When It’s Not Your Choice


You just got canned. Maybe you know the cutbacks were coming and heard the rumors for months. Maybe it came out of the blue and caught you like a kick in the solar plexus.

Maybe you’ve been given a few weeks’ notice, or maybe a guard escorted you unceremoniously out the door. Maybe you’re getting a cushy severance package, or maybe you’re getting just two weeks’ pay.

Whatever the situation, it’s horrible, crushing and mentally debilitating.

The numbers say the job market is strong right now. But industries are laying off people to invest in the technology that will perform more of the jobs of the future, and companies are restructuring. Year-end budget planning sometimes means people are shown the door just when everywhere you go you hear Andy Williams singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

A quick scan of the news shows us there are layoffs coming across the country, and at some well-known companies including Gannett, Haliburton, Morgan Stanley, Verizon Media, ViacomCBS, and of course the troubled WeWork.

There’s never enough time to prepare yourself for this emotionally. It’s hard to think positively about your next life chapter, at least at the moment, or to be objective.

If you do find yourself in this situation, give yourself permission to grieve, to feel anger, sorrow, and whatever other emotions come to the fore. Give yourself permission to seek help from a counselor or therapist. Job loss is traumatic, and it’s important to create a support system to help you get through it.  Seek support, in addition, from an experienced financial planner, a recruiter, and friends and family.

Once you are able to start looking to the next steps, it’s time to set your sights on the financial decisions ahead. Most importantly, if you don’t have a great grasp of your financial picture, you’ll need to focus on some basics. For example:

  1. The amount in your cash reserves
  2. Your fixed expenses (mortgage or rent, loan payments, credit card bills)
  3. Transportable benefits from your previous employer (medical coverage, life insurance)
  4. Government benefits available
  5. Severance benefits
  6. Current net worth (your assets and liabilities)

With a clear understanding, you can begin to make some strategic financial decisions. If the picture is murky, get some help!

If you aren’t working with an advisor who can guide you, it’s time to do some research. If money is very tight, look for an hourly (fee-only) planner who can help clarify the issues and put you on a course.

For example, it might be critical that you contact your debtors (credit cards, mortgage, etc.) to let them know what’s going on. Avoidance is the worst choice. Be up front and explain the situation.

If you do engage with creditors, make sure to document the conversations, dates and times and people with whom you’ve spoken. Get it in writing.

If your situation isn’t dire and you have the space to make decisions, don’t over-react. Make a list of your options and opportunities, and map out what you want to do next.

This might include deciding if you’re going to return to the workforce and if so, what strategies to deploy in finding a new job. You’ll probably need to find a suitable recruiter and work your network. And be bold about asking for help.

It may not have been your choice….but at some point, you will pick yourself up and, hopefully, find a meaningful, purposeful path to new career and life experiences.

I wish you the courage and strength to find success and fulfillment.