My employer eliminated my dept today. What do I do now?
May 31, 2018 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I’ve worked at the same company for 18 years. Today my team of 7, including my direct supervisor, was told that our dept—and our specific positions—are being eliminated. I am in shock and literally have no idea what to do next.

I’m 54 years old. I’ve been working since I was 22 and I’ve never been fired or laid off. I know I should count myself lucky that this has never happened to me before. I’ve been employed by this company for 18 years, with promotions along the way, and I got complacent. I haven’t written a resume or interviewed for a job in 18 years.

The company is actually being pretty decent in terms of severance, and they’re also encouraging my team to stay on for 60 days at full salary to help transition all our work to different staff in a different state. They said there would still be opportunities for us to take different positions within the company at our same location but no details were given today and I don’t know what those positions could be— my team did very specialized work that is very different from the rest of the depts at our location— or if they would be even close to my salary—so I don’t know if this is a realistic scenario or just lip service. They said this was business and not a reflection of my (our) work. Honestly, after while it was all just noise.

I KNOW that my situation is better than what happens to a lot of people. I know this. I have savings. As I said, the severance pkg is decent.But I am single and am my own sole source of income. I am in shock and literally don’t know what to do or how to feel. I was able to be strong for the rest of my team this morning but now that I’m home I can’t stop crying. I am careening from feeling sad to furious to helpless to numb to wanting to burn bridges to knowing that I can’t afford to burn bridges. I feel like there is something I should be doing, but I don’t know what that is.

So, my question is—if something similar has happened to you, how did you navigate in the immediate days and then long term? How did you prevent your emotions from affecting your decisions? What are your suggestions for coping with such a shock?
posted by bookmammal to Work & Money (23 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: First of all, what a shock. Poor you. Luckily, with a decent severance package and 60 days of work, you have a bit of time here.

So breathe, yell, cry, call a friend, go out, whatever will make you feel a little bit better in the short term. Take a few days to absorb this news.

I was laid off 3 years ago next month for the first time in my life, and it was honestly great for me. I had seen it coming so it wasn't as much of a shock. Here are a few suggestions:

- I would go to HR or your manager and ask if they will be providing job search support as a part of the process. If not, ask if they would consider paying for it. Some professional advice will be helpful.

- Start reading Ask A Manager for the job search advice, it's really solid advice.

- If you can't get professional advice, ask a friend who is a hiring manager to do some mock interviews with you to practice.

- Cut any expenses that you can now, so that your "burn rate" is slowed - not just because it's a good idea but because it will give you that sense of control over things.

- Plan a few personal projects for your job search period, after the 60 days - fixing up a garden, starting a new exercise routine, whatever. Having something positive to look forward to will help. Getting out on my bike helped me a lot.

- Form "Team You." I had a great group of friends that I could call up whenever I was down who would remind me that I'm great and that I would find work. Get your friends involved in supporting you. And then start activating your networks. Your time at your company (those 60 days) will be great for that because you still have access to your professional environment.

- Let everyone know that you are looking for work, what opportunities you are looking for and what your skills are. I know how your feelings may be different but the best tone is kind of like "Announcement: I'm sad to be leaving my company but thrilled for all the adventures ahead. I'm looking for XYZ, to use ABC skills." In my case my next job turned up with a former colleague. But I had like...4 interviews through my network.

I've actually made a career change since but I count my 2 months of unemployment among the best in the last few years. That's not to negate the's sooooo stressful. But there is tons of life and work ahead of you.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:20 PM on May 31, 2018 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Breathe. No quick moves.

This IS a shock and you're going to be in shock for a few days and that's fine. Just do that. You do NOT need to do anything today, since you have a job for the near future.

If you have a friend or good support person you can text/call and vent to, do that. If you talk to any of your coworkers outside work, have a shock/bitch/cry session with them. Treat yourself like you have a cold or have been in a minor accident for the next few days: rest, hydrate, eat, enjoy a little escapist TV binge or spend all evening watching funny animal videos on youtube. Plan something fun/relaxing for the weekend to make sure you leave the house for a bit. Get some fresh air.

