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IT Layoffs: What, Me? What Now?

Someone you know is waking up to his or her first day of unemployment. If it’s not you, congratuations: You’re probably at work sweating bullets trying to keep up with the extra tasks and avoid management's speculating stare. We’re with you there. If it is you, we'd like to offer a list of suggestions gleaned from the web and from our own experiences about how to deal with a layoff.

Don’t take it personally. And don’t let anyone imply that you could have prevented it. It’s tempting to try to analyze why it happened, but even if you come up with a reason (they wanted someone else’s skill set, I wasn’t outgoing enough, I had the highest salary), you’re not going to change what happened.

Breathe. Don’t drive yourself crazy running all over the place trying to deal with all the things you have to deal with. It’s trite, but oh so biologically true: As long as you keep breathing, you’re okay.

Get Your Fingers Walking. Lists will be your friend, even if you were never a list maker before. Make a list of everything you have to do. Make a list of everything you’re terrified will happen. Make a list of everything you have to be grateful for (even if “I’m still breathing” is all you can think of). Then get going on that spreadsheet or database to track your resume-sending and, if you haven't already, bookmark your favorite job sites, company websites, and industry resources.

Don’t withdraw. Get a Facebook account and/or a LinkedIn account, if you don’t already have them, and reach out to professional and personal contacts.

Create a non-industry blurb. For in-person contacts, such as with a neighbor at the mailbox or an acquaintance out in the community, have a blurb ready when they ask what’s new or how you’re doing. Don’t lie. Everything is NOT fine. Everyone you meet is your new network, so get networking. Be matter-of-fact, not self-pitying or anxious, and don’t use a job title they won’t understand: “I was laid off from my computer job at XYZ. If you hear of any openings anywhere in computers, I’d appreciate your letting me know.”

Create an industry blurb. For in-person contacts with someone in the industry, have a blurb ready when he or she asks what your experience is in. If possible, don’t emphasize your many years of experience in one area—instead, emphasize your versatility.

Do the math. Yep--the requisite “Duh” advice. Obviously you’ve already thought about your finances. We won’t insult your intelligence and advise you to start cutting spending, make a budget, etc. That said, be as matter-of-fact as you can about your job loss with relatives and friends, even if you think joblessness is a sign of weakness or an admittance of failure. It’s not. You’re part of a huge economic restructuring in the worst economic times since the Great Depression. Get everyone up to speed with your new situation ASAP. This includes teenagers and aging parents. As for your grade-school kids, let them know but keep it as upbeat as possible—the family will get through this but you’ll all have to work together to cut back on expenses for a while. Let them feel a sense of adventure, rather than loss or fear--you're teaching them a life lesson here. 

Think outside the cubicle. You are not your career. You are someone who knows how to do things to make computers do things. What are the big picture skills you’ve learned from IT? At the least, you know how to assess a situation and determine what the real problem is; you know how to break a huge task into smaller, manageable steps; you know how to visualize something you can't physically see; you have good reasoning and logic skills; you're fairly calm and methodical; you're teachable, adaptable, and can learn new skills and technologies. If the IT jobs were indeed truly drying up, you could do something else—you've got transferrable skills.

Be hopeful. With your sense of humor, your self-confidence (or your ability to act self-confident), your ability to say what you mean, your ability to diplomatically say what you mean, and of course, your certifications and experiences, you're gold. You'll get through this. We all will.

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