The Layoff Lifeboat: How to Get Back to Work

eWEEKend: Advice on post-layoff survival can also serve as a roadmap for those who worry about future layoffs.

Nobody wants to talk about layoffs. Theyre humbling, humiliating, draining and have a huge fiscal and professional drain on those that have been affected by them. But if you work in IT, it is rare to not know at least one person who has been down that road, and how hard it was for them to get back on their feet.

Joshua Muskovitz, a senior developer at SRC, headquartered in Orange, Calif. had the bad fortune to be laid off two months before 9/11.

"People were really excited to hire IT after 9/11," he quipped sarcastically. "The job market was devastated."

It took him a year to get back on his feet, and even that was an arduous process, beginning with teaching at the local ITT Technical school in Albany, N.Y., where he is based, which "paid almost to the penny what unemployment did, as in, not even close to enough" to taking on contract work before finally getting a full-time job with benefits.

In this year, he learned a lot. As if being unemployed isnt bad enough, there is a stigma attached to it.

"You have to constantly explain why you are unemployed. You have maybe a small window of time, a few weeks or a month, where people wont ask, though, so its best to get started looking as soon as you can," said Muskovitz.


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Furthermore, as is often the case in IT layoffs, you are not alone in being laid off—often it is an entire department or company that is let go at the same time, which means that the market is flooded with people just like you.

"If you dally, theyre going to get there first. You wont miss out on a job because youre not qualified, but it gets a little dog-eat-dog out there. Layoffs tend to come in cycles; theyre anything but sporadic," said Muskovitz.

The good news is that advice on how to get back on your feet after being laid off isnt just for those who have recently lost their jobs—it can serve as protection if you ever do, and as anyone who has ever lost a job before knows, you can never play it too safe.

1. Look for the Signs

A little-discussed fact of job loss is that, quite often, the months and weeks leading up to a layoff werent exactly the best of times. In fact, layoffs are rarely a sudden event.

"A company doesnt just look at the bank account one day and—gasp!—we didnt know we were running low! They knew it was coming. Everyone knows it coming, whether there is word of a big meeting or sale that could determine the future of the company or whether management is moping around," said Muskovitz. "It wasnt really a great job up until the very minute you got laid off."

As nihilistic a view as that statement may seem, the smartest move is to see these signs coming, and not wait until the axe finally drops to face the facts, whether that means getting back in touch with contacts, updating your resume or asking friends if their companies are hiring.

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