How to Deal with an Unexpected Layoff

Hello, my dear readers! 2020 is a challenging year. Although the billionaires’ wealth grew by $845 billion during the first six months of the pandemic, many have to deal with the reality of getting furloughed or laid off. How to deal with an unexpected layoff becomes, more than ever, an important topic worth exploring. Today, I am going to share with you 12 tips on dealing with an unexpected layoff.

1. Negotiate with your employer to get as good of a severance package as possible

When you are laid off unexpectedly, you will be shocked. But please be smart, and refrain from just saying “yes” to everything your employer says. When you are laid off, you are entitled to a severance package, so make sure you are offered one. You should also try negotiating with your employer to get as large of a severance package as possible. Although your attempt to negotiate may not be successful, at least you know that you have tried.

Common components of a severance package include:

  • Your remaining regular salary
  • Any additional payment based on months of service
  • Payment for unused accrued vacation time, holiday pay or sick leave.
  • A payment in lieu of a required notice period
  • Retirement accounts benefits
  • Stock options
  • Assistance in searching for new work, such as access to employment services

I know being laid off is unpleasant, but you must remain calm and polite at all times when dealing with your employer. You do not want to burn any bridges, because you may need your former employer for a reference letter down the road. There may even be a chance that they will call you back once the business is improving as well.

2. Give yourself permission to absorb the shock for a day or two

When faced with an unexpected layoff, you will likely experience various negative emotions, no matter how strong you think you are. In times like this, it is important to allow yourself to experience the negative emotions to minimize the long-term impact they can have on you. You are allowed to spend a day or two panicking or feeling sad. Of course, don’t do anything stupid like going out and overspending. Stay at home, talk to your loved ones, and cry if you want to. You need some time to absorb the shock. Let it be now.

3. Review your budget and cut your expenses

It has been a few days since you were unexpectedly laid off, and it is now the time to face the reality. With your likely main source of income gone, you will want to trim your monthly budget and reduce it just to the essentials. Tell yourself it is temporary, and be ruthless. You will thank yourself for it in the long run.

Items that should be gone from your budget include:

  • Dining out/food delivery
  • All entertainment
  • Monthly subscriptions
  • Non-critical memberships
  • Investment
  • Donations
  • Travel
  • Fancy grocery items (sorry, no more $5 kombucha for now, but it is only temporary!)
  • Miscellaneous expenses like store-bought coffee, little trinkets you buy because they are pretty, etc

4. Move back home with your parents if necessary and possible

If you can move back home with your parents temporarily, do so. It is a privilege to be able to move back because many may not have a safe and stable house to go back to. Moving back home with your parents can save on rent, which is probably the biggest category of expenses you have today.

5. Get a roommate

If you are living alone and have an extra bedroom (unlikely) or even just a living room with a sofa or sofa bed, get yourself a roommate. There will be people who are looking for an inexpensive place to live, and such an arrangement can help you generate some necessary income.

Yes, I know it is not ideal, especially if you are the type who enjoys living alone and loves his/her privacy, but finding yourself a roommate can alleviate some of your financial burdens when you face an unexpected layoff and do not have a steady job.

6. Research and apply for government assistance programs

There are government assistance programs out there to support you when you have been unexpectedly laid off. Specifically, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Canada has offered the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and now the Canada Recovery Benefit, which provides $2,000 every month for residents who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. In the US, the Economic Impact Payment provides $1,200 for eligible individuals and $500 for each qualifying child. The government of Australia has also offered different measures including two $750 Economic Support Payments. There are also government-sponsored employment insurance benefits that you may apply for.

Make sure you research your government’s official websites and apply for all the programs you are eligible for.

7. Take inventory of everything in the house, and sell the items you no longer need online

With plenty of time on hand now that you have to deal with an unexpected layoff, you have no excuse to not deep-clean your house. It is also a great way to make some money online. I have made over a thousand dollars selling things I no longer use on Kijiji and Craigslist. I have sold textbooks, earphones, an old desktop, or even some handbags and musical instruments that have been sitting on my shelf collecting dust.

Not only will you be able to make some money to help you go through this difficult personal financial crisis, but you will also have a tidier home at the end to enjoy.

