Fly with the Phoenix

Surviving a layoff
June 2, 2009, 3:28 am
Filed under: Career Transitions

 Job loss can lead to new beginnings

By Deborah Reinhardt Palmer

Walk into Shanna Spraul’s store, stand in the middle of the small floor and take a deep breath. Maybe you’ll smell a favorite cologne or a familiar scent such as spring flowers after rain. Spraul creates handmade soaps and bath products, and she hopes to clean up as a new small business owner. Earlier this year, Spraul opened Corner Shop Soaps, 523 S. Main St., in St. Charles, Mo. After losing her job in August 2008, Spraul, who had been making soaps for herself and family for years, thought she’d supplement lost income by selling products at local craft fairs. When she and her husband saw the shop on Main Street, the historical town’s retail district, was available to rent, the thought of owning a store appealed to her, but it seemed unlikely. Spraul said she prayed to God that if this was what He wanted for her, obstacles would be lifted and doors would open. Today, she’s one of St. Charles’ newest shopkeepers, and is looking forward to the summer tourist season and more robust sales.

Like many Missourians in career transition, Spraul created an opportunity by going into business for herself. According to the Missouri’s Secretary of State’s office, 1,690 new businesses have been created from January to May 2009. In the last decade, the greatest job growth has been in small- and medium-sized companies. If going into business for yourself following a layoff is appealing, get help through SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, a national volunteer organization that works with people starting off or growing a small business. Free counseling and other services are available at local chapters. For information on St. Louis area locations, visit For chapters in other parts of Missouri, visit and type in your zipcode to find an office near you.

Starting a business is one of several options available to a worker who has lost his or her job. Susan Joyce, online job search expert, suggests these action items to follow after the ax has fallen.

Before walking out the door Immediately after receiving news of a layoff, ask your employer about continuing health insurance coverage.COBRA is a supplemental insurance policy that provides temporary health insurance to eligible workers and their dependents. Remember that you will pay the full premium for the coverage; your former employer is no longer responsible to pick up some of the cost. However, a new federal subsidy under President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan will pay 65 percent of COBRA premiums for employees who are laid off from Sept. 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2009. The subsidy will extend for nine months. However, individuals with an annual adjusted gross income of more than $125,000 and couples with an adjusted gross income of more than $250,000 will not be eligible for the subsidy. It’s a good idea to compare the COBRA rates with a short-term private policy. Visit for more information.

Negotiate outplacement services (career coaching, resume writing, etc.) “You’ve already lost your job. What have you got to lose,” Joyce said. Ask for a letter from the company’s human resources office that states you were laid off, not fired, from your job. Include this letter with your list of references.

Register for unemployment compensation, even if you received a severance package. Missourians can go to Inquire about funding available through the state for retraining.

Make personal business cards with your name, email and mailing addresses, phone numbers, and a description of what you do. Hand these out at networking events, leave them with recruiters or HR folks after interviews, include with resumes or notes of thanks: you can see the many uses of these cards. Beginning a job hunt It’s a common mistake for unemployed workers to apply to almost any job for which they might be remotely qualified. It’s the idea that if enough stuff is thrown against a wall, some of it will stick, but it’s flawed logic. Joyce suggests developing a list of potential employers based on: apparent quality, future prospects of the organization, salary, benefits, location and potential career path. Then, look for a job in these organizations. Sharon Reus, owner of Positive Image Communications Company in St. Louis, coaches people making career transitions. As part of your job search, she suggests thinking about what you tolerated in the previous position–such as a long commute, work hours, environment–then knock out some of those conditions in choosing the next situation. Every transition can be an opportunity, Reus says. After losing a job, it’s a good time to take stock. Is there a dream you’ve always wanted to pursue? Is it possible now in some form? “Be aggressive. Now is not the time to go inward,” she says.

In addition to being outgoing, develop a network of support. Today’s social media tools, including LinkedIn or Plaxo, are meant for professionals. Pair social media with face-to-face networking. In the St. Louis area, Businesspersons Between Jobs (BBJ) is a voluntary, non-sectarian group that meets each Monday from 9–11 a.m. at St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 601 Claymont Drive, in Ballwin. A $25 lifetime membership affords jobseekers job search counseling, talks by recruiters, motivational speakers, practice interviews and mini-resume development/circulation. Click on for more information.

Finally, remember to catch your breath and deal with your feelings about losing a job. There will be a time to grieve, but remember, a layoff is not a personal failure. Don’t hide a layoff from a potential employer; you have to be ready to discuss it during interviews, and you’ll do a better job of that if you’ve accepted the situation. Perhaps you’ll want to keep this verse from Psalm 46 at hand: “God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble.” Just ask Shanna Spraul ( about that.


8 Comments so far
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This is a very helpful article. I’d like for more people to see it.

The shock of a lay off so often means we forget these basic survival tactics. Most helpful is the insurance issue. “Before walking out the door Immediately after receiving news of a layoff, ask your employer about continuing health insurance coverage.COBRA is a supplemental insurance policy that provides temporary health insurance to eligible workers and their dependents.”

Perhaps the hardest thing to remember is, “a layoff is not a personal failure.”

Thanks for an insightful article.

Comment by Patsy Bell Hobson

Nice to hear from you Patsy! Have you been traveling? I’m working on a new post about finding federal jobs. I’ll soon switch the theme to family transitions. Have an article in the works about managing anger. Check back soon and thanks for reading.

Comment by hopefultransitions

Thank you for this wonderful article. In this dwindling economy people need all the help they can get about a job loss. The information about COBRA and negotiating outplacement services is very helpful. Most people probably wouldn’t know about the Obama Stimulus Program.

Thanks for writing this.

Comment by Fran Folsom

Thank you, Fran, for the comment! Working on a new post now about finding federal jobs!

Comment by hopefultransitions

Federal jobs, that’s a tough one. Good luck with it.

Comment by Fran Folsom

This from Robin Faszold: I greatly enjoyed your article about surviving a layoff. Thank you for the much needed information.

Comment by hopefultransitions

COBRA is not something that should be swept under the rug when parting ways with an employer. Being taken off insurance coverage has ramifications, especially when trying to pick up coverage as an individual or a group of one with preexisting condition. COBRA is exorbitantly expensive when utilized for long periods of time, but the Gov’t assistance should help a great deal to mitigate short-term costs.

I’m just 24, but as someone who’s waited in an unemployment line twice in the past four months, there’s a lot of psychological stress that is incurred. But as you wrote, “a layoff is not a personal failure.” I think it is an opportunity waiting to be capitalized.

Comment by Matthew

;,” I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information -~-

Comment by Laser Marking Devices

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