How to come out ahead after getting laid off from a job

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George C. Mazzella
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, The Suite
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It’s 8:01am, you’re sipping your morning coffee prepping for the day ahead. Suddenly you’re getting barraged by texts from confused colleagues as you notice that you received a Zoom calendar invite titled “discussion” with no details attached. You join the call with dozens of your colleagues and without warning your boss, or their boss, announces “The company thanks for your service but as a response to the current market climate, we are making the difficult decision to let go of some of our team members…”. In an instant, after a 3 minute Zoom call, your years of service come to an end.

With new announcements of layoffs being made almost weekly, there’s no telling when your company will be next.

That’s why we created this guide - to help you navigate this indisputably negative situation and set yourself up for future success.

1) Prepare questions before your exit interview.

During the meeting, it’s likely that you won’t be able to think clearly. So rather than missing out on your chance to get the answers you need, have a list of questions ready to go. Here are a few to get you started:

a) What kind of severance will they be offering? (Don’t ask if they will offer it, assume they are and you’re more likely to get what you want)

b) Do they have someone to take over your role? If not, can you stay on until they do? (Buy yourself some extra time to look)

c) What will happen to your unvested stock and/or options? Will vesting be a part of your exit package? (You’d be surprised how often it is when you ask for it)

2) Find out what resources your company’s offering to those impacted.

Once the deed is done, review the material they send you. We know it’s tempting to mark it spam and curse their name, but doing so would only hurt you. Much of it will be generic, but many companies will have resource centers set up and/or directories filled with job leads and services they’ve secured through partnerships. These services can be in the form of free resume workshops, exclusive job listings, or for companies that partner with The Suite, dedicated career experts to guide you through your job search.

3) What about any unvested equity or stock?

Unfortunately, any RSUs or options that have not vested by the date of your termination will be forfeited back to the company. That said, you will be able to hang onto whatever has vested so be sure to follow up with your HR department (if you have one) or whoever else is responsible for the layoff process to find out what you need to do. If you have Options, remember that you will need to exercise those options in order to keep them. This will often require a large cash payment to the company so make sure you speak with a financial expert or an employment attorney for advice. Curious about how equity works?

4) If you manage a team, stay in touch with them.

Your team needs you right now and as a leader it’s your responsibility to take care of them no matter what, even when you yourself are being impacted. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers, they aren’t expecting you to. Focus on being there to offer advice. In addition to helping them out, you’re likely to see that in answering their questions you’ll end up answering your own too. Even companies with well established HR departments seem to mess this one up. Be better than that and you will reap the rewards in the form of network growth.

Afterall, the Great Recession birthed some of today’s market leaders and you can bet those founders who encountered a similar situation remember how they were treated.

5) Start an alumni group and invite as many people as possible.

The easiest way to lighten the blow of being laid off is to commiserate with others who are experiencing the same thing. Assign responsibilities to people who want to take an active role and keep a cadence in your communications. Consistent group movement will motivate people to maintain good habits for their job search and frequent communication will help people find new roles together.

6) Share job leads with your network.

While you’re tapped into the market and hearing about new roles opening up, remember to notify those in your network who are also looking. If you joined a group like we suggested above, share roles with them too. By paying it forward you’ll not only help a friend in need, but you’ll ensure that when they spot an opportunity that’s perfect for you, they’ll return the favor.

No matter how you try to spin it, getting laid off sucks, period. However, if you take these steps, you can shave months off of your job search, and that's worth...well, that many months of salary. If you’re looking for more job search advice check out our blog, or for support, sign up for The Suite!

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George Mazzella Headshot
George C. Mazzella
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, The Suite

George is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Suite. He founded The Suite in order to fundamentally change the way executives manage their careers.  Prior to founding The Suite in 2019, George spent several years in the executive recruiting space where he was fortunate enough to advise some of the world's leading VC & PE backed businesses on talent.

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