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A layoff is a traumatic experience. I experienced it first hand, 9 years ago, roughly a year after migrating to Canada.
In the Philippines, there’s no such a thing as lay off, well at least before the pandemic hit. I was never laid off from a job before. Like most people experiencing this surprising event, my initial reaction was to panic. Realizing that I could qualify for Employment Insurance (EI), I panicked less but I needed to come up with a plan fast!
Losing a job means losing your income source, and you have to be quick to get another one to maintain your household’s financial security.
In Canada, being laid off is just part of the game, yes, even after your probation period. If the company you work for experiences some difficulties, the lower-ranked employees are always the first ones to go.
So, How Do You Survive a Layoff?
Here's how I did it...
To protect me and my family from the risk of ever experiencing the emotional and financial impact of job loss, I’ve set out to find a career that doesn’t have a layoff. It appeared that there is no such thing when you work as an employee.
I ended up working for myself, and fast-forward to 2021, I’ve never been laid off in the last 9-years. At this point, I’m tempted to tell you that it was smooth sailing, but it wasn’t.
There’s a different kind of difficulty that you have to deal with when you’re working for yourself full-time. For one, your once fixed bi-weekly or monthly income becomes variable but then you get to test your discipline, hard work, creativity, and resilience. You just have to make it work, otherwise, you don’t get to feed!
I Applied for EI
At the time, you need to have at least 600 EI hours before you can claim the benefit. I was fairly new to the country so I thought that I wouldn’t qualify, luckily I had enough EI hours before the axe fell.
Applying for employment insurance benefits was the first thing I did to still have some sort of income coming in while I sorting out what I really want to do going forward after losing a job.
I Enrolled in a Self-Employment Program
Mine was a same-day layoff. Something I never wanted to experience again for the rest of my working life. It turned out that there was no job security in Canada, you could be the Vice President, yet you could still be at risk of losing your job.
Basically, no employee is indispensable. This means that the job I was looking for didn’t really exist, not unless if I work for myself.
Self-employment was the key. You can’t get laid off as self-employed!
I will talk more about the self-employment program that I was part of, which eventually led me to become a full-time self-employed professional.
I Started A business
The first business I started didn’t really fly but as I always say, you learn to swim once you’re in the water.
I was new to Canada, with no connections whatsoever, no job, and I have to support a young family with a one-year-old. I needed to get my act together, and quick!
Since I was struggling to make a living out of the first business I started, I switched gears and went instead into the financial services industry as an independent financial advisor.
I burned the ship and I haven’t really updated my resume since then.
I understand that not everyone who gets laid off will want to start their own business or independent professional career but if you happen to have some spark of entrepreneurship, your downtime (lay off) is the excellent time to get it started since you technically have nothing to lose.
Now, let’s talk about you. If you’ve been laid off because of the pandemic, below are some ideas on how you can deal with the layoff, survive, and triumph.
I know, that line sounded just a bit cheesy 🙂
Tips to Survive a Lay-Off
Apply for Employment Insurance (EI)
Apply for (EI) as soon as you received your notice of lay off. This is one of the financial support that Canada provides to people who experience job loss because of specific circumstances, including economic downturns. You may qualify for this benefit if you’re eligible and it’s not something to be ashamed about.
Re-evaluate Your Career Goals
Despite the fear and possible financial difficulties of a job loss due to lay off, this is an excellent opportunity to take a break from your employment grind and think about what you really want to do as a career going forward. This time can be spent to assess the kind of work environment you would enjoy, what type of challenges excite you or perhaps even doing some research on how to start your own business.
If you can, avoid getting a job just for the sake of getting employment, it’s soul-sucking to keep on working at a job you despise. Having this break allows you to rethink your career goals, and reroute your course into something more meaningful, where you can provide more value to your employer or people you serve.
Have an Emergency Fund
This tip should have been done prior to the layoff scenario. Having a financial buffer during a layoff keeps you from getting stressed about how to survive or continue paying the bills. The money in your emergency fund should be enough to last at least 6 months, depending on your monthly household expenditures.
Your own emergency fund can supplement your EI or it can be your full source of funds in case you don’t qualify for employment insurance.
Downsize and Turn Your Clutter into Cash
Being laid off isn’t a happy time for most people, in fact, it’s so stressful that a lot of people experience depression and anxiety.
After the dust settles and you survive the initial shock, take this time to declutter your house. Take everything that’s not used or needed from your storage spaces and turn them into cash by posting on the Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, or eBay. Post-pandemic, you can actually have a garage sale to really get rid of all those clutter.
Selling off our old stuff like clothes we don’t wear anymore is a great feeling – liberating!
What may have seemed like junk items could be valuable to someone else so make sure you price them accordingly. You may also want to consider packing up things that are still usable but were just sitting there because they’re not your style anymore. Donate them to shelters and charities in your community or online.
Offer Freelance Services
If you’ve been working for a while now, you must have learned skills that companies and small business owners are willing to pay you for but not necessarily hire you on a full-time basis.