Give things a week or so for the dust to settle at work. You should get more info soon, and you can process that as it comes.

Remember that even though humans totally do make their job a critical part of their identity, it's not you and it's not really about you. It's just business. You've been reminded that the business is not your friend, it's just a thing, a process, and it doesn't care about your best interests. Keep one eye on that as you get more information about other opportunities.

On Sunday, you can start buffing your resume. Post one on Indeed and any industry-related sites Monday morning. Just see, over the next couple of weeks, what kind of interest you get before you make any decisions about next steps.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:27 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This sucks that this has happened to you.

I'm assuming you're in the USA, and that your health insurance is provided through your work. If so, now would be a good time to get appointments for the things that you were planning on doing, before your coverage ends. Get your teeth cleaned. Your eyes checked, and new glasses/contacts, if applicable. Get your yearly physical. If there's any prescriptions that you take, make sure you're getting those filled. It might be worth it to talk to your doc to see if you can get 90 day supplies; that way, you'll have some for when the job really ends.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:38 PM on May 31, 2018 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry.

Like you say, you are in a good position to whether this. You have a job for the next two months, and then you'll have severance. You have savings. I'm not saying this to tell you not to be upset, but just to remind you that it seems like you will be ok in the long run.

Do whatever you need to do in the next week or so to feel better. If that's calling in sick and going to afternoon movies, do that. I'm personally a planner so I know it would make me feel better to start thinking about my next moves, but don't feel like you have to have everything sorted in the next week, or even before you leave your job. I think there's less stigma these days to applying for a job after you've left an old one than there used to be.

How to deal with this right now: call everyone who is good support for you. If they're local, ask them to get a drink or do something. If they're in another city, just ask if they can talk. Take care of yourself in the ways that work for you. What makes you feel better when you're upset? If you feel like sitting on the couch and bingeing netflix, do that. You can be active and responsible later. Similarly, let yourself be angry or sad. It will pass.

I got some nasty work news last fall that resulted in me leaving an organization I'd planned to stay at for several more years. I called one of my best friends, an extremely supportive person, and we got a drink. I took the next few days off, and did a mix of drinks/venting with friends, going out into the woods with my dog, and bingeing netflix, and it all helped a lot. I wound up shifting gears in my career (still doing similar work, now as a freelancer/consultant) and it was one of the best moves I've ever made. But I didn't get there right away. I needed some time to process. Take the time.
posted by lunasol at 12:42 PM on May 31, 2018

Best answer: First of all, I agree with the above that it's ok to be upset! It's shocking, scary, and anger-inducing. Give yourself a few days to grieve. I had the same thing happen to me last year and it was all I could to to keep from crying in front of my boss.

Then start getting ready. Seriously, read Ask a Manager as mentioned above. (I think Ask a Manger has an inexpensive ebook that is probably excellent.) Resume and cover letter norms have changed a *lot* since you last looked for a job. Actually, job application norms have changed a lot (everything is online, you won't hear back from most jobs, you can't call and talk to anyone). Ask a Manager can give you a good idea of what is expected on your resume (no objectives, emphasize your accomplishments, etc). I have had good experience hiring a resume consultant (PM me if you want a rec).

You have an advantage in that you have 60 days to go through your current work. Download all your employee review reports (they'll give you good things to put on your resume and talk about in interviews). Make copies of anything you've worked on that you think you can use at a future company, show a future employer, or just reference at some point. (Ok you're probably not supposed to do that, but everyone does.)

If you're not able to secure a job in the next 60 days (it's unlikely, as job searches take a few months), make a plan for how you'll spend your time during your unemployment. I told myself that I would focus on job searching during "business hours," and not feel guilty about relaxing on evenings/weekends. It also helped me to do some of my job searching work at a coffee shop so I wasn't alone in my apartment.
posted by radioamy at 12:49 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh man, I'm sorry this happened to you. It was right around this time back in 2002 that the same thing happened to me (thanks, Enron) and I still remember so vividly all of the feelings you're describing here. Seriously, the day I found out I cried so hard I really worried some of my friends. Sending you hugs if you want them.

