Laid Off in New York City

So you’ve been laid off from your job.

What’s the next step?

I went from working at the same company for 11 years to nearly walking into a position at a start-up, so job hunting was never anything I had experienced before. Until the start-up ran out of money. I was blind-sided by it and had no clue what to do next. I wasn’t prepared for it at all. Hopefully my experience and suggestions will assist you in your journey to a new career without the serious struggle along the way.

I’ve broken down necessary steps into 3 obtainable phases you can accomplish and then added 5 sections to focus on when interviewing.

Take time to go through each section, try not to get sidetracked and I guarantee it will make this process a lot smoother.

I wish I had this information before I went through job hunting!

  1. Phase 1 – 3 things to do as soon as you’re unemployed
  2. Phase 2 – address the situation
  3. Phase 3 – figure out what you want to do
  4. Phone Interviewing Questions
  5. My Turn for Questions
  6. On-Site Interviewing
  7. 6 preventable Issues During Interviews
  8. Projects or Final Interviews


:: Phase 1

Day 1 of unemployment, there are three things you need to do.

  1. Sign up for Unemployment Benefits. In NYC, you can receive up to $425 per week while being unemployed but it takes roughly a month to start receiving this.
  2. Sign up for SNAP (food stamps). This is an unnecessarily long process and you can’t talk to anyone about your account or when you will hear back about the status to begin receiving food stamps. This is the most annoying process I dealt with. I had to take the train to Harlem, try to ask questions but everyone puts their hands in the air relinquishing any ability to provide information.
    In the end, my unemployment benefits ended up providing a larger income than what I was allowed to make in order to qualify for food stamps. But, apply anyway to see if you can receive assistance.
  3. Find the nearest food pantries. Finding a new career in NYC doesn’t typically happen within one month and food stamps takes forever so start by stocking up at food pantries that supply vegetables, meats, breads and any canned goods. For most men, this can be an issue of pride to walk into a food pantry to receive groceries so their family will be able to eat.
    You can’t afford to have pride during this season of unemployment.
    Go volunteer and get yourself groceries.

:: Phase 2

Now that the necessities are covered and you have scheduled regular visits to local food pantries, it’s time to address the situation. It takes money to survive, to pay the rent and to pay the credit card bills. But now is not the time to panic, it’s the time to get organized.

The next three things you need to do are make a budget, figure out what you want to do and update your resume.

Let’s start with the budget. Assume you cut out ALL excess spending. All of it. Your bills should consist of rent, utilities, transportation and phone. In addition would be existing credit card bills. Do you currently have enough to pay for these bills or at least pay the minimum? If so, for how long? Keep in mind that you will begin to receive unemployment but don’t bank on that amount until you begin receiving it.

If you can’t cover the costs, definitely start to see what needs to be cut so you don’t incur more expenses: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, gym and other monthly subscription-based reoccurring costs. Figure out how much you are behind each month to make the bare minimum payments and you can look for gigs to supplement, such as catering or other event hosting. There are some apps for gigs in major cities but there’s always sifting through Craigslist Gig Events.

:: Phase 3

Now it’s time to figure out what you want to do.

What would you like to be doing with 40+ hours of your life every week? Have you been stuck on a computer and want to explore your creative side? If so, how can you make that happen without investing ANY money into your creative adventure?

It took me a solid month after being laid off to determine what I’m good at and what I would like to do in my next role. Then, I crafted my resume for that particular position. I sent out what I had, but after fine tuning my resume, I started getting more replies. Even more important than the resume was crafting a Cover Letter specific to the role, the needs of the company and how you can solve the problem they’re facing.

In the meanwhile, I started selling people’s items on eBay and took a commission. This way, I wasn’t buying goods in hopes to resell and I have 100 listings that I can list for free per month. Essentially, I’m only spending time, it just didn’t make that much money per the time spent. I also screen printed shirts which took some investment but it turned around quickly. Now, I am able to profit on each shirt ordered. Last, I worked on websites for friends.

I was busier unemployed than I was with a job!

After applying for around 8 positions per week, I started to receive replies for phone interviews. I recorded every phone interview so I could play them back and listen to every aspect of the company, the description of the position and my responses. I think my greatest takeaway every time was adjusting how I responded to each question.

I began to create a list of all of the questions so I could review those same responses before my next interview. Behavioral questions used to be a thorn in my side. I didn’t know how to properly respond to them. I considered the interview a friendly and open conversation but I quickly realized that my open communication prevented call backs.

:: Phone Interviewing Questions

Every questioned they ask, you need a positive response, even if it’s asking a negative question. An example would be, “tell me about a time a team member didn’t do their job and it reflected on the entire team.”

Your response could go south very fast.

My response was, “I asked my coworker why he wasn’t calling his customers and he replied that he couldn’t solve an issue for one client that took him days to fix. I helped by calling his clients for him just to keep him on track. The issue was resolved without going to upper management.”

State the issue, the positive action you took and then the resolution.

That is the formula for every response. This took me some serious practice to get it ingrained in my head to begin to find solutions for the questions that they were asking me. After Googling “Behavioral Interview Questions”, I compiled about 150 different possible questions and my brain wanted to explode.

So you’re not sounding like a robot trying to come up with this many algorithms in answering their questions, develop stories around these main 7 situations and you can answer the majority of the behavioral questions asked:

    1. Times when you took the initiative to either save money or make more money for the company.
    2. Examples of how you took the lead in getting something (a process, procedure, system, machine, etc.) to function more efficiently or effectively.
    3. A setback or failure in your job or personal life, and how you overcame it.
    4. Times when you provided leadership or guidance that made a difference for an individual, a group or the organization.
    5. Situations in which you had to deal with challenge, stress, and/or uncertainty.

