The first time I was laid off was my first time being laid off…  

Up to that point, I had never even received a negative performance review, so the wave of emotions I went through was quite the rollercoaster.

Thankfully, a good friend and mentor shared a framework that helped a great deal in getting through my situation.  In this post, I’ll detail my spin on that framework and share the output of the plan we built.

For context, I got my notice on a Thursday, so I had Friday and the rest of the weekend to wrap my head around this framework then put it to work.


First Step:  Take a deep breath and enjoy (embrace) the time off. (I used one week, 7 days)

This type of break in the work routine doesn’t happen naturally, try to enjoy it…even if it’s brief.  

  • Use this free time to grieve, to be pissed off or just not think about anything at all. Most importantly, use the time to let the mental dust settle but avoid falling into the trap of thinking you won’t recover from this or that it isn’t a teachable moment.
  • In my experience, layoff decisions usually fall into two broad buckets:  1) A true business decision made well outside of everyone but the C-Suite’s pay grade and/or 2) tea leaves weren’t read fast enough or accurately.  Pick your bucket and use it as a guide throughout the next steps detailed here.


Second Step:  Build your game plan, and be specific. (I used another one week, 7 days)

You won’t have a job guiding your daily routine for a bit.  So, for me, creating a plan with clearly stated milestones went a very long way toward helping avoid the trap I mentioned in the first step.  A few guidelines:

  • First, get very clear about your finances.  Take a snapshot of how much you have in savings, determine your post-tax severance, calculate all of your debts and required expenses.  Use this information to calculate a minimum monthly income, then let that number be your baseline for working through the next bullet.
  • Create a schedule, with specific deadlines and milestones.
    • Be realistic.  Give yourself enough time to do this comfortably, but not enough space to procrastinate or waste too much time.
    • Using the output from your finance check-in, decide how much time you can afford to use before jumping into your next career move.  Note things like the amount of time your savings and/or severance can cover your expenses.  If your situation allows, outline the specific date in which you want to start applying for jobs or interacting with recruiters/investors/partners.

If you don’t already have leads, the recruiting process can take a couple months, be sure to account for that time in this step.

    • Make time to outline, specifically, what you’re going to do next in your career.
      • If you don’t know what you want to do, or if you want to try something new, the “three option” approach in this podcast is one of my favorite methods – NPR You 2.0: Getting Unstuck (around the 7min mark). If that’s not your speed, you can also try sourcing a career coach via LinkedIn.
    • Plan for time to reflect but also plan for time to educate yourself on what you can/should do to improve.
      • Read, or re-read, a few good books.  My list:
        • The Hard Thing about Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
        • Unf*k Yourself – Gary John Bishop
        • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey (Re-read)
        • The Third Door – Alex Banayan
        • Daring Greatly – Brene Brown (Re-read)
      • Find an online course, or a few, to fix your weaknesses.  My list:
      • Build your network and/or check-in with your existing network.
        • Virtual meetup groups are a thing, attend one or a few.
        • Solicit feedback from previous, trusted managers and colleagues.
        • Spend some time with your mentor, or use this time to find a new mentor.  If you don’t have a mentor, identify at least two individuals to study and model their personal career progressions.  One of my choices here was Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, after listening to a podcast where he described his transition from professor to author/entrepreneur.  Tim Ferris #361 Jim Collins


Third step, the hard part:  Plant your seeds and start executing your game plan. (I used a full 60 days)

Per this step’s title, this part isn’t easy.  There will be waves of emotion, boredom, free time, and very busy times, but remind yourself that every step toward completing a piece of your game plan will pay dividends later.  In this phase, I found a few very helpful tools in keeping me moving forward:

  • Keep your game plan and schedule in an easily accessible place, to use as a “map” and fuel when needed.  My tool was, and continues to be, Evernote but there’s a long list of options for this if you have a smartphone. 
  • Take more breaths and continue giving yourself space to relax in-between executing.  This adds a good balance against the very busy periods.
  • If you need outside motivation, find an accountability partner and/or get your friends or significant other involved with your gameplan.  Pick an accountability partner that knows you well enough to nudge you back on track but also someone that you trust and respect enough to actually react to a nudge.


Using this framework, over a ~75 day period, and already having a few solid job leads; I finished three new books, made my first angel investment into a hospitality startup with a new network of entrepreneurs, partnered with a few close friends to file an electronic device patent and create the business plan for a drop-ship t-shirt company, knocked out a few bucket list day trips with my wife and (what I’m most proud of) carved out a “Paternity Leave” with my newborn daughter; before re-entering the workforce.  There are also a couple items from my list that I couldn’t get to but that will make good side projects in the near future.

That said, I know Covid has created a job market that is very different than the one I was thrust into.  Restarting will be harder for most, but the principles of this framework can still apply. 

Try not to beat yourself up about being laid off.  Use it as fuel, build a plan and stay active…at the very least you’ll have a set of new or improved skills and a damn good story to tell once this is over.



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