You're fresh out of college, and just as you're getting the hang of your first real job, you get the dreaded news: "We're letting you go."
Jason Zink spent four years of his twenties teaching at Beacon Academy, a charter school in West Lafayette, Indiana. In December 2015, the school shut down due to lack of enrollment and Zink found himself without a job.
Zink says the layoff foregrounded feelings of insecurity and worthlessness, but within a few months he bounced back. "I was finally able to look at things more objectively and pat myself on the back for the good things while laughing at the bad."
That didn't make the job search any easier. He started off applying for teaching jobs throughout Indiana with little luck. Finally, just as he was about to run out of unemployment benefits, he got a call from Jobs for America's Graduates, where he'd recently interviewed for a teaching gig. He didn't get the job he applied for, but they offered him a position as case manager helping place high school graduates in the advanced manufacturing field.
The job combined his strengths with technology and communication with his ability to help others, a skill he cultivated at the charter school. In retrospect, he simply wasn't thinking broadly enough about his work experience. "I didn't understand that what my previous position was didn't define me as a person," Zink says, "It wasn't all I could do."
He tells others struggling through unemployment that finding a job is a process. You can't expect one application to yield the interview that'll land you a job. process. "Keep learning, keep hustling and prioritize what's important," he says. "You'll be alright."
What Makes Entry-Level Workers Unique
Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach, recognizes that entry-level workers may be uniquely affected by layoffs. "This can affect their confidence, in some ways more than a seasoned professional, because their career is new for them," Crawford says.
"Also, since they don't have as much work experience as higher-level professionals, this could make the job search process more challenging for them to have to go out there and look, again, since they have fewer networking connections and less experience to draw upon."
With limited connections and experience, what's an entry-level worker to do when they're handed the pink slip?
The first few steps
Your first layoff may be a surprisingly emotional experience. Try to keep your cool as you take necessary steps to move forward in your career.
First, Crawford says, it's a good idea to check in with your human resources department. Make sure they have all of the information they need to help transition your benefits, such as health insurance or 401k, and close out your employment, which may include an exit interview and asking for references.
"If you were a good employee, ask your manager if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation, a hard copy you can use, and on LinkedIn as well," Crawford says. "Ask as many people at your current employer as possible, to write a reference for you on LinkedIn. You can use these in your cover letter and on your resume."
Don't react to the firing on social media. Just because we have the means to instantaneously react doesn't mean that's a good idea. "Do not bash the organization on social media, even if you feel they were unfair in their treatment of you since that can affect a hiring manager's decision to interview you," Crawford says.
Meanwhile, avoid falling into complacency. Don't coast on your severance pay, as exciting as it may be to have what feels like a cushion. While you're looking for jobs, you should also be reaching out to your network connections. "Ask to conduct informational interviews about other positions or organizations they are interested in," Crawford says.
Finally, don't hesitate to update your LinkedIn and resume. Make sure to use specific keywords for the position you are looking for so hiring managers find you more easily, Crawford says.
Consider utilizing LiveCareer's free Resume and Cover Letter Builders. The Resume Builder shows you how to make a stand-out resume section by section with professional tips and advice, while the Cover Letter Builder has countless examples of professionally written letters.
What to do with your resume
Whether you're laid off early in your career, toward the end or smack dab in the middle, there's never a bad time to reconsider your resume.
Crawford suggests young professionals consider creating a hybrid-style resume, combining the chronological and functional styles.
The chronological resume is the most common resume format. It derives its name from the Professional Experience section, in which jobseekers list their work experience in reverse-chronological order. This style is great for demonstrating you've moved up the career ladder.
A functional-style resume does not focus on your chronological work history. Instead, it highlights your skills and experiences more broadly. Functional resumes are most often used to conceal gaps between jobs and career inconsistencies or help a jobseeker land work outside of their field.
The hybrid-style, Crawford says, "generally has a Highlights section so you can make sure your strengths relevant to the positions you're interested in stand out.
"In the Work History section," Crawford continues, "include your role and achievements thus far, focusing on results—not just a list of tasks and responsibilities."
There's no requirement to explicitly mention your layoff in your resume or cover letter. That's best saved for the job application and interview (if necessary).
Decide whether you're on the right path
Just because you've been laid off doesn't mean you shouldn't dream big with your career.
"Think about things you would like to do, taking into account your passions and dreams," Crawford says. "This may uncover ideas that they hadn't previously thought about. Also, it's important to identify your unique strengths, what you do better than anyone else, and then how you would like to use those strengths in your career."
Before planning your future, take a moment to look back. "The first thing they need to do is write down everything they want to have in a career based on what they liked and disliked about your previous job—as well as classes you've taken—and any other experiences you've had," Crawford says. "This will help you start to narrow down what you want."