8. Negotiate everything possible

Are there any big monthly payments that you have to make? If you have a good track record of paying everything on time in the past, your lenders/landlord may be willing to give you a break if you explain your situation.

Call your bank to negotiate a lower monthly payment for the next few months if you have a mortgage. You will also want to call your credit card company and see if they can reduce your minimum payment. Although your lenders may be reluctant to forgive your interest altogether, delaying payments still buys you time.

If you are a renter, contact your landlord and see if they could give you a discount, or delay payment for a month or two.

When you are facing an unexpected layoff, you will want to employ your negotiation skills and get as much help as you can.

9. Get help from your community and don’t be embarrassed to use the food bank

Don’t be afraid of using community assistance programs, like your local food banks. Now is not the time to feel embarrassed. You can give back when you are on your feet again. Although food banks may not offer the freshest food, they have enough to at least make sure that you don’t go hungry. Every penny counts when you lose your main source of income. Using the food bank can help reduce your grocery bills, which are another main category of your monthly expenses.

10. Leverage your skills and start side-hustling

If you haven’t thought about side hustles, now is the time to start. If you have been dabbling in side hustles, now is the time to double down.

Are there any skills that you use regularly that can benefit others? Writing, coding, and Excel are examples of skills that are needed by many, so make sure that you set up a profile on gigs websites like Fiverr or Upwork and advertise your skills. If you know how to drive, then consider becoming an Uber or Lyft driver. You can also become an Instacart shopper, or become a tasker on Taskrabbit. I have to admit that these could be very unstable gigs, but they can help pay at least a portion of your bills.

11. Apply for jobs

Yes, when you are laid off, you will have to apply for new jobs. You can certainly try to apply via LinkedIn,, Workpolis and the like, but keep in mind that an estimated 70% of jobs are never advertised. Therefore, you want to be reaching out to your established network in addition to applying for jobs online. Do not be shy about asking your contacts and acquaintances for potential opportunities.

I also recommend that you add #OpentoWork photo frame to your Linkedin profile, like what I have here:

12. Take care of your physical and mental health

I know it is hard to tell yourself to eat well and quit worrying, but you must be in a good physical and mental state to turn things around. Of course, when you are short of financial resources, you will want to stick to inexpensive (or free)ways to help you relax.

Some of the best ways you can take care of your physical health for free include:

  • Go for a run
  • Take a walk in the park
  • Follow a fitness video on YouTube
  • Refrain from eating junk food

Some of the best ways you can take care of your mental health for free include:

  • Listen to music
  • Sing
  • Take a bath if you have a bathtub. All you really need is some hot water and undisturbed soaking time. If you don’t have a bathtub, a hot shower can work too.
  • Talk to loved ones
  • Watch funny videos
  • Allot “worry time” for yourself, and only worry during the designated time

Final Words

It helps to be prepared

If you already have an emergency fund or several streams of income, navigating through an unexpected layoff will be a little bit easier. Therefore, if you are among the lucky ones who still have a stable job, make sure that you prioritize saving for your emergency funds until you have about 6 to 9 months of living expenses. You will want to put the money in a high-yield savings account that you can readily access, like an EQ Bank’s Savings Plus Account.

Having several streams of income may take a while to build up, but while you have a stable job, I recommend that you take up some work on the side, whether it is freelance writing, building up a portfolio through gig works, etc. Although these streams of incomes likely won’t pay as much as your main job, at least you will still have some money coming in when you get unexpectedly laid off from your main one.

But what if you are not prepared?

However, given the fact that 40% of Americans would struggle to come up with even $400 to pay for an unexpected bill, it may be a bit too late to preach the importance of the emergency fund or having several streams of income. The tips above are still applicable even if you are not prepared at all. I hope they can help you navigate through this challenging situation, and emerge from the other side, strong and triumphant.

4 thoughts on “How to Deal with an Unexpected Layoff”

  1. It must be incredibly tough getting laid-off and it’s something that’ll be affecting huge numbers of people this year. You’ve given some fantastic tips and great signposting to government assistance. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with things like that so having it in plain terms is really helpful. xx


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