Seven Secrets for Surviving Job Loss in a Bad Economy

Here are seven smart tips to finding a new job in this bizarre economy from Dr. Richard Bayer is an ethicist and economist and Chief Operating Officer of The Five O’Clock Club, a national career coaching and outplacement organization.

  1. Negotiate the best possible severance package. (Hint: Don’t automatically go for the cash!)
    • First, don’t automatically go for the cash! Negotiate each severance item individually (ie., cash settlement, career coaching benefits)
    • Second, decide what you want without regard for the company’s policy. Many employees simply don’t know what they can ask for in their severance talks - research this issue.

  2. Don’t take it personally.

    Lay-offs come from budget cuts and lack of business—not a direct result of poor performance. The most important thing - you’re being laid off doesn’t mean that you can’t be a valuable employee to someone else.


    WHN EXPERT TIP: Plan on Rolling Up Your Sleeves!

    Approach this with the same sense of purpose you felt with your job. It’s hard; but think of this as an opportunity to improve yourself and make a fresh start.

  3. Live as though finding a new job is your job.

    Maintain structure in your life and keep a day-to-day routine by using your old work hours for your job search. Use that time to join trade organizations, schedule interviews, and network as much as possible.

  4. Manage your money responsibly.

    Most people assume that they will find a new job within 30 days and are surprised it can actually take much longer. Create a budget so that you can see how long you can live off of your severance pay. Look at cutting back on unnecessary living expenses in this transition.If you didn’t receive severance cash, create a post-job budget immediately. Look at how much money you have:

    • Which bills are coming due?
    • What expenses you won’t be able to cut.
    • Always pay your critical bills—mortgage, car payment, insurance—and don’t spend money on anything extra.

    In the interim, consider cancelling a vacation or getting rid of cable; you will be glad in six month’s time that you didn’t rack up credit card debt and that your savings is still intact.
  5. Expand your search

    Just because you worked for a large corporation in a large city doesn’t mean that’s the only type of job you are qualified to do. If you are searching only in Los Angeles, for example, think of looking outside the city or even in a different state. Or if you are looking only at large public corporations, consider small or private companies.

    Your talents may lend themselves to a variety of different job titles. Searching for a job outside your comfort zone can sometimes open you up to some great unexpected opportunities.

  6. Be picky.

    If the bills keep rolling in and paychecks have stopped, don’t leap into the wrong job. Take your time and make the right decision for you.

    However, if money is low, get an interim job. This will provide a steady paycheck during your search. Taking the wrong job and ending up being miserable could cause a string of job hops that will cost you valuable time and effort.

  7. Start your own business.

    Think about putting your talents to work as a freelancer. Use your business savvy to start freelancing while you’re searching for a new job. This can offer income between jobs and may continue supplementing you once you’ve landed a new gig.

Now, more than ever, is when being proactive counts the most. We live in an economy where there are fewer jobs and more people looking for them, and the competition is tough. This is just the reality. And as hard as it may seem at the time, the more objective that you can be about your job loss, the better the end result you will create for yourself. Don’t let losing your job define who you are; let the way you handle it define who you will be.

Updated: 05/2009