It's easy to view a layoff as an end-of-the-world situation. Few experiences are scarier than losing your job and the financial security it brings.
The fear and desperation that grip you after you've been laid off are destructive emotions. They distract you from doing the work you need to do to find a new job. That's why you can't let those emotions consume you, says Dr. Richard Bayer, a former professor of economics and ethics who currently serves as COO of The Five O'Clock Club, a career coaching and outplacement network.
"Resist the urge to think of unemployment as the end of the world, no matter how upsetting it may be," he says. "Think of it instead as an opportunity to improve yourself and to make a fresh start. Maybe you're going to find out that what you enjoy doing and do well is different from what you were doing. You can end up better off than you were before."
The key, says Bayer, is maintaining a positive attitude because potential employers can detect a candidate's desperation as easily as a shark can smell blood, and they don't like it. To keep a stiff upper lip, Bayer offers the following seven tips for thriving after a layoff, even in a bad economy.
1. Negotiate for the best possible severance package
Don't think that you have to accept whatever severance package your manager or HR puts in front of you as is, says Bayer. Your severance package is negotiable, he says, so don't feel pressured to immediately sign on the dotted line. Take the time to read the severance package, even if it's 20 pages long.
If your employer gives you a hard time, Bayer says to hold your ground and tell the manager that it's not reasonable for the employer to ask you to sign something without first reading it.
"Sometimes employers will say, 'If you sign this right now, you'll get your best deal. If you don't sign it, you'll get a worse deal'," says Bayer. "I wouldn't buy into that. Tell them you have to sleep on it. There's nothing that should surprise them about you wanting to sleep on it."
To help you prepare for severance negotiations, Bayer recommends consulting your HR manual for information about what kind of severance package you should expect from your employer. That way, you can plan ahead of time what other elements of a severance package (e.g., career counseling, health insurance) you might need.
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