As the end of the year approaches, employers reevaluate their priorities and reorganize their businesses. These strategic shifts often lead to layoffs.

It’s never easy to lose your job, but it’s especially difficult during the holidays. Expenses go up thanks to travel and gifts. Searching for a job at this time of year can be slow and discouraging.

This holiday season, I’ve seen a lot more people than usual be let go from their jobs. What should you do if this happens to you?

First, know this: When it comes to your career, you should think of yourself as your own small business. Be honest. Have integrity. Make choices that put you first.

Often, we make sacrifices for our employers that we later regret. We stay too long or allow ourselves to become outdated for the sake of the team. Do what’s right, but don’t forget that the company will do what it needs to do to survive – whether it impacts your job or not. With that in mind, you must also do what’s right for you.

Second, don’t wait to start searching. I know the job search can be emotionally exhausting, and you may want to take a break during the holidays. However, it’s right when you’re laid-off that people are most ready to help.

For example, a few years ago, my hometown in Oklahoma was hit by a massive tornado. People were extremely eager to help in the weeks immediately following the disaster, giving money, time, and other helpful donations. A few months later, my hometown was still picking up the pieces – but by then, most people had moved on to the next tragic news story.

A layoff may not be exactly the same as a natural disaster, but folks are more likely to help very soon after any difficult incident. Take advantage of this fact; push yourself to start your job quickly.

During the holidays, you will likely have the chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues at various events and parties. These can be valuable networking opportunities – but you must prepare yourself. You may be surprised by how many direct and sometimes inappropriate questions you may be asked about your former employer. Practice what you will say if someone asks why you were let go. Be brief, be concise, and do your best not to knock your former employer.

Beginning your job search now will give you a strong head start in January, when businesses return to normal operations. Update your LinkedIn profile, revise your resume, and have a draft cover letter ready to go. Be prepared to react quickly when someone lends you a hand.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News

Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.

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