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That's How to Manage a Layoff!

Instructional designer Brenda Peterson joins me to discuss how to respond to a layoff. She shares what that process typically looks like and walks through the emotions and considerations that come along with it. She also gives some pointers on how to prepare yourself for what most hope will never come, including building your network, growing your skill set and knowing how to ask for help.

Connect with Brenda on LinkedIn, check out her blog at, or find her at Condition Orange Preparedness.


The following transcript was auto-generated and may contain typos or spelling errors.

Leslie Early 0:00

Okay, today I am excited to have fellow instructional designer Brenda Peterson here with me. And she is going to offer some of her best tips on how to handle or deal with, respond to or even possibly thrive after facing a layoff. So I think this is a very interesting topic, and a lot of people are going to get a lot of value out of this. So thank you so much, Brenda, for being here.

Brenda Peterson 0:24

Great. Thank you, Leslie.

Leslie Early 0:26

And so that's kind of my little spiel about you. But if you want to take a couple of minutes to sort of introduce yourself and kind of talk a little bit about your own journey with this topic, and why you feel so passionately about sharing it with people.

Brenda Peterson 0:41

So hi, everybody, I'm Brenda Peterson. I am a lifelong learner, and also somebody who's worked professionally in the field of learning since forever. I am a learning and development leader. I'm also a learning experience designer, a lot of times in the software space, as well as in other areas of l&d, including financial health care, all that kind of stuff. The reason that I come to this topic is because like a lot of people who work in training, I've actually been laid off a number of times, my current count is five. And so I've learned a lot in the process of being laid off. And so given, you know, current times when the economy might not be stable, or different areas of the economy may be stronger or weaker, it's just a good time to take a step back. And just think about possible futures you might have, and figure out how to prepare for that little bit better. So I have over the years had several friends who have come to me finding themselves laid off and and saying things like, I had that job for 20 years, I didn't look for a job forever, what do I do? or other people who have come to me and said, I'm really worried, like, what do I What do I do, because I'm worried about possibly losing my job. So that really brought me to share information about this topic a little bit more formally, with a lot of different people, either who are concerned about going through a layoff, or who have already gone through one and just what next steps they should take.

Leslie Early 2:04

Yeah, and and i will say, from personal experience, the reason why I'm so interested in this topic is because I was a teacher for a long time. And like, teachers don't we don't have really this layoff thing that you have to think about as much like you're sort of like in it, you know, you're just one thing if you're in for life, it feels like unless you decide to leave. So I I don't know anything about this. And I feel like people who are transitioning into it probably don't, as well, but so thank you for sharing. And I guess then, that leads me to my first question, which is like, I don't even know what a layoff really looks like, I've seen it happen on TV. But what how does that really play out? In real life? Like, what is that like?

Brenda Peterson 2:50

You know, valid question. It's, it's a very weird experience. I, I think of kind of just a typical scenario, if there is one, it's like you come in, in the morning, you've gotten your coffee, you're sitting down, looking at your email, thinking about that meeting you have later on today, making your plans, figuring out what all you need to do that report that you need to update. And then you get a tap on the shoulder from your boss, or at this point, maybe a virtual call.

Brenda Peterson 3:17

And suddenly you find yourself in front of your boss and the HR person hearing that you don't have a job anymore. So it's a very surreal experience. I know I've had that happen, coming back from vacation one time, or I was getting ready to do a big project. And it's like, oh, I guess we're not doing that anymore.

Brenda Peterson 3:37

It's it's also weird, because again, it's unexpected. As I look back at my memory of specific layoffs, I can't see I remember a lot of details from the actual meeting, because I think your head is going, what are we doing? How does this even work?

Leslie Early 3:52

So cognitive dissonance going on there?

