Surviving a Layoff

“It’s business, not personal.”
That’s probably the last thing you feel when you’ve lost your job. Yet this is the mind-set that helped Heidi Moore through not one, but two layoffs. “I never looked at it as the company was out to get me,” says Moore. “I noticed that my colleagues who took it personally hurt more.”

We all know someone who has become suddenly dependent on a severance package or unemployment benefits. And if you have never been let go from a job, count your blessings — and count on the possibility that those days might be numbered. A report by outplacement consultancy group Challenger, Gray & Christmas revealed that there were more than 800,000 planned job cuts in 2006, with closings, cost-cutting, and restructurings topping the list of reasons. The firm also noted that the period from September to December is historically the heaviest for job cuts, with average cuts jumping 32% from the summer months, and that this year we could see an even larger increase because of the collapse of the housing market.

A layoff doesn’t have to be the end of the world. This piece will walk you through the emotional and financial valleys caused by a layoff and give you a roadmap for finding your way back to employment. “If you do the right kind of processing and assessment,” says psychologist Carole Kanchier, Ph.D., principal of Questers, a career management consulting firm in Palo Alto, California, and Calgary, Alberta, as well as the author of Dare to Change Your Job and Your Life (Jist Publishing; $16.95), “you can end up on the other side of the layoff happier, stronger, and wiser for having gone through it.”

Welcoming the Ax
Milwaukee native Moore, 38, survived the chopping block twice. She was first laid off in September 1994 from Bank One (now Chase Bank), where she made $35,000 as a customer service manager in the credit card division. Despite whispers circulating around the office, the layoff surprised her. The second time, however, the married mother of four knew it was coming. When she was let go again in May 2003, she was making around $70,000 as a human resources diversity specialist at Deluxe Corp. (now eFunds), a financial risk management and electronic transaction processing company. The company underwent a publicized, strategic reorganization, and Moore was let go when she opted not to relocate.

Unlike most people in the midst of a layoff, Moore wasn’t upset. “I was happy at the first layoff because it afforded me the opportunity to go back to school. At eFunds, I was happy again, because it gave me time to spend with my newborn child, finish my graduate work, and get a business plan together to start a nonprofit organization,” she says. Moore declined to use the job placement services each company supplied, feeling her skill set and knowledge base were beyond what they were offering.

After each layoff, the household relied primarily on the income of Moore’s husband, Deveron, owner of a third-generation, family-owned barbershop. The couple