I want to be amazing at being let go
April 17, 2017 1:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm being let go. I've looked up steps to take and have gotten started on planning. Can you help me see whether I'm missing anything and how I can best use the time I have before my last day?

My supervisor delivered the news but she didn't make the decision and I have the impression she would prefer I not be let go. The reason she gave was budget cuts, which had been on my radar. We just didn't know the budget was in such bad shape.

My supervisor offered to provide mentorship and I think I can turn to her for tips; she already gave me a job lead and will likely be a recommendation. My supervisor has made herself available to me for a span of hours and offered to meet off-site and I'm not sure what that means. I have some questions but haven't quite figured out enough of my plans to be able to talk next steps specifically.

My coworkers will likewise probably be available to give information, look for opportunities, make introductions, and give recommendations. Other managers are open to looking for spots on their team for me to fill.

There's an offer of severance if I don't take another position, and health insurance will end a while after my last day. These are in writing. If I take another position or voluntarily terminate my employment before the end date--more than one month from now--I will not get the severance. I don't have an HSA. I have an emergency fund for 6 months.


What should I talk about with my supervisor and HR? Is there anything I need to be sure to ask for or advocate for? I'm a woman and sometimes have a hard time negotiating; I don't see much to negotiate but have no experience with this. At the meeting where I learned this news the people who told me kept asking whether I had questions. I asked a few and felt satisfied, but the way they kept checking made me wonder if I had missed something.

Should I ask for recommendations in some more permanent format, or just get verbal commitments? Do people use recommendation letters or read LinkedIn recs these days?

Is there a list somewhere of all the things I need to be sure to not fail at, like switching to COBRA (or... something else? What's the deal with health insurance these days?), signing up for unemployment (I will submit my info right away), switching over my retirement account (I am paranoid I will do something wrong and jeopardize my savings)?

Our project is well-known in the professional sector and it might surprise people to know we have budget challenges. We have been hesitant to share about that kind of thing. But that's the best way to explain my being let go. How do I balance those pieces?

How should I communicate about all this in general? My emotions are mixed. I am likely to cry if asked too many details because we have a close-knit work community. At the same time, I'm looking forward to new and bigger opportunities.

I found a few Ask a Manager and Reddit threads that were helpful but there wasn't much just listing what, exactly, I need to do. I'm on the younger side but have several years under my belt.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry you are going through this, but you're actually off to a great start by thinking clearly about all the details!

It sounds like some of this is in writing, but not all. You're definitely within your rights to ask for written documentation for everything: the opportunity to pursue other internal positions (and whether you will be given preferential consideration for them); the severance offer and its conditions; deadlines and amount you would pay for COBRA; information about how to roll over or cash out your retirement account; any offer of outplacement counseling (either informally through your supervisor or an outplacement firm); and confirmation that you will receive a positive reference, both from your supervisor and from HR if they are contacted.

Re references, when I hire I prefer to have a phone or email conversation to check a reference, but I've worked at several universities that wanted a formal letter to put in a file - often in addition to the reference call. I personally wouldn't put any stock at all into a LinkedIn rec.

One very important thing you can do for your future employment prospects and to ensure that your unemployment claim goes smoothly is make 100% sure that your personnel file shows that you were let go "not for cause" and you have a status of "eligible for rehire." Get this in writing, too.

I would also be careful about the term you use to describe why you are leaving, or left, the company. If you are being laid off or your position is being eliminated due to budget, say so! That will likely cause less concern for a potential employer than saying you were "let go," which can sound like you might be trying to cover for being fired. Don't worry about the implications of letting people know that your project has budget issues - that's your STB former employer's problem, not yours.

As for the emotional stuff, it will take time and you'll probably have lots of different reactions depending on the day: sadness, anger, excitement. Don't worry about crying; it happens. Be aware that your coworkers may respond uncharacteristically - some may freeze you out as soon as they hear you're leaving; others may worry about their own futures and their distraction may come across as unsympathetic. If your employer has an EAP, take advantage of the opportunity to talk to someone outside of work about all this.