Brenda Peterson 3:55

Yes. And so it's just looking at that and figuring out so now what happens and inevitably, when it's been in person, it's been well, here's, here's your box, your white box club member now, where you basically take all your stuff, and then you head home and you sit in your house going, what what just happened? And now what do I do? So it's a surreal experience that kind of takes you out of the middle of, of something you were planning on doing. It's also kind of interesting, because it takes a while for your mind to adjust. Because your minds thinking, Oh, I have to go to that meeting with, oh, I have to do that report on and you go No, I don't have that job anymore. I don't have to do any of those things. So it's just very trippy. And then you have to kind of adjust to Alright, so that happened. So like, now what do I do with myself? And how do I adjust and figure out how to move on?

Leslie Early 4:42

Yeah, and and when we were talking about this before your story was very interesting, because you had some really good tips for, you know, what you're describing sounds like, you know, the cognitive dissonance and like it's sort of shocking like you're in a little bit of a state of shock like when this happens, but your employer or whoever's, you know, orchestrating the layoff is also expecting you to make some decisions, even though you're in this like state of shock, and and you had some interesting advice about that.

Brenda Peterson 5:15

So I think part of it again, it's definitely a shock, because it's something you weren't expecting. And there are a couple of decisions you need to make or that you may be asked to make right away. In many cases, if you are being let go from a company, there may be some sort of an agreement that they give you that they would like you to sign, whether that has to do with confidentiality or a severance package. One big thing is you don't necessarily have to sign that right, then it's often a good idea to take that home, look it over maybe even have an attorney, look it over depending on the situation, before you sign anything. So that's certainly one thing.

Brenda Peterson 5:52

Another thing I think, is just to give yourself a little bit of space, I've known people who have been laid off in that moment, they run home and they're like today, today, I will find a new job. And it's like, you know what, you need to take a breath, figure out what you want to do. Another thing is sometimes people will think, oh, my goodness, I have to, I have to tell everybody, all my feelings online right now. And it's like, no, I grieve a little bit, you're gonna have to switch gears, but do some of that privately. Take a breath, take a day, make a plan, figure out what you need to do going forward. Yeah, yeah. And, and that was very interesting, because I hadn't even thought of that, like, I'm the type of person that if you put a document in front of me, I will probably just sign it, especially if I'm already like feeling embarrassed, or, you know, vulnerable, or all those negative emotions that come up. So I thought that was really good at what advice if you can keep the where with all about you to say, Hey, I'm gonna need some time to look this over before I sign anything.

Leslie Early 6:53

Great advice. Um, so that's kind of like a great snapshot of like, in the moment, but what if, as you were describing people, you know, who, who they just have a sneaking suspicion that it's coming? It hasn't happened yet. But they feel like, this might be something that's coming down the line for me, what advice would you have for someone who's in that type of situation?

Brenda Peterson 7:17

So I think a lot of it is just thinking through some things just so that if it does happen, you sort of know what to do next. Because again, in that moment, you're a little taken aback, and you really have to readjust. So some of the things that I always think of, one of them is, is just some general things that ideally you're doing in your career anyway. So first of all, hopefully, you are continuing to grow and develop professionally. So just making sure that keep your skills current, I think of like the kinds of professional development meetings I attend, where I'm learning about things like Experience API, or good ways to use video and training or blended learning or virtual classroom, but just keep on learning and growing. So that you're continuing to be marketable to first of all, your current employer and then to any future employer to. So I think another thing that it makes sense to do, is to just think through, like, how are you keeping in touch with other people, I think sometimes we, you know, having good professional relationships, and a good professional network pays dividends all the time, whenever I'm trying to figure out a problem, I'll throw a question out on LinkedIn, I'll contact somebody that I know from one of the groups that I'm in, or I'll just read people's posts and just randomly learn stuff that it's like, oh, there's a useful little piece of information, let me file that away. Those are the same people that going forward will probably be able to help you find jobs, or you'll be able to help them find jobs. So again, I think there's a lot of benefits to keeping your professional network strong, just so that you can help others and collaborate and work together. And the final thing that I always think of is just the value of doing a little bit of contingency planning. So some of the things that and this goes into all those things that we don't really realize we get from our job. So things like insurance. You know, for most people in the United States, your health insurance probably in some way comes from your employer. So if your employer goes away, what do you do for insurance, and there's always Cobra or continuing coverage, which tends to be a whole lot more than you paid as an employee. Maybe you go without insurance for a bit, maybe you go on the exchanges and find some sort of another insurance plan. So just what happens with insurance? And how would you handle that?

