NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Earlier this year, AOL's Patch.com made headlines when CEO Tim Armstrong announced plans to layoff up to 500 staff employees, or roughly 40% of the site's workforce. Now the headlines are for defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The company plans to layoff 4,000 workers by the middle of 2015, and it's not alone.
According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor report, in 2012, employers launched 6,500 extended mass layoff events, or layoffs lasting longer than 30 days. As a result, over 1.25 million workers found themselves jobless.
The bottom line – layoffs happen. If you find yourself holding a pink slip, the key to a speedy recovery lies in how you handle those first few weeks. Do things right, and you can survive the layoff and maybe even land a better job.
Get Your Ducks in a Row
According to Jody Johnson, co-owner of the business coaching firm, ActionCoach, "there are taps that something is going on at the company long before downsizing or layoffs occur." Keep an eye on what's happening at work. If you think a layoff may be in the works, start planning ahead, update your resume, and check out job posting sites to get a feel for what's out there.
Even if you are caught by surprise, the same rules still apply. As soon as you know you'll be laid off, update your resume and post profiles on job hunting websites like CareerBuilder, Monster and Indeed. While it won't guarantee you a new job, if a recruiter searches the sites, your resume will be there.
File for Unemployment
If you've been on the job for a year or more, you likely qualify for unemployment. As soon as you've been laid off, file a claim with your state's unemployment office. You'll need basic info like your Social Security number and driver's license number, plus some information about your job like your last date of employment and hourly pay rate. In most states you can file online, check on the status of your claim and track your benefit amount. You won't make as much as you did on the job, but you will get a weekly check to help tide you over while you're job hunting.
Social networking isn't just for memes and funny links. If you're looking for a job, you can make those accounts work for you. Cheryl Palmer, a certified career coach, recommends filling out a LinkedIn profile if you haven't done so already. According to Palmer, "recruiters regularly search this social networking site for candidates who meet their criteria." To attract recruiters, Palmer recommends making sure your profile is completely filled out while highlighting your accomplishments and optimizing keywords. For example, if you're looking for a job as a personal banker, make sure your profile includes keywords like "banking" or "teller experience."
And don't forget Facebook and Twitter. While those sites aren't geared towards professional networking, you can still use them to connect with former co-workers or bosses. Sometimes putting the word out that you're looking for a new position is all you need to land a new job.
Become a Member
Some old fashioned networking can also shorten your job search, or even help you find a new career path entirely. Palmer recommends joining professional associations in your area. Typically non-profit groups, these associations are usually looking for members and volunteers to help run events or serve on committees. Palmer says, "Taking on such a task gives you deeper connections with others in the association that go beyond merely passing out a business card at a monthly meeting," she said.
Looking for a job is often a full-time job in itself, but if you're looking to make some cash on the side and keep your skills current (or learn some new ones), freelancing might be an option. As an added bonus, Sara Sutton Fell the CEO and founder of FlexJobs says freelance gigs can "help you get your foot in the door of companies who may not actively be hiring for fulltime roles," which may lead to a new permanent job in the future.
Fell says she sees freelance and telecommuting jobs across several industries from business to nursing. Job sites like FlexJobs and Indeed post freelance gigs, or you can try contacting companies directly. To pull it off, write a sales pitch for your services including what your skills are and your rate and email or mail it to companies in your industry.
Get Hired Temporarily
If you're short on cash and need more reliable income, part time or temporary gigs can help you fill the gap between a lay off and fulltime employment. To find a part time job, Fell recommends updating your resume and searching online job sites using, "keywords like freelance, temporary, half-time and other variations." Some sites like CareerRookie and SnagaJob also have separate sections highlighting only part time work.
For temporary gigs, contact a temporary staffing agency like Kelly Services. A staffing agency can help place you in a temporary job that may not be advertised online. However, make sure any part time or temporary job you take pads your resume. According to Fell, "taking a part time job in another field may help pay the bills, but it won't increase your chances of getting hired for a fulltime roll in your career field."
Finally, don't forget to keep a close eye on your finances. Hopefully you'll have a bit of savings and unemployment benefits to help you pay the bills, but it can't hurt to be a tightwad while you're job hunting. Start by cutting out any monthly bills you can live without like a gym membership, monthly indoor tanning membership or cable bill. Once you've trimmed your expenses down, create a budget for your variable expenses like groceries, household goods and clothing and stick to it. It may seem like a chore at first, but it will keep you from getting in a tight spot financially.
--Written by Angela Colley for MainStreet