Receiving the news that you’ve been laid off is often shocking. There is instant grief, fear, and uncertainty to navigate. It may be overwhelming to even think about searching for a new job (luckily, that’s not the first step.) You deserve to take your time through this next season. Take a deep breath and recenter yourself before moving forward; your efforts will be more productive with a clear game plan and a solid footing. Here are 5 steps to take after a layoff and fortunately, none of them are applying for jobs (at least, not yet.)

File for unemployment benefits immediately

You should file for unemployment as soon as you learn about your layoff, as it can be several weeks before you receive your first benefit check. If you were employed full time or even part time, you likely paid into unemployment insurance, which enables you to receive benefits. Each state has their own agency site, where you’ll typically submit proof of ID, proof of unemployment, recent paystubs, and direct deposit information for receiving payments. Unemployment benefits can go a long way toward easing some stress in the early weeks of unemployment.

Take time, process, and take care of yourself

A job loss is a significant life change, and you should take some time to rest, grieve, and process before starting the job search. Reach out to friends and family, take time to journal and reflect on your current situation, refill your emotional energy through activities you enjoy. It’s important to bolster your mental health as you head into a season of unemployment, as it can be a scary, uncomfortable, and frustrating time in life. Be sure to ground yourself in truth, lean on your community, and encourage yourself each day.

Take a step back and make a plan

Before you dive straight into the job hunt, take some time to create a plan. A game plan can go a long way in keeping you focused on a long-term goal. You may also want to map out a simple budget; assess your savings, unemployment benefits, and other financial support you may have. How long can you go without a job? Consider if now may be the time to think about a career change, entrepreneurship, or a different work-life balance. Also, reflect on your network: soon you will be leveraging your community to work toward one of these career goals. Think about folks in your network that are valuable connections. Are there people who may be available to coach or mentor you? How about friends you know have been through unemployment before?

Get ready: Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

Now it’s time for some heavy lifting. Many people lose sight of keeping their resume and LinkedIn page up to date when they’re working a steady job. It can be overwhelming to update it all at once but luckily, you’ve got some time on your hands. The best place to start is with research; industry standards and best practices change frequently, so it’s worth brushing up on what hiring managers are looking for. Find people in your network who have similar positions to you – or what you want. Study their profiles, dig into related communities, connect with new people. This is another great opportunity to lean on your network: ask friends, former colleagues, and mentors to review your resume. And keep in mind, everyone has different opinions. You can tweak and update and nitpick endlessly, so take everything with a grain of salt and don’t aim for “perfect.”

Make the most of your network

Networking is often the most efficient method of job hunting because it leverages people in your life who already know you. If you are unfamiliar or nervous about networking, here is a simple guide to get you started. Networking is all about building relationships and taking advantage of opportunities that arise from those relationships. It is not transactional; it takes time and consistency. You can start right now by making a list of people you know: friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, community connections, mentors, anyone who impresses or inspires you.


Unemployment can be an overwhelming experience. It’s critical to remember that you are not alone; many people have lived through unemployment, and you will too. Take the time to set yourself up with a solid plan; encourage yourself and stay grounded; talk to people in your world and ask for support; get ready for some hard work; and finally, be consistent – chip away a little at a time. Being unemployed and searching for a job is non-linear. All effort counts, be sure to give yourself credit along the way.

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