Brenda Peterson 9:30

If, for example, you went to work today and came home with a box? Who do you contact? Do you have recruiters in your network who you would ask for help? Do you have again, your professional network who you would reach out to and say, hey, maybe we can talk about some contract work, or here's kind of what I'm looking for. Even having your resume up to date just so that just in case that happens you're a little bit more poised to act, thinking about income streams. So I know for a lot of us, our day job is probably our core income stream. So what happens when that goes away? In many cases, if it's a full time benefits eligible position, you're probably able to get unemployment.

Brenda Peterson 10:07

I also know that the very first time I was laid off my first instinct, instinct was quickly, quickly, I must go get a job, any job. And what you actually learn is that once you have a professional career, and you are eligible for unemployment, you may be better off not taking just any old job. Mine was always like, I'm gonna go work at the bookstore, that was like my, my thing compelled to do, and it might not make sense to do that. Because then you're going to be spending all those hours working at a job, that's not really your career, where you could make probably comparable money, taking your unemployment, focusing your efforts on working towards your next full time position.

Leslie Early 10:43

Oh, that's a really good point. Yeah, I hadn't even thought of that. But yeah, if you do qualify for unemployment, then you can get a wage or or some sort of income, while you are also searching for a job, which is the point of unemployment. That's why they created it.

Brenda Peterson 11:03

And it's interesting, too, because I think sometimes people think, well, I shouldn't I shouldn't take unemployment. It's like, that's what it's for you paint into it. And it's there to help people as you bridge the gap between your old position and a new position. So let it be with it as it was intended to be. Yeah. And also, I'm thinking, you know, if it would also be a little bit strange to explain, oh, I have this bookstore experience, like, randomly in the middle of it. Sorry, I feel a little bit like that. I have a teaching for 10 years. And then I worked at a law firm for two years. And now I'm back into instructional design. So that's always a little bit like, yeah, that was a transition a transitional phase that I was, it's kind of funny.

Leslie Early 11:47

So we are talking, we have talked about what it might look like or what you might encounter in the moment. And we've sort of talked about leading up to that. But let's say someone's listening, and they have recently gone through a layoff. And this is the first time they've gone through it, and they sort of don't really know what to do next. So what advice would you have for that type of person?

Brenda Peterson 12:16

So first and foremost, I think it's it's taking a moment to process. I recently did a seminar that was talking about how to prepare for an unplanned job loss. And the part that I almost threw in at the end that I got the best feedback on was just taking a moment to just process what you're feeling. Because I think sometimes we our mind, switch to business, and we're like, well, I don't have a job, I need to get a job. Do the resume network with people apply for jobs? And we actually need to take half a step back and go okay.

Brenda Peterson 12:47

Am I right? Maybe I need to sit quietly, maybe I need to write maybe I'm angry, I need to vent to a friend.

Brenda Peterson 12:55

You know, I think of the the stages of death, you're gonna go through all those different emotions. And I don't know about you, but personally, I do not make my best decisions when I'm super anxious or wound up or angry. So it's time to just just take a moment and process some of those things, and admit that those are all there. Because I think if you don't you hold on to those, and maybe you won't make a good decision going forward. I think it's also a useful opportunity to take half a step back again and say, Is this the kind of job I want?

Brenda Peterson 13:24

I know that when I when I the first time I was laid off, first of all, I didn't even know it was a possibility. It just didn't occur to me that that might be how that job ended. And after I again found myself home with my box, I remember sitting there and just thinking through like, gosh, you know, do I really want to do corporate training? And about 30 seconds later, I was like, Yes, Yes, I do. And I was like, okay, because part of me was like, I could totally switch directions and do another thing and go into something else. And I'm like, No, I'm in the right area. So cool. At least I got to step back and consciously decide, that's what I wanted to do. And then I could figure out, like, now, what particular What did I like about my last job? What do I want to find in my next job? And how do I move forward?

