Get Back on Your Feet After a Layoff

You thought it would never happen to you. You are a hard-working chemical engineer fulfilling your career goals. The next thing you know, you’re called into a meeting with your boss and you are out of work before lunch.

With that, welcome to your new job search. You are one of the many, the disoriented, the laid off. So now what? When I was laid off in April 2015, I learned many important lessons before I found a new job. If you ever find yourself in this situation, here is some advice from one engineer who has made it through.

It’s not your fault

If you are laid off, you are undoubtedly upset, discouraged, and confused in a way you’ve never experienced before. But it is very likely that the layoff had nothing to do with your performance, personality, or skills. Do not confuse being laid off with being fired. Telling your­self it isn’t your fault can be difficult to accept, but it is true.

Take care of yourself

Focus on what you can control. Even though you want a new job immediately, prepare for the long haul. Finding a new job may take months, rather than weeks. File for unemployment and figure out your healthcare options. Determine what severance or benefits your former employer offers. In some cases, severance is negotiable. Be honest with your friends and family because you will need their support.

Don’t immediately apply to every job you can

Give yourself at least a day or two. This might be the first time in your life where your time is not defined by school or work, and the psychological shock should not be underestimated. Find something to take your mind off your situation.

Don’t burn any bridges

It is never a good idea to speak negatively about your former employer, and this will be the most difficult time to follow this advice. Leave on the best note you possibly can. Try to contact your former coworkers, thank them for the opportunity to work with them, and use this conversation to start your list of professional references. Some people will come through in amazing ways and some may ignore your LinkedIn request. Remember, the world is small, your career is long, and people talk and remember.

Prepare for everything

Prepare your résumé, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. Brand yourself, highlight your accomplishments, practice interview stories, and rehearse your elevator speech. Envision you will go into an interview and confidently answer any question or solve any scenario thrown into your path. You will excel.

Julie Gruhn, a technical sales engineer at UOP Honey­well who got back on her feet after two layoffs in 2013, adds, “Assume that some of your first interviews may be practice if you haven’t done this in a while. Go ahead and take an interview for a job you may not really want. You can always say no later.”


The best way to find a job is networking. It is always a good idea to network, but now especially is the time to get involved professionally. Prove to your peers in AIChE that you are a responsible leader with real accomplishments. Others will be watching and, when you need it most, someone may advocate for you or help you.

“Networking is really the best way to find a job. Knowing someone on the inside can help you find out about jobs early,” says Gruhn. “This also works well for your contact, as some companies offer bonuses for referring people if they get hired.” Do not be afraid to reach out to your network. As long as you conduct yourself professionally, the worst that can happen is they say no.

Advocate to a person, not a machine

It’s best when contacts communicate with someone directly on your behalf — for example, to an engineering hiring manager or some­one in HR — who has real impact on hiring.

Beat the online filters

If you have to go online, tailor your résumé to each job you apply for and focus on repeating keywords in the job description in order to effectively compete against the hundreds of other applicants. The first battle is against the screening system, but websites such as can help you optimize your résumé key­words. If you are one of the lucky few to have your résumé read by a human, consider yourself fortunate. If you get a job through an online portal, know how rare that is.

Have confidence!

Having confidence is the most difficult aspect about recovering from a layoff. Your inner confidence is broken. Focus on your branding and stay positive. Effort, preparation, and confidence in yourself will go a long way toward helping you get back on your feet.

Keep yourself occupied

Partake in affordable activities that keep you focused on sanity and self-­improvement. As tough as it may be, make an effort to be social. Exercise. Volunteer. Learn to cook. Read War and Peace. Take a class. Spend time away from the computer.

Getting started

Be appreciative of your friends, family, colleagues, and everyone who had a positive impact on your journey, big or small. You will find a new job. When you do, prove your former employer wrong. Keep networking. Help others and pay whatever help you received forward. Go into your new job with a renewed sense of enthusiasm.


Garrett Green's picture

This all seems like fantastic advice; I particularly agree with networking and reaching out to former coworkers as professional references. Although I hope to never find myself in this situation, I will keep this advice in mind if I do.