How to Bounce Back After Being Laid Off

Experts say overcoming fear is the first step toward rebounding after job loss.

February 2, 2009, 12:40 PM

Feb. 2, 2009— -- Michael Raynor worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for 21 years. In late October, the 45-year-old father of two from Howell, N.J., was laid off.

"When it first happens, you just freeze and it's just so hard to think," he said. "You're pretty much just spinning in circles at the very beginning. You don't know which way to turn."

It took Raynor four days to tell his wife, Roseanne, then a stay at home mom, that his last paycheck was in the mail.

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"When I came home and saw my kids and wife they were choked up that I lost my job and you just do whatever it takes," Raynor said. "I don't care where I work or what I'm doing -- I have three people who count on me."

ABC News followed the Raynors as Michael went to career counseling, got retrained and applied for 30 jobs. At first, he didn't get a single call back.

His wife had no choice but to look for work to offset the bills. Three months later, she's working part-time for a medical consulting firm.

"This opportunity came up. I had to do it," she said. "I had to provide something. … I actually happen to enjoy it now."

Raynor recently changed careers, taking his exam to sell insurance, and landing a job. The Raynor family is rebounding.

"One of the big things that separates survivors from those who don't is the ability to manage the fear … to control that terror when you get that pink slip or get that 401(k) and see your life savings shrinking," said Ben Sherwood, author of "The Survivor's Club," a book on how to handle dire situations from plane crashes to an economic downturn.

Sherwood said that with nearly 2 million jobs lost so far in this downturn, the question on everyone's mind is how to bounce back after losing a job.

"When you get on a plane, in order to be safe, you need to know your primary exit and your backup exit. The same applies to finance," Sherwood said. "When you've got a job and you know the economy is crumbling and you know your industry is in jeopardy, you need to have a primary exit and a backup exit -- it's common sense."

Recession Provides Opportunity for Growth

Job counselors agree. To stay afloat in this economic climate, you have to manage fear: Don't freeze, leave 401(k) statements unopened or ignore warning signs about your job. Instead, acknowledge them, be realistic and take control.

"I realized that my industry was shrinking so I had to look outside my situation," Raynor said. "I'm going to have to re-educate myself. … Everything is going to change."

Everything Raynor knew has already changed. The Raynors' household income is 80 percent less than it was a year ago. In his new position selling insurance, Raynor earns only commissions.

But it is slowly turning around. Sherwood said that economic crises can actually provide growth, reinvention and creativity.

"In tough economic times, there is actually an opportunity for people. They see in tumultuous times an opportunity to change their course, to retrain themselves, to find a whole new line of work, to do new things with their lives."

That's what Michael and Roseanne Raynor are doing -- reinventing themselves while trying to set an example for their children to work hard.

"We've been through some really tough times," Roseanne Raynor said. "We're pulling through."

Surviving their own economic storm, they say, is proof that others can too.

"Get out there and do the best you can," Roseanne Raynor said.

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