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Laid off - so now what?


Some material is very old and may be incorrect today

© March 2009 Anthony Lawrence

You've been laid off. Your company has downsized, smart-sized , right-sized, reorganized, had a workforce reduction, been reengineered, restructured. You've been pink-slipped, let go, eliminated, fired.. whatever, it's Monday morning and you've got no place to go. Now what?

First thing, reality check: is it going to be possible for you to find another job? Let's be brutally honest here: maybe not. Oh, sure *eventually* you might find a job like you had, but that's long after the bank has repossessed your house, your car and you've been living on cornflakes for a while.

So you just have to adjust your expectations, they say. Settle for less. Take a lesser paying job. The trouble with that is that it might pay so much less that you still end up losing the house..

You can Google for all the facts on COBRA, and unemployment benefits. Maybe you got a severance package too. Maybe with everything put together you've got a little breathing room - things will be OK for a few months at least.

Or maybe not. Either way, the day of reckoning will arrive. So now what?

This is the best time ever to be thinking about working for yourself. All the usual problems and objections have just been eliminated. Health insurance? You are going to lose all that soon enough if you remain unemployed. Job security? You already lost that. Might not make as much money at first? You aren't earning anything at all now.

The very first thing to realize is that you really aren't looking for a job. You are looking for income, for money. A job is one way to make money, but having a business is another way. Jobs may be scarce, but there is one person always willing to hire you - the owner of your business.

The next thing to realize is where money comes from. People trade money to get things they want. I know stuff about computers, networks, troubleshooting. People who need things in those areas pay me to help them. I don't know what you do, where your skills lie, but someone needs you and will pay you. Maybe they only need a little thing and maybe you can't get much income from that, but there is someone else too. One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that it can help you find those people and help them find you.

I'm not saying this is easy. Working for yourself can be harder than working at a job. It can also be more rewarding, but right now we're talking about survival, right? You need income. You have skills, other people will pay for your skills. You *can* do this.

At least think about it. It doesn't take all day to read the want ads. You can only polish your resume so much. No matter how many networking contacts you have, soon enough every one of them will know your situation and there is nothing more to say. Rather than watching Oprah, why don't you think about how you might take charge of your own destiny? Yeah, that's scary. Scarier than losing the house? Scarier than living in a tent?

Think about it.

Oh, are you still worried about health insurance? Reading Health Insurance for folks considering self employment could help.

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-> Laid off - so now what?

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Tue Mar 10 14:27:14 2009: 5637   BrettLegree

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I've thought a lot about this, and have been taking (small) steps in this direction (slow but steady wins the race). I figure I'll be launching soon, and I've not forgotten about your directory here - I'll put my shingle up when the paint is dry.

But back to the idea of what to do when laid off, and I've thought that in a strange way, it might be good if a lot of the clever but not so brave folks had to start providing services using their true talents.

The way things were, in times past - when we created true value rather than reams of paper. We helped each other out.

You fix my computer, I fix your house, and so on.

At the end of the day, you can say, "I did that" and feel proud. Maybe that is part of what so many are missing today, and try to replace by buying a lot of useless crap they don't need.

I know a lot of carpenters, millwrights and so on where I work - they work hard, but they are happy.

Hmm...



Tue Mar 10 14:32:05 2009: 5638   TonyLawrence

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There's a lot of internal satisfaction that comes from hard work that accomplishes something tangible: building a house, building a computer application, fixing a leak, fixing a network problem..







Tue Mar 10 14:36:11 2009: 5639   BrettLegree

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Exactly.

Whenever I build or fix a computer, or troubleshoot it to bring it back to 100 percent, it makes me smile.

That's why I have to do that. That's why I must do that. And I will.



Tue Mar 10 18:21:52 2009: 5641   anonymous

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Tony,

You couldn't be more right! I was forced into going full time in April 2004, and it was a bit on the scary side. I am so glad I did it. In fact I can't see myself going to work for the man ever again.

I just want to say thanks a ton for all that you have provided to this community now and in the past.

Have a great day,

Troy



Tue Mar 10 18:27:11 2009: 5642   TonyLawrence

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I am so glad to hear that. Most of the time I hear "I can't!", "A job is security!" and other nonsense.. Good luck to you and please let us know how you do!



Tue Mar 10 18:51:37 2009: 5643   BrettLegree

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I often hear people say a job is security too, especially where I am now, because we are a big government funded company.

I can see what is coming down the pipe and I can see so many people banking on the company looking after them, as it has many times in the past.

This time, I think that they are wrong... and I don't intend to be one of the ones caught out.



Wed Mar 11 05:47:30 2009: 5647   Imee

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I'm just thankful I still have a job... So many hard working people have been laid off recently, and I've read lots of posts like yours with tips on how to survive the economic turndown. I like your take though, there's a little pinch of reality in there, that "surviving" is not gonna be easy but it's possible.



Wed Mar 11 06:39:10 2009: 5648   Andrew

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Wow -- love the site. It hits 2 of my current issues of interest: Linux and unemployment!

When I lost my job about 3 weeks ago, I started up a site for others that were in the same boat and looking to meet some people and swap some tips and ideas. The Free Agents ( (link) ) was born, and its been my pet project now for a few weeks. Its been very interesting meeting some of the other members of the site and hearing their stories and backgrounds.

I encourage anyone that finds themselves without a job to figure out an interesting project or two and sink some time into it. Write an iPhone app, brew your own beer, develop a love for Rwandan literature -- whatever. Just think of something that you wouldn't otherwise have the time to pursue, and give it a shot. When you're no longer without a job and find yourself short on time again, you'll be happy you took a shot at something new and have new knowledge or something tangible to show for it!

Best of luck to everyone, great blog -- going on my RSS.

-Andrew



Wed Mar 11 10:05:02 2009: 5649   TonyLawrence

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Yes, good point, Andrew. Interests and hobbies can turn into income sources too.



Sat Apr 9 19:13:08 2011: 9445   anonymous

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Laid off people are competition for those already self employed.



Sat Apr 9 19:23:13 2011: 9446   TonyLawrence

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Well, maybe sometimes, but I doubt that is truly an issue.



Sun Apr 10 16:33:12 2011: 9447   BigDumbDinosaur

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Laid off people are competition for those already self employed.

Laid-off people are also competition for those who are seeking employment. Either way, someone who is out of work is going to compete with someone else for work. Would you rather do that on some faceless hiring manager's terms or on your terms?

I went full-time self-employed a long time ago and have never looked back. I do exactly as much work as I can handle, and while there have been lean times, they were never so lean that I couldn't manage to keep going. During those same lean times, I knew people who suddenly found themselves adrift in the ocean of unemployment. Money may have been tight for me during those times but it was still coming in. My acquaintances who abruptly went from employed to unemployed had nothing coming in but bills and threatening notices from creditors.

Now, which is more desirable? Controlling your destiny or letting that faceless hiring/firing manager control it? If it's the latter, I suggest signing up at McDonald's for one of those 50,000 jobs they are going to fill. "Would you like fries with your Big Mac?" <sarcasm>Sounds like an exciting future.</sarcasm>

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