Hopefully others will weigh in as well, but for now - you've got this. Hang in there!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:53 AM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you have an employer provided phone or laptop, ask to keep it for 90 days in return for making yourself available to answer questions for an hour each week as needed. Not having to replace my phone right away was a big money saver for me.
posted by raisingsand at 6:16 AM on April 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

You can ask for outplacement services as part of a severance. It's a really good idea.
posted by Miko at 6:40 AM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

[This is a followup from the asker.]
My position is eliminated because of budget. I think the term is "workforce reduction." I didn't know there was a difference between terms like "let go" and "laid off." That kind of advice is really helpful.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:03 AM on April 17, 2017

Re: severance, keep in mind a few things:

1. Severance is provided so you don't sue, complain about the company, or otherwise cause headaches. It's purpose is not to give you a leg up or find you another job. With that in mind...
2. Typically severance packages are standardized by the company, and there's not a lot of room for negotiation. You'll probably have an HR representative assigned to you to help you through the process, and you're certainly empowered to ask for outplacement services if you can't find an internal position, but if outplacement is not something that's not typically provided as a part of your company's packages, pushing for something that HR just can't provide is not a productive use of your time.

If you like your company, use your remaining time to find a new job in the company. It's far, far easier to interview inside the company than outside. Tell everyone you trust that you're now looking for a new position. You don't have to say why. Don't be shy about this, but be discreet. Keep an eye out for teams that might have more money than time, and make the case for why you should have a role created for you. You'd be surprised how frequently this happens!
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 7:19 AM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you are ahead of things and have some lead time - very helpful! I was laid off a few years ago when my department was eliminated - no notice, just came in one morning, pulled into a meeting, and asked to gather my things and leave. The first thing I did was upload a ton of work product (I'm a writer) to the cloud so I could access work samples, which ended up being useful. Look for examples of where you've made a tangible difference - any numbers you can cite about helping the company grow, a new project launch, etc will be useful in later interviews.

Do switch your mindset to "laid off" rather than "let go." When interviewing, I mentioned that my entire department was eliminated for budget reasons, and that seemed to satisfy prospective companies.

Reach out to friends/former colleagues. I sent personal emails to about a dozen people, briefly explained the situation, and asked to meet with them for coffee/lunch/catch up. These meetings were great for adding structure to my laid off days, and also helped me network and find a couple potential positions. I found it was more useful to talk only briefly about what had happened (company was struggling, laid off with no notice, doesn't that stink) and to focus more on the possibilities. I had some great conversations with people in different types of companies and picked their brains about what their jobs entailed, the industry, etc. It helped me decide on the right next step for me.

And take care of yourself - having some notice is wonderful, but you'll go through a variety of emotions. Immediately after my layoff, I spent a single day doing an initial update of my resume, sending out a bunch of emails, and filing for unemployment - and then took a week "off" from everything. I slept in, went to the gym, hung out with friends, did some projects around the house... it was very restorative, and put my head in the right space to seriously job hunt. I wanted to be at the point that I could talk about it unemotionally, and that week helped tremendously. Even then, you can't realistically spend 40+ hours a week job hunting without driving yourself batty. I usually spent half the day doing job stuff (filling out applications, updating my portfolio, having phone interviews), and the other half doing anything else. (I made a big to-do list of all the projects I'd been putting off - repainting the bedroom, landscaping, cleaning out closets - and worked my way through it, which was very satisfying.)

All in all, I landed a great job within about 6 weeks. You've got this!
posted by writermcwriterson at 8:30 AM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Our project is well-known in the professional sector and it might surprise people to know we have budget challenges. We have been hesitant to share about that kind of thing. But that's the best way to explain my being let go. How do I balance those pieces?

You were told it was budget cuts; you tell interviewers it was budget cuts. That doesn't actually necessarily imply anything about the company's financial health overall; budget cuts could mean "upper management decided to focus its resources on foo instead of bar", with Department Foo being laid off and Department Bar being beefed up.

All anyone will know for sure in your case is that the part of the budget that provided your salary has been reassigned somewhere else, which is a bog-standard reason to be laid off.
posted by current resident at 10:10 AM on April 17, 2017

Please do tell interviewers it was budget cuts. Your loyalty is no longer to your current employer - it's to yourself and your future employer. You don't want to risk not getting a job because they think you got fired, or start off your new working relationship on a lie meant to protect your old employer.
posted by lunasol at 1:53 PM on April 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I agree that you can't negotiate severance, usually. But, where it's really structural and there is goodwill, some employers can offer you services for outplacement because they have worked with such firms in similar circumstances. Since you aren't negotiating for cash, it's a much safer ask than trying to negotiate your severance, but it's incredibly valuable.
posted by Miko at 8:22 PM on April 17, 2017

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