1. Career Advice
  2. Career development
  3. A complete overview of how to get back from a layoff
A complete overview of how to get back from a layoff

A complete overview of how to get back from a layoff

  • What is the trauma of being laid off?
  • Can you get rehired after being laid off?
  • Should you take a break after a layoff?
  • 5 Ways to come back after a layoff
  • Key takeaways

Layoffs can be devastating, but it’s not the end of the world. There are important steps you can take to get your career back on track and return to the working world better than ever.

The word “layoff” can strike fear in the heart of any employee, no matter their industry. And with good reason, too—more than 240,000 employees were laid off in 2023 in the tech industry alone. And we’ve all seemed to accept it as a matter of course, believing that austere cuts must be made for a company to stay afloat in this (or any) economy. But just because we all know it's a possibility doesn't make it any easier when it happens. So what can you do? Is your career over? Do you have to start from square one? Not at all. While being laid off can be traumatic, it's not the end of the world (or your career). 

In this article, we’ll discuss how a layoff might affect you and how you can bounce back, including:

  • What is the trauma of being laid off?

  • Can you get rehired after being laid off?

  • Should I take a break after layoff?

  • 5 Ways to come back from being laid-off

What is the trauma of being laid off?

Being laid off from your job is no joke. The Department of Labor calls it “one of the most traumatic events you can experience in life." It can hit you hard, and it takes time to recover.  Layoffs mean not just a loss of income, but also a loss of your self-esteem, personal identity, daily routine, and place in your community.

In addition, layoffs can harm you by:

  • Creating negative feelings of anger, sadness, fear, worthlessness, anxiety, shame, and frustration.

  • Causing physical symptoms such as weight changes, headaches, tiredness, stomach problems, and sleep issues. 

  • Disrupting financial security and generating a sense of financial instability.

Statistical Insight

There's more to being laid off than just being out of work—it can affect you both mentally and physically. In fact, studies have deemed layoffs to be the seventh most stressful life experience, more than the death of a friend, divorce, or the loss of hearing or vision. And even if you're healthy at the time of your layoff, you have an 83 percent greater chance of developing new health conditions such as high blood pressure, arthritis, and heart disease, within the first 15 to 18 months.

Some experts even liken dealing with a layoff by using the concept of the five stages of grief, created by the psychiatrist, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. When it comes to a layoff, these five stages might feel a little bit like this:

  1. Denial. “I’m sure this is just temporary. They’ll hire me back any day now.”

  2. Anger. “This is terrible! How could they do this to me? I never liked that job anyway!”

  3. Bargaining. “Oh my goodness, I need to get my job back. Should I beg or plead? Tell me what I have to do!”

  4. Depression. “I’m not good at anything—that’s why they got rid of me. I’ll never work again.”

  5. Acceptance. “Okay, so this happened. Let me figure out a way to get my career back on track.”

Layoffs can be a shock to the system, that’s for sure. But don't shrug it off—the effects are real and have to be dealt with before you can move on.

Can you get rehired after being laid off?

It’s possible, but it depends on the status of the company after the layoffs. And there’s certainly no law against it. In fact, if a company gets “back on its feet,” in a manner of speaking, they might find it more cost-effective to rehire those employees as they already know how to do their jobs and they won’t need to be trained—as long as you’ve been designated, “eligible for rehire.” And it also depends on what type of layoff it was. If it’s a “temporary layoff,” companies plan to recall their employees within six months. 

Should you take a break after a layoff?

If it works for you financially, you may want to consider not jumping back into the workforce right away. If it’s a short break—say, three to six months—the gap is easier to explain to a potential new employer. But don’t just say, “I was looking for work.” Take the time and make it as productive as you can. Take a class, earn a new certification, build new skills, or even take the time to reevaluate your career path. You may find, after a bit of self-reflection, that you no longer want to pursue a career in your current field.

5 Ways to come back after a layoff

Despite layoffs being more common than ever, it still isn’t easy to cope with it. Given the potential negative health ramifications along with financial worries and loss of perceived status, it might even seem like you'll never see the other side of the situation. But don't give up hope. While looking for a new job, there are a few things you can do to improve your outlook and get you back on the right track, better than ever:

1. Get your health in order

Don’t neglect your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The loss of a job can really take a toll on you, leading to significant distress. It’s important to eat well, get good quality sleep, find activities that you enjoy, spend time with your social network, and not put off a doctor's appointment if something new develops. And consider therapy. There are a variety of options out there, including support groups, low or no-cost therapy, or professional organizations. 

2. Network, network, network

Hopefully, you’ve been able to find a mentor, and this would be a great time to “bend their ear” and get some advice on how to get your career back on track and provide support as you navigate your career decisions. If you don’t have a mentor, look into upcoming networking opportunities, or reach out to your university's alumni center, which often offers career guidance and mentoring to its graduates. And don't forget good old-fashioned networking opportunities—both in person and online. Networking events are great for learning about job opportunities, as well as learning about industry news, meeting new people, gaining referrals, and getting career advice and support.

3. Take stock of your accomplishments and skills

A layoff is an opportunity to take some time to assess where you are in your skills development. Analyze which of your current skills are transferable to a new position (or career) and if you can identify any gaps. Taking a clear look at what you've achieved so far to inventory your skills can help you narrow down potential job opportunities and make it easier to define to a new employer why you’re the best fit for the job.

4. Continue your job training

Use this time to take a course, get training in an area you’ve been interested in, or obtain additional certifications. Not only will it help you remain competitive in your job hunt, but if you want to change careers, you'll have the opportunities to develop the necessary skills. If that's the case, consider a short-term or freelance position, which will help you “try out” a new career and gain practical experience. All of this is particularly important if you’re an older worker, as it will help you fight ageism in the workplace by demonstrating that you’re able to adapt and learn new things.

5. Update your resume and professional online profiles

If you haven’t been job hunting in a while, your resume might need a little updating and polishing. When “tweaking” your professional summary and experience, make sure you’re putting the spotlight on your core skills and achievements (using quantifiable data when possible) and integrating keywords from job postings for positions you're interested in. Not only will that help you get through the ATS system, but it will put you front and center as a desirable candidate.

Ready to interview for a new job? Check out Career.io’s Interview Prep tool, which will help you get interview-ready with AI-generated expert insights, mock interviews, and live recordings designed to give you the confidence you need to ace your next interview.

Key takeaways

  1. Layoffs don’t mean just a loss of income, they can also impact your self-esteem, personal identity, daily routine, and place in your community.

  2. It’s possible to get rehired after a layoff, and there’s no law against it, but it depends on the status of the company after the layoffs.

  3. To come back after a layoff, take care of your health, network, build new skills, and update your resume.

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