How to Get Laid Off: A Preparatory Guide


Madeleine Horton

“Change is not merely necessary to life – it is life.” – Alvin Toffler

In today’s dynamic job market, seeking a layoff might seem counterintuitive, yet it can be a strategic move for those aiming for a career pivot, pursuing further education, or needing a structured exit that includes benefits such as severance pay.

This guide is designed for professionals who are contemplating this significant step, focusing on how to approach the situation with professionalism, ethical considerations, and strategic planning to ensure the best possible outcome for your career trajectory.

Understanding Layoffs

What Constitutes a Layoff? A layoff occurs when an employer temporarily or permanently reduces its workforce for reasons not related to the employee’s performance—typically due to economic downturns, company restructuring, or cost-cutting measures. It’s crucial to distinguish layoffs from firings, which are performance-related, and resignations, where the employee chooses to leave.

Potential Benefits of Being Laid Off Though challenging, layoffs can come with potential benefits, including severance pay, continuation of health benefits, and eligibility for unemployment benefits. These can provide a financial cushion that allows individuals to transition more smoothly to their next opportunity.

Preparing for a Layoff

Financial Planning Begin by reviewing your finances, setting aside an emergency fund, and reducing unnecessary expenses. This preparation ensures you can maintain financial stability during the transition period.

Professional Networking Strengthen your professional network by connecting with industry peers, attending professional events, and updating your LinkedIn profile. Networking can open doors to new opportunities and offer support during your job search.

Skill Development Invest in yourself by learning new skills or enhancing existing ones, especially those in high demand within your industry. This can make you more marketable to future employers.

Strategies to Position Yourself for a Layoff

Understanding Company Criteria Companies often consider factors like tenure, skill set, and departmental needs when determining layoffs. Gaining insight into these criteria can help you assess your position and decide whether volunteering for a layoff is a viable option.


Situation: John is an IT specialist at a large firm undergoing restructuring. He’s aware that layoffs are imminent and wants to understand how decisions are being made.

What John Might Do:

  • Research and Observation: John starts by reviewing any official communications from the company about the restructuring and layoff criteria. He observes which departments and roles are being most affected.
  • Seeking Clarification: He schedules a meeting with his manager to discuss the situation, asking specific questions about the criteria for layoffs and how his department might be impacted.
  • Preparation: Based on this information, John assesses his position and begins preparing for possible outcomes, including updating his resume and reaching out to his network.

Volunteering for Layoff If your company announces impending layoffs, volunteering can be a strategic move. It allows for a more controlled exit and may lead to a better severance package. Approach this conversation with your HR department professionally, expressing your willingness to consider this option for the benefit of both parties.


Situation: Emma, a marketing executive, has been contemplating a career change and learns her company is offering voluntary layoffs with attractive severance packages.

What Emma Might Do:

  • Consideration: Emma carefully considers the financial and career implications of volunteering for a layoff, including the severance package and her readiness to transition to a new career or industry.
  • Professional Dialogue: She arranges a confidential meeting with HR to express her interest in volunteering for the layoff. During the meeting, Emma communicates her decision respectfully, highlighting how this choice could be mutually beneficial.
  • Negotiation: Emma discusses the details of the severance package, asking questions to understand the full scope of benefits, including outplacement services, to ensure she’s making an informed decision.

Legal and Contractual Considerations Familiarize yourself with your employment contract and local labour laws to understand your rights and the legal implications of a layoff. Consulting with a legal professional can provide clarity and ensure you’re making informed decisions.


Situation: Alex, an engineer, has been notified of his layoff and is concerned about the terms of his departure and his rights.

What Alex Might Do:

  • Review Employment Agreement: Alex thoroughly reviews his employment contract and any relevant documents he signed at the start of his employment to understand the terms related to layoffs.
  • Legal Consultation: Seeking clarity, Alex consults with a labor lawyer to discuss his situation, focusing on severance entitlement, notice period, and any non-compete clauses that might affect his job search.
  • Negotiation: Armed with legal advice, Alex meets with HR to discuss his severance package, ensuring it aligns with his contractual rights and seeking adjustments where necessary based on his legal entitlements.

After the Layoff

Negotiating Your Severance If a layoff is imminent, negotiate your severance package by discussing terms that can aid your transition, such as extended health benefits, outplacement services, and a fair severance pay based on your tenure and level.


Situation: Sarah, a project manager, has been laid off and believes the initial severance package offered does not reflect her years of service and contributions.

What Sarah Might Do:

  • Preparation: Before meeting with HR, Sarah prepares by documenting her achievements, tenure, and any precedents of severance packages given to similarly positioned colleagues.
  • Negotiation Meeting: Sarah meets with HR and starts by expressing her appreciation for the support provided during her tenure. She then presents her case, saying, “Given my X years of service and the contributions to key projects like A and B, I was hoping we could discuss enhancing the severance package to better reflect my role and tenure at the company.”
  • Discussion of Specifics: Sarah asks for specific adjustments, such as an extended severance period, continued health benefits, and support for outplacement services, providing reasons for each request.

Utilizing Unemployment Benefits Research the process for applying for unemployment benefits in your jurisdiction. Ensure you meet the eligibility criteria and understand the application process to maximize the benefits you receive.


Situation: After being laid off, Mark decides to apply for unemployment benefits but is unsure about the process and how to ensure he receives the maximum benefits for which he is eligible.

What Mark Might Do:

  • Research: Mark starts by visiting his local government’s labor department website to understand the eligibility criteria, application process, and required documentation for unemployment benefits.
  • Application: He carefully gathers all necessary documents, including his layoff notice and last pay stubs, and follows the application instructions precisely to avoid delays. Mark notes, “I made sure to double-check my application for errors and submitted it through the recommended method for quicker processing.”
  • Follow-up: After submitting his application, Mark regularly checks his application status online and prepares to respond promptly to any requests for additional information or interviews.

Moving Forward Leverage your professional network, update your resume, and consider working with a career coach or recruiter to identify new opportunities. Remain positive and proactive in your job search, viewing this period as a chance to realign your career path with your long-term goals.


Situation: Linda, a software developer, sees her layoff as an opportunity to pivot her career towards a more fulfilling path in a startup environment.

What Linda Might Do:

  • Self-Assessment: Linda takes some time to reflect on her career goals, skills, and what she’s looking for in her next role. She decides to focus on companies that value innovation and offer remote work opportunities.
  • Skill Enhancement: Recognizing the need to update her skills, Linda enrolls in online courses related to the latest programming languages and startup management to make herself more attractive to startups.
  • Networking and Job Search: Linda updates her LinkedIn profile, highlighting her recent learning and interest in startups. She reaches out to her network, saying, “I’m exploring new opportunities in the startup space and would appreciate any introductions or advice you might have.” She also attends virtual networking events and industry meetups to connect with potential employers.


Approaching the prospect of a layoff requires careful thought, preparation, and a clear understanding of your professional and financial situation. By planning strategically, you can navigate this challenging period with grace and emerge on the other side with new opportunities and insights. Remember, a layoff, while difficult, can also serve as a pivotal moment for growth and career development. With the right mindset and preparation, you can turn this transition into a stepping stone towards achieving your career aspirations.