How I Survived a Layoff

Last year I was laid off from a company that I was with for close to twenty-one years. People have asked me if I saw it coming, and to be honest at the time I did not. They say hindsight is always 20/20 and after being out of work for eight and a half months I had plenty of time to think about my last few months at my former company. Maybe just maybe I was a little too complacent or arrogant to think that a job loss could ever happen to me. But, when I review my twenty plus years I had a good run. I started making less than $20k per year and grew that salary by 650% with three promotions over the years. I always received average or above-average reviews. It’s just business they say, and don’t take it personally it was tough not too after a long and successful run. I have since moved on and I want to share with you the main things they got me through.  This is how I survived a layoff.

Hysteria

No hysteria did not help me get through my layoff. The morning I got the call to come down to human resources I knew what was about to happen. I walked by a co-workers office and told him I was on my way to be fired, I shook his hand and told him it was a pleasure working with him. Through the whole experience of sitting in the HRs office reviewing the reason (not much of an explanation was given) to the paperwork, and severance package I never panicked. After leaving the building I had worked for almost nineteen years, I calmly called my wife and told her what happened and explained to her we’d be okay.

That attitude served me well during the whole experience in the coming months. I remained positive. Sure it was disappointing to lose a job that I had so much invested in, but I viewed it as an opportunity to move onto something bigger and better. As I talked and interviewed with prospective employers over the next several months the last thing I wanted to show was a broken, defeated attitude or talk badly about my former company.

layoff

Money Management

A big part of the no panic attitude came from the hard work we had done years prior. It started in 2010 when we made a choice to get our financial act together and work on becoming debt free. Reaching that milestone eight months before the layoff might have been dumb luck or great timing, I’m still not sure which, but it gave me and my family a great sense of security. Our cash emergency fund coupled with a severance package gave us the confidence to know we’d be okay. Since we knew our monthly budget was around $6K we knew exactly how long I could be out of work.

I cannot imagine what this would have been like if we did not have a plan in place for our money. I don’t want to think about the stress, anger, and panic that would have been introduced into our life. It has so strongly etched the never go back into debt in my brain that I want everyone to understand the power of having control of your money and a cash emergency fund.

Network

Many of us use social media to keep in touch with friends, family, professional contacts, promote things, etc. I use Facebook for friends and family and LinkedIn for professional contacts. No matter what platform you use, you need to ask yourself how often do you keep in touch with the contacts on it? Networking in any form whether you are performing it in person at a networking event, a wedding, a backyard BBQ or on social media needs to have both a give and take. Over the years I have helped my network. I have put them in touch with potential jobs, or hiring managers or just someone to talk to when the need information about a company they were interested in. In return in my time of need they were there to help me. I landed my current role in part by a contact in my network who put a good word in for me.

I do not reach out to my network only during my time of need. I periodically reach out to say “hello”, wish them a happy holiday, or forward an interesting article. Does it take a lot of work? Yes, but it’s worth the time because when I need them or they need me I’m top of mind because of my periodic outreach.

Those have really been my keys to surviving a layoff, not panicking when I got the word, remaining positive during the job search process, having our money plan in place and relying on my network to help me out in my time of need. I also had a ton of support from my wife, kids and immediate family.

Have you ever faced a layoff? What tips did you use to survive?

41 thoughts on “How I Survived a Layoff”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story buddy. I have faced three layoffs/firings in my life. What made it tough is that they were nearly sequential. Dec 2010, Dec 2011, and June 2012. Ugh. The market was just tough down here in Florida, and in my usual way….I was swinging for the fences with exciting….and fairly risky jobs. The big thing for us, is that I ALWAYS new that I had 6 months of cash in a money market account. Our expenses were low and we were debt free. It wasn’t fun, but I knew we were fine.
    -Bryan

  2. Brian, I find your story so inspirational, and the calm you describe is exactly why I want to pay off our debt and build up our savings.

    Two months after my daughter was born, my husband was laid off. We had no savings, and really needed his income. (I was home full time.) Fortunately, we also had minimal credit card debt at the time, but we had our mortgage, a car loan, and our school loans. Amazingly, my husband landed a new job only ten days later, but those were probably the most stressful ten days of our lives! He took a fairly significant pay cut for the new job, and that’s where our credit card debt really started picking up steam. Fast-forward six years, and he’s still there, and his salary has surpassed what he had at his old employer. But we’re still digging out from those years of using credit cards more than we should’ve.

  3. I’m sorry you had to go through that, Brian. I was laid off from my very first job out of college. And it was devastating. But I had only been with the company for 6 months. And I was earning less than $30K. So I was much better off because of it. I survived by telling all of my new Nashville contacts immediately. This led to a few job interviews right away. I was lucky to only be jobless for about a month. The early layoff taught me a valuable lesson. I think learning you’re dispensable at an early age is important.

  4. Wow what a story. I have only been laid off once and I was only 20 years old when it happened so it was not a big deal. Im glad you survived it.

