Helping Those Who Have Been Laid Off

I posted the other day a few suggestions for people who have found themselves in a layoff situation. But I’ve also been collecting thoughts about what is truly helpful to those people. I have always felt really bad for people who get laid off, but often didn’t know what to do to help those people. Being on the other side now, I’ve been cataloging the different behaviors of people who try to help and what really has been helpful.

I want to emphatically state from the beginning that I think everyone who has reached out truly wants to help, and that is truly appreciated, so this is not designed to demean anyone’s efforts. Heck, I’ve not lived up to these ideals in the past myself, which is why I wanted to write this. Instead, this post is designed to be a guide for those who truly want to help a friend or colleague impacted by a layoff.

Also note, this is my own experience, but not everyone works/thinks/reacts like I do, so take it as guidance that should be adjusted based on the individuals involved and their situations.

Okay, all that stated, you want to help someone who has been laid off, but what would be most helpful?

  1. Check-in with them. It starts with a simple message that you know what happened and to show some empathy. It may not be easy, but it was nice to hear from people, including ones I hadn’t interacted with for years (over a decade in some cases) and hear that our previous interactions were still meaningful enough to them to reach out. If you truly want to be a part of their process, be explicit about what you can offer (some suggested postings, access to your network, a voice/video conversation, etc.). What happens from that initial message is going to be heavily based on your experiences and relationship with the person.
    1. If you’re friends or close former colleagues, as soon as they’re comfortable, get on a call or online meeting (video is always best) to hear their story (let them decide what they’re comfortable sharing) and share any relevant stories of your own that will be helpful. Sometimes they need to rant. Sometimes they need to talk things through with sympathetic or trusted person. I did a poll on LinkedIn, and one-on-one conversations was by far the most popular avenue of support.
    2. Let them air the grievances, but be careful not to let the conversation devolve into negativity. Help them stay positive, because they will only be able to move forward if they stop focusing on the past. Keep in mind the adage of not driving via the rearview mirror.
    3. Beyond that, your main goal should be to catch up, see what they had been doing, and to better understand what they’re looking to do next in their career. This will become critical below.
    4. Finally, make sure to have on-going check-ins. Again, let the level of your relationship guide this one, but keep in mind that the situation isn’t a one-and-done event for them. This could potentially extend well into whatever role they find, especially if they settle or don’t hit exactly what they were looking for.
  2. Make sure you’re seeing their updates. Hunting for a job after a layoff is a process. Some people are more public about it than others. Some people take longer than others. I’m not offended if people don’t see the updates I’ve posted (I usually run under the assumption that they don’t), but it warms my heart when people tell me they have seen or reference what I post. Of course, the algorithms are opaque and the amount of content in our feeds is massive, so do what you can to stay informed – including the on-going check-ins I mentioned before.
  3. If you’re like me, to maintain a regular cadence of anything not involved with the daily deluge of to-dos, you may want to set a reminder to keep their search top of mind. It doesn’t have to be a “call Bob” event every time, just something to rejog your memory to keep that eye out you promised.
  4. If you read my previous post, you know I leaned heavily on working the network and being visible as paths to hiring success. How can you help there? Offer your network. Job searches often require 2nd and 3rd connections, especially if the person doesn’t have as strong of a network or the right kind of network, so help connect them to other good people.

    I recently talked to a friend in a similar situation as me, and he voiced concern that his network has been almost patronizing to him in his search. Unfortunately, he had been mostly fostering a network of transactional sales people who couldn’t see an advantage for themselves in helping him in his moment of need. For me, my network has been a huge benefit, and several times I’ve made progress using 2nd and 3rd connections.

    Additionally, if you have a platform (blog, podcast, video channel) that could help the person, don’t just offer it and put the onus on them. Instead, offer a plan to give them some exposure (you know your audience better). Most of us have a LinkedIn account, so at the least you can like, comment, and reshare their posts as much as you can and are comfortable with.
  5. We’ve now arrived at the core of any job hunt: finding the relevant job postings. Hopefully you’ve spent some time chatting with the person or reading their posts to better understand what they’re looking for, even if it’s as simple as “technical presales roles” or “product marketing.” Now you need to keep your eyes and ears open. This can be tough, no doubt.
    1. First, go through your own company’s job postings (assuming you would recommend your company), because an internal reference is the best case scenario.
    2. Then consider the partners you work with, if any. These are the customers, sales people, and collaborators in other companies you work with regularly.
    3. If you get recruiters contacting you with jobs that might fit the person, share the info with them and if they’re interested do a warm introduction (“I’m not interested right now, but I’d highly recommend this other person I know well”).
    4. Consider what jobs are being recruited for within your 1st level connections and share what you find, even if it isn’t exactly what the person may be looking for. I’m ecstatic when a friend reaches out to say they have a friend who is hiring.
    5. With anything you share, be willing to accept (I’d recommend encouraging) feedback on what fits/doesn’t. This will help you to refine what you look for and help to improve the options you send them.
  6. If you really want to help, do more than just share your company’s job board. This is the hardest advice I had to craft, because I don’t want it to be negative. I’ve had many messages with some variation of “I’m at CompanyXYZ. Take a look at our postings and let me know if you see anything.”

    While it’s great when people remind me where they work and that they’d be willing to refer me (honest, it has worked out well in some cases), sharing an actual posting is immensely more helpful. Even if it’s based on what I did years ago, because it naturally leads to a conversation of what I am looking for.

    Conducting an unexpected (and in some cases desperate) job search means spending a lot of time updating resumes, applying for unemployment, figuring out insurance, reviewing finances, conversations and networking, and reading A LOT of job postings. (I am honestly so sick of reading job postings.) It’s a full time job and takes a lot of energy to try to interpret what each posting says, what it doesn’t say, and deciding if it will be a good fit for current skills and future career goals. It’s mentally draining, so any assistance in cutting through it is appreciated. You know your company’s internal structure and lingo and can be far more efficient at understanding what might be a good fit and where your personal recommendations would be most effective. If there are questions about what they’re looking for, ask. I’ve gotten good at describing what I want.

That’s a lot of things, for sure, but make sure you adapt it to the person(s) you are trying to help, the relationship(s) you have with them, and your own personal style and comfort level. We’re all in this together in the end. I never thought I’d be in a position to be laid off, but I now know how to better help people those who have to follow in my unfortunate footsteps. I plan on using this experience to do good.

Please reach out to me if you’re facing a layoff situation and could use a friendly ear, or would like to discuss how you can help someone else who is facing that situation. Email (contact <at> knudt <dot> net) or LinkedIn are the best ways to get ahold of me these days.