Nthing that you should let yourself be in shock for now, and reach out for support. When it happened to me my entire social circle was laid off at the same time (since we all worked for the same company brought down with Enron, whee) - so we all leaned on each other a LOT. Can you do the same with the other people in your department?

For me, once the shock started to wear off a bit I was able to find things I enjoyed about being out of work. I bought a bicycle and started riding it around town. My friends (the same ones who were also laid off) and I went to the public swimming pools together. I brought books to the park and laid in the grass, in the sunshine, and just read. I started paying attention to what I ate, and lost a significant amount of weight. Turns out I had been so focused on work up to that point in my adult life that having the freedom to do things for me was both novel and wonderful.

Even better, having that summer out of work reset my expectations for what my life could be, and I never approached work the same way again. I could go on and on about the things I learned, but the long and short was that when I DID get a new job (and I did, and you will) I approached it with the awareness that any job could disappear at any time through no fault of my own, so while I owed it to myself to do it well, I ALSO owed it to myself to not lose myself in work. Sixteen years on and working on my second career shift since then, and I still take much better care of myself now thanks to that layoff - like warriorqueen, it was honestly great for me, even if I didn't recognize that immediately.

This isn't just something to get through, it's an opportunity to experience genuinely healthy change. Be kind to yourself, think of phoenixes, and for now, just keep going. It's going to be okay.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:52 PM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Thirding Ask a Manager. In fact, you might also consider sending her this question. She is really knowledgeable about current norms in job searching, and her free ebook on cover letters and interviewing was almost solely responsible for my successful salary negotiation when I got my current job.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:54 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh yeah - at most companies I worked at, vacation time got cashed out, but sick time was 'use it or lose it'.

So - if you have any sick time accrued, don't feel guilty in taking a day or two off for your mental health, and claiming it as 'sick time'. Because this is all a big shock.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:59 PM on May 31, 2018 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Do you have a medical FSA? Spend the whole amount down, even though you've only contributed 5/12ths of the expected money into the account.

By IRS rules, your employer can't claw back any money that exceeds contributions after your termination. It's the flip side of the "use it by 12/31 or lose it" rule of FSAs and it works in your favor here.

Here's a list of things you can spend it on.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:43 PM on May 31, 2018 [7 favorites]

Best answer: (However, it might be worth waiting to see if you are going to be offered a spot at the same employer before going on a shopping spree).
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:18 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Something very similar happened to me - i had a little more time before my position was eliminated.

My biggest advice would be to give yourself a week or two to process this and gather info on what might be available for you at your current company. I was given the option to stay but either relocate or work for a scary human being, so i started looking as soon as i got my head together because i knew either option wouldn't be good for me. If you want to stay on great, but if it is time to move on, then don't feel obligated to stay the 60 days if you find something you want to do. Put feelers out to not only others in your field but friends and friends of friends too. You never know what might put up.
posted by domino at 3:01 PM on May 31, 2018

Best answer: Ten years ago I was laid off of my job at a big bank, having worked there for 15 years. It was the height of the Great Recession, and the clients in my department were loosing money at the rate of tens of millions of dollars. Even though it was not a surprise, the day they sat each of us down for The Talk was a shock. Even more so when there was just half an hour to pack up and say goodbye, before hitting the pavement.

Severance was really decent, with 60 days plus six months, and health insurance was included. I used that time to look hard for a job, because it would be really sweet to have pay from severance at the same time as pay from my new job. Unfortunately, this was a bad time to be looking. It took the whole eight months, plus two weeks, to get the next job.

