Laid off just in time for the holidays? Here's how to cope

A layoff is a blow to the ego and the wallet. Here are eight expert tips to help you process it and move forward.
Image: Broken Christmas ornament
December and January — when the fiscal calendar flips — are common months for companies to lay off employees and implement internal restructuring strategies.Blanchi Costela / Getty Images
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By Vivian Manning-Schaffel

It’s always traumatic to lose a job, but losing a job right before the holidays can feel like a stinging slap in the face that doesn’t ease up. Gift expenses abound, health insurance policies are poised to reboot and it’s almost impossible to stop thinking about all the money you’ll need but won’t have. It’s important to know you’re hardly alone. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a company that coaches people through career transitions, employers have announced plans to cut 559,713 jobs from their payrolls — more than 13 percent higher than cuts made through November of last year.

Losing a job is more common than you might think in an unstable economy, as nearly a quarter of people have experienced four or more of these shocks in a lifetime,” says Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University. “It’s a blow to the ego and the wallet. People go through a range of emotions depending on the circumstances of the layoff, and how badly it affects them financially.”

How’s one to deal when being laid off right before the holidays feels like such a cruel joke? Here some expert tips to help you move forward.

Try not to take it personally

After a layoff, it’s normal to feel anger, depression, self- doubt, loss of self-esteem and experience sleep issues, food issues, stress and anxiety, says Hafeez — even if your work environment was toxic. But, she says, it’s important not to take your layoff personally. December and January — when the fiscal calendar flips — are common months for companies to lay off employees and implement internal restructuring strategies.

Lick your wounds

Don’t discount your feelings — getting laid off right before the holidays is a downer, says Lynn Berger, a career counselor who specializes in guiding people through professional transitions. “It’s especially hard because all the messages around you are happy and merry, and you want to be generous. Give yourself a little time to heal from the shock, sadness or anger, if you can,” she says, recommending you ease yourself back into the job hunt by gently tackling the tasks the come easiest to you. “If reaching out to people is easier for you, start there. If writing is easier for you, start by revamping your resume or LinkedIn profile,” she says.

Get social

Though a layoff might make you feel anti-social and eager to avoid the “what do you do” question at parties, it’s important to rally and get out and socialize, says Beth Korn, an executive coach and leadership consultant in New York City. “For every company that’s trying to reduce costs in December, there is likely another company ready to scale and grow in January. Budgets start anew and headcount is often added in January at many organizations, so contrary to what most people assume, this can actually be the best time of year to look for a new job,” Korn says. “December is the single best month to network, and networking is the number one way to get a new job, period. People help people get jobs, not computers — networking helped 83 percent of my clients get new jobs last year. Instead of spending hours online and randomly posting a resume on a bunch of online job aggregators, get out of the house and connect with human beings. Good things happen when you get out of the house.”

Berger says it’s also a great time to reach out to former colleagues. “The thing about this time of year is it’s very acceptable to reach out to former colleagues and connect with people you haven’t worked with or seen in a while and say you’ve been thinking of them,” she says. “You can follow up and invite them for coffee or a drink in the new year.”

Keep a schedule

Hafeez doesn’t just think it keeps morale up to leave the house every day, but that you should adhere to your usual wake up time if you can. “It’s really important to have a place to go and not sit around in your pajamas all day feeling sorry for yourself. Instead of doing your information gathering for your next job at home, do it in a café where you are around other people,” Hafeez says. “Don’t isolate yourself.”

Get some exercise

Hafeez advises sticking to or adopting an exercise routine. “In addition to giving you something to do, exercising will raise your endorphins, which in turn will ease stress and make you feel better mentally and physically,” she says.

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

Use quiet days to prep for the new year by updating your resume, online portfolio (if you have one) and LinkedIn profile, so you’re ready for any opportunities that might come your way. “Make a list of headhunters you want to contact. Staying busy this way will make you feel less helpless and more in control,” Hafeez says. “One of my favorite things is helping people learn to leverage LinkedIn. The results are almost immediate,” says Korn. “There are simple tricks so you come up higher in searches and also ways to engage on LinkedIn that increase your likelihood of being ‘found.’ The key is to be active by commenting on posts, creating your own posts and writing articles.”

Seek out temporary opportunities

If you’ve always wondered what it might be like to work in a certain industry, temporary or freelance work in that industry allows you to earn money while learning the ropes, says Berger.

Strengthen “weak ties”

Korn says, when it comes to finding a new job, weak ties can be your best connectors.

“Ask 10 people who got their current job through a network contact, and you’ll find that at least 7 of them will say it’s from a weak tie, someone they barely know, someone they see infrequently, or someone whom they met randomly,” says Korn. “Weak ties include friends-of-friends, your best friend’s brother’s wife, your dentist, your favorite Starbucks barista, even your dog walker. They’re usually people who aren’t in your industry, so it’s important to remember that everyone knows someone…and we never know which someone will be the someone who helps you connect to your next job,” she explains, adding that dormant ties are the best sort of weak ties. “Dormant ties are someone you have a history with, like a long-lost friend, neighbor or former colleague. To dormant ties, you’re frozen in time. They remember you at your best, and feel a connection based on your shared history,” Korn explains. “A quick note to say ‘hello, thinking about you, happy holidays,’ goes a long way this time of year.”

Last but not least, though it’s really hard to do, a positive attitude can only help you move forward. Says Hafeez: “Perhaps you stayed in your job because you were comfortable and afraid to shake things up. Now, you have no choice and have to go out of your comfort zone. In doing so, you very well might find a job with better pay and benefits doing something that is more stimulating.” After all, a rewarding job is a great new year’s resolution.

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