Offering freelance services in your field is an excellent way to survive a layoff as you can generate some extra or even full-time income while you’re in-between careers.
Who knows, if you really get serious with it, it may just turn into a sustainable income source that could potentially prevent you from getting another job.
Build Your Network of Business and Professional Contacts
Spend time to build connections with business owners and other professionals in your community or industry. These contacts can translate into business or employment opportunities that could help you land your next job or profession.
LinkedIn is a great networking platform that can help you meet and connect virtually with companies and professionals. It’s an excellent way to stay in touch with people you have worked with.
It would also be a good time for you to get back into any community or church groups that provide volunteer opportunities where you can network with others that may help you connect with clients or future employers.
Build Skills and Work Experience Through Volunteerism
Volunteering is not just doing charity work for the sake of giving our time and talents away. It’s also about gaining work experience, despite the fact that you’re not getting paid for your labor, it’s an excellent way to building up your resume and building up great relationships with organization leaders that can provide you with excellent recommendations that could just help increase your chances of landing your dream job.
Instead of Binge-watching movies online, do something productive by volunteering, as it’s not only good for your future career prospects, offering pro-bono services is a great feeling too, which is an excellent way to reduce stress and its impact on your mental health.
If you’re not sure about how to volunteer and what services to offer, most organizations provide free training for their volunteers, so you don’t have to worry about not having the skills, just bring yourself, you can learn the skill in the process.
Get a License or Certification
Given the high unemployment rate and the number of people getting laid off, it’s important to learn new skills or to get a certification.
Most people who get laid off, clamor to get another job right away. If you had to drag yourself to work with your previous job, you’ll find yourself in the exact same situation if you don’t upgrade your skills.
A certification or a designation is a badge of mastery that opens the door of opportunity to you. It shows that you’re professional and dedicated – a potential client’s or employer’s dream hire.
Taking time off from your last job, pursuing new certifications or skills could be your best option in landing that next employment. You take this time off to learn and explore if your passion truly lies in another career path than what you’re currently doing now.
It may seem risky but it is well worth the investment especially if you can survive through the tough times with some savings under your belt and an end-game of what career path do you really would want to pursue in life. If all else fails, at least you have a backup plan!
Building upon your skill set will not only help survive a layoff but will also give you the leverage to up your game in your career.
Start a Business or Self-Employment Career
Starting a small business or a self-employed career during your layoff downtime is an excellent way of staying product, and switching careers.
Sometimes, you need change and may need a revamp on your career path. If you find it challenging to find a new job, now may be the best time to go on your own.
When I first started becoming a self-employed professional, I enrolled in YMCA’s Self-Employment program. I’m not sure if this program is available in all provinces but it’s still certainly available in Manitoba. You may check with your local YMCA office if they offer such a program.
It’s an excellent program for people looking to launch their own business or become self-employed after a layoff.
The program will teach you how to build your business plan, research your market, create a marketing plan, and forecast sales. Aside from that, you’ll also receive an allowance for nine months while you’re trying to work out your business.
I’m not quite sure if the program is available in all provinces but it’s certainly available in Manitoba and BC, links are below:
The worst thing you can do during a layoff is to just sit around. As Canadian residents, we’re lucky enough to have employment insurance. Though smaller than what you were making at your job, it will help you survive while you’re trying to get back to your feet.
Make it a point to stay productive as much as you can while you’re on layoff. I’ve seen some people chill through the whole nine months of EI, and only panick their way into finding another job on the ninth month. That’s a really bad use of downtime. Time otherwise, used to acquire new skills or launch a project that could potentially replace one’s full-time income.
Start a Project
You can use your available time during a layoff to start a project. It could be a business or something that will benefit others, a non-profit perhaps? While a pro-bono project won’t directly earn you, it could build your personal brand and credibility within the community your project affects, which may direct your steps into a more fulfilling career doing something you are passionate about.
With the technological advancements, nowadays, it’s quite easy to launch a hobby project like a blog, a YouTube channel, or a SAAS platform (requires programming) that could potentially generate passive income in the future, write the book you’ve always wanted to publish.
Do understand however that these types of projects will not necessarily earn income right away. Projects such as these are slow to monetize but they do grow like snowballs over time if profit is your goal. Just don’t start them off desperation as you’ll only get disappointed.
I’ve learned that things don’t necessarily happen to us, they actually happen for us.
My lay-off 9-year ago was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t realize it at the time but if I haven’t been laid off, I would still be employed. Now, there’s nothing wrong with working a regular job. Having a job is actually a blessing, and you have to give the most value and hard work you can when you’re working at a job.
“When one door closes another one opens.”
Unemployment can happen to anyone, and layoff is actually quite common in this part of the world. In saying that, this is something that you should be ashamed of, so stand tall during your period of unemployment, keep your chin up and face each day with motivation and positivity!
Things happen, how you react to it paves the road ahead. You can choose to be miserable or you can choose to be happy. Be positive in dealing with a layoff, because it’s temporary, if you know what value you can give the marketplace, you will find a more fulfilling career than the one you were laid off from.