My area of expertise was banking related accounting tasks. These were in low demand. However, I placed myself out there as an accountant with supervisory skills. In addition, I talked up certain project management skills I had gained. When interviewing, I pointed out general problem solving abilities, and flexibility. I was able to find a job in an entirely different industry, using some but not all of my knowledge.

You are not specialized in (for instance) tea pot paint scheme design and implementation. You are generalized in the creative and practical arts, where they relate to profitably getting products in to customer hands.

I was 54 years old when I got my most recent job. I did not present myself as old, but experienced. You have a hard job of searching for your next job. Bummer. Now go do it, and do it well.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 3:02 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I foud the book 2-hour Jobsearch to be the best resource for looking for employment.

Sorry this happened to you. BOL!
posted by indianbadger1 at 3:35 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was laid off in 2013,

here's what worked:
-without a knee jerk reaction, ask yourself what luxuries you could live without and then cancel them. don't go overboard.
-keep a schedule as if you were still working. don't sleep in.
-eat out less
-stay hydrated
-if your neighborhood has government employment counselling or training, check them out.

here's what to avoid:
-drinking too much
-hanging out with pessimists.
posted by evilmonk at 3:35 PM on May 31, 2018

Best answer: I hurt for you. This exact thing happened to me last year. I spent the better part of the year since searching for jobs, sometimes unsuccessfully, sometimes successfully, and I'm here to tell you, well, you'll get there.

I guess here's a random list of advice that I found the most helpful:
1. Start bringing stuff home. Little by little, so you don't have to really change your life about it. This absolutely includes digital stuff: Grab a USB drive, and take all the stuff you think you'll want later, and everything else since you never know. Everything you've written, everything you've downloaded with the thought of checking out later, every bookmark, everything you've produced that you can. One mistake I made was not taking enough (so many interviews asked for examples of work product that I didn't have).
2. Clean your computer. Not, like, physically, but log out of every account you're logged into. Wipe everything that is in any way person. Go into work every day for the next 60 days with basically a wiped-clean computer experience. Clear your caches when you leave. Every day. You may have 60 days, but you may have fewer.
3. Take some time to grieve. It's a major change. People you'll never see again, work you'll never do again, a place you'll never go to again. It is perfectly fine to just take some time and feel bad about it.
4. Make sure to grab contact information for everybody you can. I took home a company directory. It came in very useful on one position I applied for that asked for more references than I was read to use.
5. If you don't have one yet, open a LinkedIn account. In the past, say, five years, it's become a vital job searching and networking tool. I'd say about 4 out of 10 jobs I applied to were only posted on LinkedIn. And before almost every job interview, I had looks from people from the company I was interviewing with. You may not be viewed positively for having a profile, but you're likely to be viewed negatively for not having one.
6. Budget budget budget budget. Money diet. You're probably fine. You're probably fine for a long time. But you're going to feel so much better if you're watching your bank account not drop drastically every month. If the first job I was offered worked out, I actually would have ended up the year net positive, but oh well. This one probably should have been number one.
7. It's tempting to take some time off before the job search begins. You should, just from a mental health prospective. But, it's 100x easier to get a new job while you have a job, so what I would say is: start now. The next couple of weeks, put feelers out, apply to things that sound interesting but you may think are out of your reach. Then, then, then, if nothing pans out, take some time off to breathe.
8. You're going to want to brush up on interviewing. One thing that I discovered is the sheer wealth of good information there is online now on interviewing, specifically on YouTube. Take every interview you can, because practice is frustratingly important. One small pro-tip: On the leather-bound notepad you bring into the interview (if you don't have one, that's a purchase you should make), one the second page, write out 40-50 generic interviewee questions that have no specific angle. Then when you're in the interview and they blindside you with "Do you have any questions?" you can glance down and say something like "So how does this division interact with other divisions in the company to achieve objectives?" or something like that. I found this piece of advice immeasurably useful.
9. If you know people in your field, or in a field you'd be interested in, contact them and ask if you can grab a coffee or a drink. I guess people call these informational interviews, but your objective would be not to look for job leads, but to get information on what's going on with competitors, current trends, things you should brush up on, things you should look out for, companies to definitely not apply to, etc.
10. The job search time is a very lonely time. The biggest piece of advice people give is "get out there and network." But that's f--king hard, because, well, you're running on a money diet and most of the people you interact with would be at work. And, and, the most productive thing you can do is sit at a computer and throw resumes at ADP, Taleo or whatever stupid software is being used to parse your resume into keywords and garbage. Don't worry about it. But, please, make sure you get out and see friends, family, whomever.
11. Balance your time. Spending 6-8 hours a day doing the thing mentioned in #10 is awful and will grind anyone down. Even if you're home alone, try and find something else to do to break up your day. If you have a musical instrument, play it loud. If you like to draw, go outside and draw something. You might get a call to interview tomorrow, make sure you don't regret not doing something else while you have time off.
12. There's lots of good advice up there. Go see a doctor if you're due. I don't know what state you're in, but if you manage to be unemployed long enough that your health insurance runs out, make sure you apply for your state's medicaid (I accidentally didn't and got dinged on my taxes for two months of not having insurance). Hell, when your severance runs out, apply for unemployment assistance.
13. Okay, here's my major job search advice, related to #10. Almost 90% of job openings require you to do the annoying, god-awful process of uploading a resume and then filling out a form with the same information. It's soul-sucking, awful and will make you want to murder a family of dolls. And then, on top of it, it's a computer that parses your resume and information for key words to see if anybody even sees your resume. There are resources for how to help your resume/cover letter get through that process. You're welcome to use them. Apparently they're helpful. What I would say is: Whatever. If you come across a job listing that asks you to email them the information instead, focus every single second of your time on them instead. You may as well upload a stock cover letter to Taleo (another of those systems). Those will be seen by a human, and I got interview requests from almost all of them. My success rate of computerized applications was about 1%. I should probably rethink this since the job I eventually took was an ADP (one of those systems) application, but it's a massive issue for job-seekers right now, and I just want you to be aware of that.

