Stop shooting yourself in the foot.

Layoff competition

Fired vs. Laid off: What's the difference?

The word ‘layoff' gets thrown about very easily, especially when times are tough and the unemployment rate is high, but getting laid off and getting fired aren't the same thing.

  • Getting fired – when a person is let go from a company, often due to their poor performance, without any hope of being rehired

Example: if he hadn't resigned first, David Sokol probably would have been fired by Berkshire Hathaway for violating their ethical code of conduct by buying shares in a company that he knew Berkshire would purchase.

  • Getting laid off – when a person is let go from a company, usually due to their company's poor performance, with the possibility of being rehired if the company's performance improves

Example: my entire team of web developers and I were laid off in early 2006, as my employer hoped to save money by outsourcing our work.

When I was laid off, it took me a little while to feel comfortable talking about it, and that was after knowing the layoff was coming for over 6 months (!).

However, once I got used to the idea that the layoff wasn't my fault and I couldn't have prevented it, it became a lot easier to answer every job interviewer's 2nd question of “why did you leave your last company?” (the 1st question being “how are you doing today?” of course).

Why you're not allowed to be embarrassed about your layoff

Here's what I mean.

I regularly encourage job seekers to blog as a great way to build their personal brand by showing off their expertise, meeting and networking with new professional contacts, learning new skills and improving old ones, etc., and hopefully even attracting the attention of their eventual employer. I try to do my part as a blogger by inviting and allowing job seekers to come guest post here.

I was once contacted by one such job seeker who had successfully blogged his way to a job. Now that he was working, he wanted me to remove any mention of him from his layoff-connected guest post. Of course I respected his wishes and anonymized the article, but I also told him:

“I don't think this is a good move. There's no reason to be embarrassed by having been laid off. And, by covering up your job search achievements – and guest posts of this quality are such achievements, proof of continued productivity, expertise and more – you're essentially creating more of a resume gap.”

This guy had done a good job on his job search and now he wanted to sweep this success under the rug, because he still hadn't overcome the embarrassment of why he was on the job search in the first place.

Why is this a bad idea?

Aside from the reasons I gave him in my reply, there's one more that's a secret of good employers.

  • Good employers are always a little worried that their good employees will leave them, and to prevent that from happening, the employers go the extra mile to keep those employees happy.

If the proof of your successful job searching abilities are available for all to see, your employer will know that you'll be less hesitant to leave than your colleagues, and as a result, your employer will go that extra mile to keep you.

Question of the article

Are you embarrassed about your layoff? Why? Tell us in the comments. If you don't want to leave your name, that's fine.

I originally published a version of this article on the terrific Personal Branding Blog.

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Rick

    I was laid off from Motorola back in 2001. When I was asked in interviews why I was no longer at Motorola, I mentioned I was laid off due to the rough times they were going through. Interviewers generally accepted this with understanding. This was back when Motorola was laying off hundreds of people every week (or so it seemed).

    So, no, I wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed about being laid off.

  2. Moshe

    Nice article, here’s my input:
    In Israel a potential employer’s first question is almost always: “what are your salary expectations ?”
    This is before they even tell you what the job responsibilities are, which programs they use and other essential information you need in order to answer the question in a professional manner. This is typical of placement agencies and temporary employment agencies as well as private sector.
    Layoffs happen and people are understanding about it in general.

  3. Joe

    I am not embarrassed about being laid off. I am angry for sure as it was unfair. Three months after being laid off, my ex-employer asked me to submit a proposal to the company to do what I was doing before I was laid off! Apparently, the impact I made on the business was missed and the company was at risk of losing revenue. In my capacity as Director of Business Development, I was very effective even though the company managed to continuously lose the business I secured. What a blunder they made. No not embarrassed, just wished they would have thought this through. I am looking for a new job – doesn’t pay to consult with a company that recognized the value you brought only after they let you go.

    Now if you want to address some really bothersome issues…it’s hearing from HR professionals at companies you have an interest in saying that you’re over-qualified for a position or you will leave the company if another company offers you more money. So, after working for 25+ years, you are being told to hang it up because you are a threat to younger, less able professionals.

    I know it’s reality but at the end of the day, those prospective employers suffer because they fail to bring on proven professionals who would be able to compensate for the large number of mediocre people they have among their employees. No wonder our lead in the global business economy is slipping!

    Down but not out!

  4. Jacob Share

    Joe- one of the most frustrating parts of job search is (re)discovering that most hiring companies are mediocre, don’t really know what they want or how to go about it. If they knew better, they would *wish* for “overqualified” candidates who were willing to accept market salaries for their open position. They should be so lucky to have a staff of overqualified people who generate so much business that they’re forced to hand out raises or people will leave.

  5. Joe

    You’re absolutely right! Over qualified really translates to “higher value!” Of course, that threatens those who just “qualified”. Imagine the army evaluating new recruits this way!!!

  6. Kate

    Being jobless, regardless of how it happens, is no cause for embarrassment. It is cause to re-evaluate life.

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