A layoff can be seen as a tragedy or as an opportunity to get the job you've always wanted. Take Christine O'Neill, for example.
O'Neill was laid off in the middle of the Great Recession. Instead of wallowing in her misfortune, Christine turned the layoff to her advantage. She ended up landing a better job in New York with significantly higher pay.
But how? She did it by leveraging her network and understanding the needs of the company to which was applying.
"I did it by showing the value I would bring to the organization," O'Neill, who now coaches others in their careers, says. "A layoff does not mean you need to take a step back in your career. It does not even mean that you need to move laterally."
If you were already thinking about that next step before the layoff, then keep going for it. It's not as if the experience and skills you built up over the years magically vanished when you're let go.
The early bird gets the worm
Just because you have ten weeks of severance pay doesn't mean you should wait seven weeks before you start sending out your resume. You should begin your job search the day after your layoff, if possible.
"The early bird gets the worm," Sherrie Dvorak, senior vice president of Frontline Source Group says. "The people who go and cry and mourn the loss of their jobs, they're going to have the hardest time getting reestablished."
"Say you found out you got laid off," Dvorak says. "Obviously, it's a gut punch. It hurts. You feel personally attacked by it. All of that is a natural reaction."
What you need to do is immediately go home, she says. "Clear your head. Cry about it. Get it out of your system. Then move forward with positivity."
Stacey Lane, a career coach in Portland, says some people think they can set a date in the near or distant future on which the job search will commence.
"They think that there's just something magical as if when they're ready to start the job search, the universe is going to be like, 'Oh, well, you're ready now,'" Lane says. "It just doesn't work like that."
There's no better time than now, so get started right away.
Network, network, network
Dvorak's husband might serve as inspiration for immediately beginning your job search after a layoff. A few years ago he was laid off and given a seven-week severance package but was only out of work for a total of ten days.
During that brief unemployment period, Dvorak explains, her husband talked with anyone willing to have a conversation.
"Whether or not he felt like it was a good match, it was worth a conversation," Dvorak says. This set the stage to ask his new connections whether they know anyone hiring for a position closer to what he's seeking.
As a professional recruiter, Dvorak has witnessed candidates take interviews for jobs that weren't necessarily the right fit. They possessed some of the skills required, but weren't exactly on target.
"We knew this isn't the job for the candidate, but he's impressing them, and there might be other opportunities at the company." She's seen people land jobs that neither she nor the candidate knew existed, all because of an interview that, on its face, seemed like a dead end.
Dvorak suggests job seekers comb LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for connections they feel comfortable reaching out to.
"People will sympathize if they hear you've been laid off," she says. "It's an unfortunate thing, and it's hit so many households. Nobody wants you to sit there and suffer."
Lane agrees that networking is key. "Make those connections early so that when people hear of something, you're visible to them," she says. "They know you're out there and it doesn't even have to be that you're in an active job search."
One of Lane's clients, for example, is currently out of work and under a six-month non-compete clause. Legally, he can't go to work for any of the nearby companies in his industry. Nonetheless, he's been networking.
"He knows that there aren't a lot of jobs that are paying at his level, so he's been quietly networking," she says. "He's been going to [networking] lunches and re-connecting with people he hasn't talked to in a while, which sets the stage for when he is available."
Highlight your accomplishments
Another way to stand out from the pack is by making sure you underline your greatest accomplishments in a way that appeals to the employer. O'Neill suggests taking each of the skills you'd like to highlight and building an accomplishment story around it.
"This way, you're able to convey all the things that they're looking for with an example. Each one should maybe be two or three sentences," O'Neill says. "They don't have to be the full story. Just give enough information where you're showing the impact that you made in an organization or a previous job. Then your interviewer can always ask you to go into more detail."
Stay focused on the needs of the employer
Kendra Stellar of Stellar Life Coaching suggests having a 30-60-90 plan in the back of your head. Ask yourself what you'd like to accomplish in the new role by the 30-day mark, the 60-day mark, and the 90-day mark. Creating a clearly outlined roadmap will give you a leg up on the competition.
Finally, if there are any areas where you feel you should beef up your resume, consider signing up for a certification program or a taxpayer-funded job assistance program, like the Texas Workforce Commission. Do some research to find out what types of programs are available in your area.
Always follow up
Ultimately, Dvorak says, being persistent and stepping out from behind your computer goes a long way in getting you noticed.
"The people who are going to stand out are the ones who are active rather than just submitting a resume and calling it a day. They're the ones who are following up."