I'm really sorry that this happened to you, and I wish you the best of luck. I hope anything I wrote above helps. Good luck, and you got this.
posted by General Malaise at 5:49 PM on May 31, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Alongside Ask A Manager I would also recommend listening to the excellent Career Tools podcasts that are run by the Manager Tools team (for example, or also).
posted by Albondiga at 6:22 PM on May 31, 2018

Best answer: First thing I would do is check out your state's unemployment benefits page and file a claim as soon as you possibly can. Don't wait so you don't risk missing out on any benefits, but if you do stay on to work for another 60 days, then you'll have to wait until after that. The unemployment office can answer questions about your specific circumstance if you have them. That money will not replace your salary, but it will help a lot. I've been laid off multiple and am single and it's always helped me at least cover my rent.

Second, I would start scheduling all the doctors appointments you can and start taking care of all the medical stuff you can. Last time I was about to lose my employer-provided health insurance, I did my physical, did overdue follow-up bloodwork, GYN visit, got all my prescriptions filled, etc.

A 60-day runway isn't bad. I would start looking for a new job immediately so you can be looking while you have a job. No one even needs to know you're being laid off in two months. I would start activating your network - reach out to friends, acquaintances, old colleagues, etc. and let them know you are looking. Ask people you know to grab coffee and talk to them about looking for a new job. Do "informational" meetings where you ask people in similar fields how they got to wherever they are and then ask them to keep you in mind. And yes, get that resume updated or, as the case may be, create a resume.

Last, I would recognize that you aren't going to figure everything out immediately. That's fine. Give yourself some time to take a break and collect your thoughts. If you do end up with a gap in work, it sounds like this might be one of the few breaks you've had in 18 years, so try to enjoy it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:36 PM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Have a lawyer review the severance agreement before you sign it. It's good that your company is giving you what looks like a decent package, but you should have someone on your side vet it for anything that could restrict your options for future employment or is otherwise against your best interests. Specifics will vary by your locale but off the top of my head I'd be looking for things like non-compete restrictions, excessively stringent non-defamation clauses, loss of part or all of the severance if you turn down an internal transfer offer or do not stay the full 60 days, and any restrictions on being rehired.

