The How-To of Staying Sharp When You Have Been Furloughed or Laid-Off

By Catherine Lang-Cline

If you work in the creative industry you are very familiar with the ebb and flow of business. If there is an economic downturn, you can bet that the marketing department is going to be the first to experience layoffs. In advertising, if a client is lost, the entire team for that client might be let go. But if you get caught up in that sort of thing there are plenty of things that you can do to not only stay sharp but to prepare yourself for even greater things.

The first thing we tell people is that now their job is to find work. That work can be in the form of a full-time job or an assortment of projects. It is also in the form of sharpening skills. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Immediately get your resume updated. When you have completed that, make a sell-sheet about what services you could provide as a freelancer or contractor. You might be thinking, “I really need a full-time job.” You will be doing this for a couple of reasons. Many opportunities can start with your freelancing or completing a project for a company before they learn that they can’t live without you and want to hire you. Temp jobs are a great way to keep the money flowing in while giving you a chance to regroup. So on that resume and sell-sheet, show off everything you can do. Keep your salary and pricing off of everything because at this point everything is negotiable. Keep it ready to send off to people immediately as one of your other very important tasks is to make connections. Connect, connect, connect. Let everyone know that you are looking for a new opportunity and ask them if they know of anyone else needing your help.

  2. Look into pro-bono work. While I really think every artist would be paid properly for every minute of work that they do, sometimes doing work for free can work in your favor. There might be a new area that you would like to break into but do not have a lot of experience in. If you want to get into web design and you know how to do it but lack that experience on your resume, doing the work pro-bono with a charity or something like that will give you the experience you need to add it to your resume. You can add it to your portfolio and start talking about it in interviews. Don’t feel like one project is enough to build your self-confidence? Grab another! Still kind of shaky with this skill? Make sure the client understands this.

  3. Completely learn a new skill. Maybe using Photoshop or analytics software is something that you have always wanted to learn. Now is the time. Work an hour or two of learning into your day, every day, until you have mastered it enough to add it to your skill sets. Then maybe jump back to #2 and try it out with someone willing to give you a shot exercising this new skill. Create some projects on your own, too. Design your own website, create your own social media plan, etc. Point is, the world is changing quickly so you need to keep learning to get back in the game.

This also might be the time to change the direction of your career. This might be the time to make yourself a stronger candidate. This might be the time to start your own consulting business. Being laid off or furloughed is not the end by any means. Especially if you are in the creative industry, this is just part of the journey. Still not sure? We can help. Contact us at Portfolio Creative.