Brenda Peterson 14:08

One other thing that I would say, it is amazing, and it warms my heart, how many people will jump up and say, hey, how can I help you? What do you need? Let me know what you need. And so one of the things you have to think through too is what do I need? And right there, there are lots of things. One of them is you need some sort of job search help.

Brenda Peterson 14:30

Which that's probably the the one that's that's the most obvious to us. So that's people you know, talking to people who are in that role talking to people at different companies, maybe somebody to look over your resume. So some of those job search focus things, but then there's also all the life stuff like you probably need somebody to distract you from the fact that you're unemployed, and maybe feeling bad about yourself. You might need somebody to you know, watch your children so you can go on a job interview or or go someplace, just figure it out.

Brenda Peterson 15:00

out what you need? And then who can you ask about that? You might also need someone to help hold you accountable. So who is the person who's going to ask me? Hey, did you What did you do for job searching today? And also asking that in a way that's helpful? And then just that emotional support, because you're going to have good days and bad days? And who do you talk to when you're struggling? So who's your team that's going to help you navigate through that change? And really provide you that support that you need?

Leslie Early 15:27

Yeah, and I think it's also, as, as you were saying, earlier, is that, you know, if, if people like to help people, right, so there, if it's known that you need help, people want to help, but we can't expect other people to know what it is that we need. So it's trying to, as you were saying, basically come up with all the different areas and different things that you need. But trying to get really specific, like, maybe I need, maybe I don't need someone to help me with my entire resume. But maybe there's just one certain part of it that I like, I just don't know how to write a summary statement that makes sense, or I don't know how to come up with measurable, you know, accomplishments or achievements or things like that. So far as the more specific I think you get probably, when you approach someone and ask for help, the more likely they're like, yeah, I can do that one specific thing for you. That's like, not a big deal. But if you just say, hey, I need resume help. That's a little bit...

Brenda Peterson 16:36


Leslie Early 16:36

Yeah, exactly.

Brenda Peterson 16:39

Yeah. So well, and I know at one point, I have a friend who's a copywriter. And so as my resume was almost done, I'm like, hey, Sharon, can you just look this over? And just and just check it? And she's like, yep, you know, 10 minutes, because that's her day job. She got it back to me. Awesome. Other people, it's like, hey, here, here's how I described the job that I had, when you and I work together. What else should I put in? Or what else am I good at? So yeah, it's, and a lot of that, again, is letting people help you because they want to. And I think we all feel good when we can help somebody else. And also going forward. Once you're employed again, there's always going to be people who are going through this process, how do you help them? Whether it's just support or caring, or or letting them know about open roles, whatever it is, but how do you make sure that that you're helping pay that forward to?

Leslie Early 17:28

Yeah, definitely. Well, so I think we did, we covered a lot. Good job. We did that and like, a great 17 minutes. Awesome. I hope that this was as helpful for others as it was for me, because I know this is something that I've never had to think about. And so maybe others are in the same situation. And now they have at least have some idea of of the possibilities and how to start planning for that. So if people want to continue the conversation with you, Brenda, about this, where can people find you connect with you reach out to you?

Brenda Peterson 18:06

So great. So we can continue that conversation in a couple of different ways. First of all, I live and die on LinkedIn. So by all means, check me out there, feel free to connect with me or to follow me just to see what postings I have. Also, if you want to check out my blog entries I blog at Brenda learns calm, I basically experienced lots of different things, everything from inline skating to self defense to job search and career preparation. So you can check out all of those different articles there. Then also, I do do some online classes on things like preparing for a job search or the topics like this like managing a layoff. And that's to a company called condition orange preparedness. We deal with all sorts of preparedness from self defense to prepared pets to actually dealing with making sure that you have steady gainful employment so you can pay your bills. So you can check me out of those few places.

Leslie Early 18:59

That's pretty good. That's Yeah, most people are like I have a LinkedIn page. So you're you're out there you're moving in shakin love it. All right. Well, thank you again, Brenda, so much for joining me and sharing these your wisdom about this very important topic with us.

Brenda Peterson 19:16

Thank you, Leslie.

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