Layoffs can strike anytime, but January is historically the busiest month for job cuts across all industries due to companies restructuring for the new year.
With the month just a few weeks away, a former Microsoft vice president of human resources (HR) shared six things people must do within 48 hours of being terminated.
Chris Williams, who worked at Microsoft from 1992 through 2000, now uses his more than 40 years of experience in building and leading teams is an advisor for people who were laid off or conducted layoffs.
He urges people to thoroughly read through their layoff packages before agreeing to sign anything and consult a lawyer if they’re considering taking legal action.
Williams also suggests updating your resume and LinkedIn page immediately to put yourself in a better position to land your next job quickly.
Layoffs affected roughly 15.2 million people in the U.S. last year, and Chris Williams suggests there are certain steps employees can take in the 48 hours after they’re laid off
Williams lists the important steps to take in the first 48 hours after a layoff in a Business Insider op-ed, even as companies take the wrong approach to mass layoffs.
‘In the last few years, even the last few weeks, we’ve seen a parade of companies handle layoffs with process and timing that verges on cruelty,’ Williams said in the op-ed.
‘Layoffs s*ck… pure and simple,’ Williams said in a YouTube video, adding, ‘But they don’t have to s*ck as badly as some companies make them.’
In the op-ed, Williams provided the following six steps to help people survive being laid off.
Really read through the layoff documents
Immediately after a layoff, HR will send numerous documents with sometimes confusing legal jargon, including information about when your termination begins, if you will receive severance, how long your healthcare will continue after the layoff date, and more.
The documents will likely need to be signed and returned as soon as possible, which is to the company’s advantage because it enables them to move on quickly.
However, Williams has warned that signing the documents right away is the opposite of what laid-off employees should do.
‘It’s in the company’s interest to get this over instantly, get you out, close your file, and move on. That saves them time, money, and drama,’ he wrote.
Instead, laid-off employees should tell HR they ‘need time to understand this all’ and take it home to read thoroughly because once signed, it is binding.
Consider challenging the decision
You should consider pushing back against management if you have any leverage, such as being part of a protected class like age, medical conditions, gender, or others, Williams advised.
By using this leverage, laid-off employees might get a better severance package than they were offered, from extended benefits to a more significant severance – but employees should not expect this to reverse the company’s layoff decision, Williams shared.
‘Make the case not on sympathy, but on business terms… some case that speaks business and money, not heartstrings,’ he wrote.
Williams included examples like telling the company you need to organize and document your work, you have a medical need that requires extended health coverage, or you work in a specialized field that will take longer to find a new job.
Look Into Your Legal Options
Consult with a lawyer to discuss if you have a case against the company for wrongful termination, if it’s something you’re considering
Having a lawyer review your severance documents and provide feedback on whether you can build a case against the company for wrongful termination is essential.
This could apply to those in a protected class, or if you believe the layoff is due to a complaint you raised, but when speaking with a lawyer, it’s important to make sure they don’t charge fees upfront.
Williams urges people to speak with someone who only charges a settlement fee in case they won’t take your case or say there isn’t a likelihood of success.
‘Talk to a lawyer if you’re even thinking about it,’ he wrote. ‘Here too, the worst they can say is ‘no.”
Update your resume and LinkedIn page
Laid-off employees should update their resume and LinkedIn page as soon as possible to start looking for their next job opportunity
Once you’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s, it’s time to look toward the future and update your resume and LinkedIn.
Your resume should spotlight your latest job and experience, highlighting what makes you the best candidate for future roles, Williams shared.
Include your last position, titles, and any major accomplishments – If you aren’t sure what this should entail, there are online sources to help you build a strong resume.
Likewise, if you haven’t been keeping your LinkedIn page up-to-date, now is the time, but don’t pay for third parties to help, Williams wrote, instead conveying plenty of people offering this information for free.
‘Don’t spend hundreds of your precious dollars, no matter how desperate you feel,’ he wrote.
‘Their advice will be from their well-worn playbook and probably won’t represent you as well as you can represent yourself.’
Keep it low key when mentioning your layoff online
Although the ink has barely dried on your layoff severance documents, it is time to decide if you want to share up front that you were laid off.
You can choose to keep it quiet and change when you leave your job, but if you decide to be transparent, Williams wrote the best option is to remain modest.
This option requires only a few sentences explaining you were part of the layoffs at the company, adding: ‘I enjoyed my time there and look forward to my next adventure.’
Williams warned you should never post something criticizing the company and share all the drama that led up to the layoffs, which is more appropriate for discussing with a friend over drinks.
‘I strongly recommend against this kind of post. You’re burning the bridges behind you,’ Williams wrote.
The shrapnel will damage people you might use as connections or references.
‘Worse, you’re telling any potential future employers that you’re prone to drama.
‘You don’t handle adversity well and often do so publicly.’
The takeaway: Keep it simple. Keep it kind.
Networking is key
Meet with someone you know over a cup of coffee to catch up and discuss possible job opportunities
Getting a new job can come from posting an Open to Work notice on your LinkedIn or applying directly for a position, but ‘the very best hires are made through connections,’ according to Williams.
You might be surprised how many people you know are ideally placed to open the door to you for an interview and can sing your praises to a hiring manager by doing so.
Williams advised to connect with as many people as you can, one-on-one, over a cup of coffee or a Zoom call, adding: ‘Connect with everyone you know who might have knowledge of an open position.’