In September 2016, Sangita Mukherjee was called by her manager into his office and told that due to restructuring of the company, certain positions had become redundant and she was told to resign from her job the same day. “I had been in the company for 10 years in the administration department and had been performing well," says the 42-year-old, “When I was told that I was being laid off, I was devastated." Overnight, she was out of a job with financial responsibilities like an EMI for a home loan and her daughter’s education. Mukherjee says it took her a long time to come to terms with it.

Lay-offs are not personal. They can happen to anyone, even people like Mukherjee who have been performing well. One needs to understand this, explains Ajay Shah, vice president and head of recruitment services at TeamLease Services, a staffing firm. Shah has helped both individuals and companies during lay-offs, and has seen a pattern emerge over the years. “People lose their jobs because of company restructuring or closure of a certain business and not because of their personal performance, abilities or skills," he says, adding that it’s important to be positive and work to turn a lay-off into an opportunity.

Find support

According to a report released by RiseSmart, an outplacement and career transition management firm, earlier this year, in which 1,000 executives were interviewed, it was found that letting go of employees is pretty common both in big and small companies, especially in dynamic markets like the IT sector. Responsible organizations hire outplacement services to help the laid off employees land another job. “Outplacement services are paid for by the employers to benefit employees impacted by a lay-off or company restructuring to help them land their next job quickly," says Joel Paul, general manager, RiseSmart India. The job of such teams is to match an individual with a career coach, resume writer, etc.

For San Francisco-based Ritu Favre, the outplacement service turned out to be a boon as she hadn’t actively looked for a job in more than a decade. In the middle of 2016, when Favre was with her previous company in San Francisco, she found out that the organization was going through a restructuring. Lay-offs were part of the plan, including her position as a senior manager which would become redundant. “Leaving a known company is scary. I had never been unemployed in the 20 plus years of my career; being laid off was overwhelming," she says. Instead of despairing, Favre decided to take things in her own hands. “I turned the restructuring into an opportunity to negotiate an exit package from the organization," she says. The exit package she negotiated included not only financial benefits but also access to placement services. “The outplacement service helped me update my resume and LinkedIn profile and assigned me a coach to whom I could speak to every week and keep a track of my applications," says Favre. It took her six-long months to find her current position as chief executive officer of Next Biometrics Inc., a tech start-up based in Oslo, Norway, which started in February 2017.

Managing the mind

Though someone helping you out professionally is useful, it’s usually not enough as you also have to deal with the emotional repercussions of being out of a job. It’s been two years since Mukherjee landed another job in her city, Kolkata, but remembering the lay-off is still emotionally distressing. “What hurt the most was that my manager didn’t even hint at what was happening," she says. Mukherjee’s last company gave her no severance package or outplacement, leaving her in a difficult situation till she found her current job. “Since the experience, I cannot plan for the future as I’m always a little scared that something similar will happen to me again," she says.

Mukherjee is not alone. In a world where restructuring and automation threaten professional and managerial jobs, most people feel at risk of losing their jobs, causing fear, anxiety and ill-health, according to a 2018 study done in the US.

Though it’s understandably hard, Dr Samir Parikh, director, mental health and behavioural science, Fortis Healthcare Ltd, Delhi, suggests that acceptance of the situation that you were laid off, is the first step forward. “Don’t try to rationalize it, justify it or fight it," he says. “Instead accept and move on." Seek professional guidance to identify your strengths and limitations, and start looking for a new opportunity. While you do so, it’s imperative that you maintain your daily routine, keep your social circle alive and remain positive through the transition period, adds Dr Parikh, for this period is not going to be easy.

Favre agrees, adding that what helped her the most during the six months of nail-biting wait for interviews to line up was taking up hobbies to decompress and de-stress. “Being laid off taught me how to seek new opportunities and market myself in new ways," she says.

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

What to do if you’re laid off from your job

Negotiate a better deal. If your job has become redundant, negotiate an exit package that includes an outplacement service.

Don’t despair. Keep your daily routine and don’t withdraw from your social circle. Accept it, move on.

Get help on your resume. Even if you think you have a good-enough resume, get professional help for your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Amp up your network. Most of the times, the best jobs are accessible through your personal network of colleagues and classmates.

Talk about your exit. Be prepared to explain your exit in as positive terms as possible. Avoid bad-mouthing your former employer.

Be flexible. Be open to newer roles, locations and compensation as you would rarely find all the perks of your previous job.

Learn something new. As you apply for jobs, learn a new skill or do an online course.

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