woman running from a layoff

You’ve Been Laid Off. Now What?

Each time I’ve been laid off, I have struggled for some time to make some sense out of what happened. Was it me failing to achieve expectations or did my number come up in the layoff roulette? Often you are given a vague script about your role no longer fitting the company’s direction, given heaps of paperwork to sign and sent on your way. Hopefully you’ve managed to get some severance pay.

Sometimes consultants are brought in at great cost (I see you, Accenture, BCG and others) to make the decisions on which teams are no longer relevant based on “best practice team structures” and “future-proof organizations”. Such an irony, the vast sums these consultants take in to be the bad guys and make the decisions, so that the previous bad decisions can be paid for.

representation of an evil consultant in a corporate metropolis overseeing layoffs

Sometimes managers are forced to stack rank who they could most easily lose, and at others the decisions happen from far-far away, at what seems the whim of the direction of the winds.

One layoff stands out for me, since at the time I was 8 months pregnant and also highly emotional about all the changes happening in the organization. I was also not too happy to be told by a colleague that the I looked fatter than the other pregnant girl, because she carried her weight just in the belly and I carried the weight “everywhere.”

I was brought into a room with my manager and HR person to be told that I no longer fit the FutureFit of the organization. Yes, they branded the layoff – it even had its own logo. I should have known something was up when my colleague casually mentioned earlier that week that my budget line disappeared from the budget. I was shocked, but having been through this before, managed to keep composed and calm. And just like that, my 3-year tenure at The Body Shop ended with my boss helping me carry a box of stuff out to the car.

woman carries her things in a box, as she leaves the workplace laid off and colleagues look on

The Body Shop is an organization founded by Anita Roddick, who practically invented fair trade and ethical beauty in the 1970’s. Their signature White Musk scent took the 90’s teens by storm and represented a different way to feel beautiful. They have since has been so crippled by three separate takeovers (and much ethical beauty competition) that they are entering administration in the UK and destined to lay off those who now remain. It’s sad despite how my time with them ended, because they were a values-driven organization with dedicated employees that tried to keep the meaning alive.

As for my layoff, I was initially glad to have the time off to focus on getting ready for the baby and to care for him when he arrived. The severance was generous. But it was also a stressful time – my unintended stay-at-home mom status was accompanied by an identity crisis and post-partum depression.

Our feeds are sad right now

Seeing so many posts in my LinkedIn feed from those affected by layoffs or offering their support has me thinking on the times I have been impacted, as a leaver and a survivor. There have been a few times where I survived a layoff but spent time wishing that I hadn’t. The emotional toll of the uncertainty impacts every single person in the organization, and we have to work hard to stay resilient.

For those of you who have been laid off, it might make sense – later.

Sometimes we have a moment of great clarity later on – that benefit of hindsight, as we get farther from a great change or calamity in our lives.  Layoffs are painful for everyone but can be downright existential for those given notice.

Here’s my un-asked-for advice for those who have been laid off – as a career coach and 3x layoff / buyout survivor:


The real reason you were chosen and someone else wasn’t doesn’t matter, and you probably won’t get the benefit of knowing it regardless. It’s personal to you and the feeling of rejection and bitterness is normal and justified. You may need to burn some things and curse a lot. Don’t cause yourself even greater injury by feeling guilty for being angry or bitter.

a tech worker stares blankly into the distance after layoff


This won’t match the trajectory you had planned for your life, and it may be tempting to create 5 backup plans in order to ease your anxiety. That won’t ease it, it will escalate it. This is the time to let go for a while, mourn, and take your time. During key transitions in our lives, it can be helpful to engage in reflection and ritual to mourn the death of that phase and make space for the next one.


Get back into the healthy habits you need to sustain yourself. Intellectually, emotionally, socially, physically. Restore yourself on those fronts by picking back up on what’s important to you. Create a routine for yourself daily which includes some of those habits you avoid at times but always feel better after doing. You will just compound your sense of aimlessness if you let yourself wear pajamas for a month straight.


You may have made some friendships that are really meaningful at your workplace. Now is the time to try to put effort in to keeping those friends that mean the most to you. Don’t let them all disappear into the ether. They understand where you have been and can remain an important friend and cheer squad moving forward, if you both wish it.


One of the biggest mistakes I see clients make after getting laid off is to try to make the next step match what they just came away from. This is an opportunity to reimagine your life and lifestyle. Don’t belittle yourself by assuming your only next step can be doing the same job for another big corporation. The prior steps of my advice help build you up for this step. Trusting yourself to be able to make your dreams real, to be someone else entirely if you wish it so.

a box filled with dreams of life possible after layoff

Dream Big

Whether you could use encouragement to aim one level higher, to start your own business, or to set new boundaries for a more balanced lifestyle, you can do any of these things to support yourself starting right now. The irony is that the more selective you are for yourself, the more the rest of the world rises to meet you.

author avatar
Mandy Career Coach
Mandy Steinhardt, a Raleigh career and life coach, empowers women to break free from "good girl" syndrome and reclaim their power. Through one-on-one coaching and supportive women's circles, she helps them heal from past hurts, rediscover their strength and beauty, and create a life filled with purpose and balance. Whether you're feeling lost or uninspired, she's here to guide you to the career, pay and lifestyle that is perfect for you.

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