  • Examples of how you functioned as a valuable team member.
  • Times in which your skills, character traits and/or knowledge enabled you to make a key contribution in your work.


While coming up with these responses, don’t forget to: state the issue, the positive action you took and then the resolution.

:: My Turn for Questions

“Do you have any questions for me?”

Developing key questions to ask at the end of your interview is equally important. I tend to dig into the position with my questions. After every interview, I add them to a longer list of questions for companies, in case they haven’t already answered them during the interview.

Five typical examples I always ask in a phone interview are:

  • How many other team members are in this same role, and how many are you expanding to?
  • Who would this role report to? (Do your LinkedIn research after getting this)
  • What are the 3 main qualities the person filling this position need to have?
  • Why do you enjoy working here? (sometimes this throws them off)
  • What is the company looking to do differently within the next year?

I also generate questions that revolve directly around the role. After interviewing for the same position at different companies and not receiving the job, you can build up a list of questions that prevented you from getting the job somewhere else.

:: On-Site Interviewing

Interviews in person are quite a bit different than phone interviews.

Always know the names of everyone you’ve spoken with along the journey.

While interviewing for LinkedIn, I had spoken with 6 people and half of them were not names that easily rolled off my tongue. But when asked (every time), I was able to recite who and when I spoke with a LinkedIn member.

Besides the basic hygiene and choosing the right clothing options, you need to do even more in-depth research on the company. Become an expert of their company without having worked there yet.

They are giving you time to prove why they should hire you.

No one is hiring to simply add a butt to a seat to do busy work unless you’re trying to work for a call center.

In-person interviews provide you time to explain WHY they should hire you and what missing skills YOU will bring to their team.

It’s NOT about what YOU will gain from working at this company. Do not ask about perks, time off, hours, etc. Typically this would be displayed on their website, or if a question comes up about business culture, that would be the ideal time to ask.

Take multiple copies of your resume and also pen and paper. Don’t just take blank paper, already have some of your research of the company and 5-10 questions on there so you can choose to ask each interviewer a different set of questions.

:: 6 preventable issues during interviews:

  • Show up late: traffic, train traffic, freak accidents happen but you should aim to leave 20 minutes early. If you actually arrive 20 minutes early, this either gives you time on the lobby couch to review your responses or use the restroom.
  • Bad breath: whether you had lunch or coffee on the way to your interview, take mints. Chomp a couple down before you walk in the door.
  • Things in your teeth: I had an interview at Bluecore that incorporated going to lunch together. I had a nice spec of black pepper between my front two teeth during my last two interviews. If food touches your mouth, go to the restroom and check out the damage prior to your next interview. The next time this happened to me, I found the culprit while in the restroom but while using a business card to clean my teeth, I ended up pushing it further in. Bring a toothpick for quick fixes.
  • Outfit issues: I had a great set of interviews with Getty Images. I got home, took off my blazer and realized a bird pooped on my shoulder and it was dry. Meaning, it was there, front and center, during my set of interviews. Had I used the restroom when I arrived, I would have seen that and fixed the situation. Same goes for any other potential issues you may find.
  • Dry throat: you’re going to be talking a lot. Either take a bottle of water or ask for water when you arrive. Coughing during an interview or focusing on your cotton mouth rather than your responses can be tough.
  • No resumes or paper: being prepared is bringing multiple resumes and some paper to take notes. Most likely, you are meeting with more than one person, so print out multiple copies. Arriving without enough resumes is the quickest way to display how little you want the job.
  • No questions: “Do you have any questions?” You will hear this from every interviewer even if you’re interviewing with 6 employees from the company. You need to have questions for each one of them.
    Depending on the interviewer, sometimes I ask, “were there any responses that either were not clear or would count against my advancement with this position?” I genuinely want feedback if I’m not a great fit. Another is, “Why do you enjoy working here?” Generally, follow their response with how you would fit into the culture or the position. “What would a day in the life of this position look like?” “What are three qualities in a candidate that are necessary for this position?” These can be asked from any interview. You also want to take their information and develop specific questions that you want to know about the role.

On-Site Interviewing Recap:

    • Bring mints, resumes, blank paper and a pen

  • Arrive early, use the restroom to freshen up and then ask for some water
  • Develop questions about the position, the company and the growth structure


:: Projects or Final Interviews:

If you have a chance to present to the CEO or if you are given a project to present, become an absolute subject matter of that project.

Go above and beyond.

Think about WHY this particular company is giving you this project. If it is a data-driven company, you need to have many stats to support your presentation. Don’t deliver a non-memorable presentation; imagine that 10 other candidates are applying for the same position.

Also, determine if they are looking for an outgoing person for this position. I had the inevitable fate when an interview I had in the bag with JW Player was looking for an extrovert, while I possess more introvert qualities.

Don’t Quit

Stop thinking you’re not qualified.

Feeling disappointed, let down and sadness will happen and you can let them happen.

But you can’t let that spawn into bad traits about yourself such as thinking you’re useless, worthless, no one wants you, you’re not good enough or you should give up. Make these thoughts unacceptable during your process. If you feel you’ll spiral down this path, find a Job Hunt Accountability Partner – not your spouse and not a group message to 15 people. It is incredibly frustrating when you spend hours researching a company, reviewing questions/answers, spending money on transportation all to hear the efforts will not be moving forward with the hiring process.

This does NOT mean it was all for nothing.

You went through that interview to get better for the next one, one you’ll be more suited for and one you’ll most likely enjoy more.

Don’t give up.

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