(Note IANAL and IANHR, just someone who has been laid off before.)
posted by 4rtemis at 9:32 PM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 1. Start bringing stuff home. Little by little, so you don't have to really change your life about it. This absolutely includes digital stuff: Grab a USB drive, and take all the stuff you think you'll want later, and everything else since you never know. Everything you've written, everything you've downloaded with the thought of checking out later, every bookmark, everything you've produced that you can. One mistake I made was not taking enough (so many interviews asked for examples of work product that I didn't have).

This might vary depending on your actual industry and job - if it is your employer's IP then you may not be allowed to do this.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:28 PM on May 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First of all I'm so sorry this happened to you, and while I've been with different companies for varying lengths of time (ranging from as short as 1 year to 7 years), I was laid off for the first time in my life just last summer.

Excellent advice upthread.

How did I survive? The first day I just splurged on me, which meant doing all the things I never thought I'd do in the middle of the day. (Was told in the morning, took the rest of the day off.) And I made many phone calls to friends I hadn't spoken to in a while, along with close friends who I could pour out my feelings to.

Longer term: I treated 'finding a job' my full-time job. 8-hours a day, five days a week, and turning everything off at night / weekends. It gave me permission to not stress too much over it. I made many appointments with acquitances, friends-of-friends, do as much of that as you can in-person or on the phone.

Some advice - General Malaise's advice is great, and would re-iterate two things of the 13 listed: #5 (open / update LinkedIn account) and #13 (uploading a resume via the god-awful atuomated processes). These are very, very important and the main change from 18 years ago.
posted by scooterdog at 7:27 AM on June 1, 2018

Best answer: Lots of good advice here.

This is me. Job of nearly 20 years was eliminated last month due to budget cuts. I'm 57. I also have 60 days til lift off.

I recommend hanging with your friends who love and understand you ... don't be afraid to lean on them.

Take care of yourself and get enough sleep. Be very, very kind to yourself like you would with any other trauma.

I also second the linked in account. Find out how unemployment insurance. I'm thinking about signing up at every temp agency in town in case nothign immediatley comes up.

Me mail if you want.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 4:17 PM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody.
I am still feeling very overwhelmed but every reply has been helpful. I’m having good moments and bad moments. Basically just taking it an hour at a time at this point.
I’m starting to take some concrete steps forward and again, a big thank you to everyone who took the time to share advice and experience.
posted by bookmammal at 7:22 AM on June 2, 2018

Best answer: Not sure this idea will be helpful, but I thought I'd throw it in the mix. When my old position was close to imploding, I got a second job as a barback (bartender's assistant). It was a bit humbling (my first duty was mopping a really grody floor) and basically paid minimum wage, at least at first, but it gave me so much peace of mind. Also, I knew that I'd need the structure and regular human contact if I lost my job. I worked that job alongside my full time job for 8 months or so. Along with giving me peace of mind, it shook up my self-image in positive ways: I wasn't Desk Job self, I was Spend Evenings At A Hip Bar self, or both, or neither. I'm not sure I'd do that now (being ten years older), but in your shoes, I might spend a weekend day or two applying at various retail establishments that I'd be interested in. (These days I would start with my very middle-aged interest of gardening centers probably. YMMV. Oh and looking for dishwasher positions. So meditative!) I'd also consider other ways to bring in revenue, like renting out a guest room (if applicable) on Air BnB, getting gigs on Upwork, whatever. In other words, I'd diversify, to the extent that I could do that without distracting myself from the central task of finding the next main job and try to get even a bit of money coming in.

Good luck, you'll get through this and come out stronger.
posted by salvia at 11:51 AM on June 4, 2018

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