. I wish we all get there soon. Until then Stay Humble, Hustle Hard.