Exploring your options

Layoffs are hard – how you plan, handle and recover from one shouldn’t be

Losing your job isn’t the end of the world; it could be an opportunity for something great

You’ve worked at a company for a few years now, and life’s pretty good.

Then, you hear rumours that layoffs are on the way.

Before you panic, take a deep breath, relax and realize, no matter what happens, things will probably be OK in the end. It could even be a great opportunity for something new.

Read on for some tips on how to prepare for, and handle, a layoff.

Always be prepared

Even if layoffs never happen, these tips can help you prepare for what life throws at you.

  • Get your finances in order: Pay off debt and grow your savings.
  • Collect and save important documents: Save anything that could help you get another job – example: work samples, performance reviews.
  • Update your resume: It’s always a good idea to keep your resume fresh and ready to send if the right opportunity comes up.
  • Know your rights: Make sure you know the rules to protect yourself if you’re laid off. Employment Standards Canada’s website is a good place to start. Be sure and brush up on your province’s labour rules, too.
  • Maximize your benefits: You’re already paying for benefits right now, so why not get that new pair of glasses or badly-needed back massage?
  • Get a financial security advisor: They know tons of financial tips to help with a layoff. For instance, how to transfer money from a company pension plan to one that’s just for you, and how to help you stay on track with your retirement goals (putting money into a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) for example).

The dreaded chat

One morning your boss calls you into a last-minute meeting. And you find out you’ve been let go. Now what?

Don’t panic, and don’t get mad: This might sound hard to believe, but a layoff isn’t personal. No matter how upset you may be, chances are getting angry won’t change the situation. Be calm and professional.

Don’t sign anything right away: Ask for time to review your package on your own. If you don’t feel comfortable handling it by yourself, it’s probably a good idea to call Employment Standards Canada (it’s free!) or a lawyer (probably not free) to help ensure you walk away with the best-possible deal.

Ask for a reference/support to find another job: It’s worth asking whether your employer can help you transition to another career – for example, if they’ll offer job counselling services or courses. These typically offer job seekers help in writing resumes, preparing for interviews, and more.

Get it in writing: Whatever you’re promised, make sure your employer documents it on paper or in an email.

Onward and upward

The worst is over – you’re back at home, wondering where to go from here. Here are some things to keep in mind as you move on.

Apply for Employment Insurance (EI) ASAP: You have four weeks after your last day of work to apply for EI. Don’t forget – it can help you pay the bills while you look for another job.

It’s hard to see a layoff as an opportunity, but think of it this way: It’s a chance to hit the reset button on your life.

“Me” time: Layoffs are traumatic, and while you may want to start your job search right away, that’s probably not a good idea. Take some time – a week or two – and focus on your mental health. It’ll help you regain your optimism, and help you bounce back.

Get help: It’s normal to feel “the blues” after a job loss, but if those feelings are really strong or go on for a long time (or both), seek help from a mental health expert. You’re not alone!

Don’t forget about your partner: A layoff can be hard on your partner, too, and could strain already-existing tensions in your relationship. Be open and talk to your partner about life after your career.

Connect with your financial security advisor: If you have an advisor, it’s a good idea to meet with them whenever you go through a major lifestyle change – and adjust your financial plans accordingly. If you don’t have an advisor, now’s a good time to get one.

A new opportunity

It’s hard to see a layoff as an opportunity, but think of it this way: It’s a chance to hit the reset button on your life. You can:

It’s also a chance for you to ask: What career do I really want?

Your life’s not over if you get laid off.

Far from it: you can, and will, find another job. And while it may not seem like it right after it happens, you can pick yourself up, recover and could move on to something awesome.

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This information is general in nature, and is intended for informational purposes only. For specific situations you should consult the appropriate legal, accounting or tax advisor.