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5 steps to navigating a layoff during COVID-19

By Bev Porter, Director of Graduate Programs, Poole College of Management Career Center 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Poole College of Management Career Center has heard from a number of Jenkins MBA alumni who have experienced a layoff or expect to be laid off soon. Facing tight budgets, employers are forced to make increasingly tough choices about how to allocate their time and money. Through no fault of their own, their employees find themselves at a unexpected crossroads, unsure of how to move forward. 

At the Poole College of Management Career Center, we offer free, lifelong career coaching and resources to our alumni, no matter how many years ago they graduated. 

To anyone who has experienced a layoff, I typically offer the following advice in navigating this challenging hiring environment. 

  • Take some time to regroup and reflect.

Step back and take inventory of where you’ve been and where you want to go. At the Poole Career Center, we offer self-assessments like CareerLeader and StrengthsFinder to paint a portrait of the unique combination of skills, innate abilities, and experiences you have to offer. Rediscovering your potential is a powerful tool for regaining confidence after the emotional blow of losing a job. 

If possible, stay in a familiar lane as you envision next steps. You can change job functions or industries, but we don’t recommend changing both in this uncertain time. You will already face a heightened level of competition from other applicants who have experienced a layoff, so you will need to demonstrate considerable strength in a particular industry or function.

  • Learn how to tell your story. 

Once you have identified your next career goal, learn how to tell your story in a way that leads to where you want to go. Make sure that your resume, LinkedIn profile, and cover letters draw a straight line between your past achievements and future goals. Ultimately, it’s not an employer’s job to figure out where you fit into their organization. You need to know what you’re selling when you make first contact. At the Poole Career Center, we offer online resources and personal coaching to help craft communications that leave an impression.

  • Make networking your first priority.

Once you have crafted your story, start telling it to people within your network. Never miss an opportunity to showcase your superpowers and explain how they will add value to an organization. Online job applications should never consume a significant portion of your time. You can work on them at night when you’re in your pajamas at night and don’t feel like talking to anyone anymore. By the time a job is posted, it’s almost too late to apply. Target contacts on LinkedIn and within the NC State and Jenkins MBA alumni network who work in an industry or organization that interest you and send them an email or message that catches their eye. 

If you email a contact and ask for a job, most will not have a job to give you at that moment. If you ask for advice, they will have more motivation to listen to your story and help direct you to potential opportunities. I’ve always found that even the busiest people can spare 20 minutes to make a human connection. 

  • Do your research.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of doing your research in the process of networking and interviewing. When it comes to salary, for example, determine a range that corresponds to your industry, function, and experience before your first interview. In addition to common tools like those found on, our Jenkins MBA career website features a number of data points that inform a salary discussion. 

  • Be the solution. 

Especially in the age of COVID-19, employers face mounting, ambiguous problems. They’re not just looking for employees who offer the occasional solution. They’re looking for employees who are the solution. Our most successful job seekers are agile, nimble, and skilled at leveraging a diverse range of skills to tackling problems in multiple segments of an organization. In every conversation with a potential employer, emphasize the ways you can and will solve their most pressing problems. 

For additional resources for your job search, visit