    The weird thing for me now is that I almost hope I get laid off. I feel like it would push me to even more to earn a living without having to work for someone. It is scary to think about though and I am trying to save as much as I can right now that I have a good paying day job.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I’ve never been laid off from a “real” job — but I’ve only had one of those for about 6 years. I’d definitely panic because once we get Tim’s teeth fixed, we have a very small cushion. Well, comparatively small.

    We’re working to slowly build up our emergency fund for these just in case kind of things. But my company is growing each year, and I’m the only person on the day shift, so I think the worst case scenario would be a slash in my salary. Which would still take its toll, but a lot less than neither one of us working at all.

    I’m impressed you didn’t panic. That probably made things a lot easier. I’d be a wreck even if Tim did have a job and we had a financial cushion.

  6. While I’ve never been laid off, I can certainly imagine how easy it would be to panic in those circumstances, especially when you’ve been with the same company for so long. The way you handled it serves as a great example for others to remain calm, get their finances in order, and keep their networks alive. As an introvert, I don’t always do a good job of staying in touch with people, but you never know when it will end up being important. Your story is a reminder that no job is guaranteed.

  7. You did some really smart things Brian! I had almost 6 months awareness that I was going to be laid off and I did some things sensibly, but others I did not. You could have become very complacent being at a company for so long. I don’t think a lot of my friends who have never experienced a layoff are even remotely prepared. I myself, never want to be in that same position…because you never know…

    1. You need a plan, because business is business and you’re right you just never know. here today, gone tomorrow. You have to ask yourself how would I handle a job loss tomorrow.

  8. I haven’t gone through a layoff yet, but if I got the word at any point this year, I wouldn’t be surprised. My wife’s company went through a big round of layoffs in her dept and she just missed getting laid off because one person left the team, and they restructured it so she was no longer the least Sr person on the team. But, she only had 3 more months than the guy that got let go… Even before then, like you, we know how much we spend a month, where we could make immediate cuts, and what our monthly budget would be.
    Even now, we have more of a cash reserve built up and are working on making that larger than usual, essentially planning that one or both will get laid off this year in this $25/barrel oil environment (we’re both in Oil and Gas).
    Great tips and good strategy on surviving and glad to hear it didn’t hurt too badly financially and emotionally. 🙂

  9. 21 years…. wow. That’s crazy. I’m glad you found another job though. It seems like you handled it well and this post definitely makes me want to build my network even more. It definitely makes you not take an income source for granted.

  10. Wow what a positive attitude! It’s interesting you said you never saw it coming. My greatest fear is that layoffs would come unexpectedly and I’d get caught in the mix. I think a positive attitude can make a huge difference, and I pray I would have the same attitude if I ever faced a layoff situation.

  11. Just catching up on your situation. Congratulations on the new job and sounds like the PM courses paid off. Back in 2008 my husband was laid off and I was on a contract (that looked like it was not going to be renewed) – we faced the very real prospect that we would both be laid off at the same time – in all my worst case scenarios that situation never occurred to me. Not sure why. Anyway you are right the emergency fund can be take away some of the anxiety and help you stay focused and move forward in a positive way.

  12. Sorry to hear about the layoff Brian. But hopefully you got a great severance package after 21 years at the firm? Perhaps I can send you my book on how to engineer your layoff and negotiate a severance package? Might be something interesting to read as you reflect. I even have an affiliate program too if interest.

    Cheers,

    Sam

  13. I am so grateful for you guys, as I tell you often, that you paid off your debt and built up your e-fund in the years before the layoff. We had done no such thing when Rick was laid off in 2010. Now we know better and are working to create a secure, debt-free situation so that if it does happen again, we’ll be fine too.

  14. These are great tips. While I hope that we never have to deal with this (we are a one income family), having a good emergency fund and an “emergency budget” helps me sleep pretty soundly at night.

  15. I think people too often underestimate the value of their network. And what you said about making the effort not only when you need something couldn’t be more true. I hope the new gig is going well!

  16. You were so wisely proactive, Brian. Our story didn’t unfold that way. When job loss hit us, we were not prepared for it, and the “stress, anger, and panic” that you avoided WAS introduced into our lives. No doubt, you will continue to be proactive now that the money is flowing again. Well done my friend!

    1. We got lucky that the timing work out as it did. Glad to be on the other side of our debt repayment now, makes handling things like this much more palatable.

  17. I thought this post was very insightful. I think two of the biggest keys to managing family finances are having a budget and staying out of consumer debt. This gives us a blue print for what we expect to happen in the coming month and gives us peace of mind knowing that we don’t owe money to anybody. Even with a home mortgage, paying it off as soon as possible can bless our family significantly for when things such as layoffs happen.

  18. I can’t imagine how scary it would be to lose a job while deep in debt and without a financial plan. Every time one of my jobs ends, I get pretty stressed about how long I can go without another one -and so far I’ve been lucky to continually land on my feet – but a lot of why I can even live with this is because I have no debt and always have a plan for my money.

    I’m glad it all worked out for you!

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