Being laid off happens to most people at some point in their careers -- sometimes, a person is laid off more than once, as I have been.
Know that being laid off very seldom is a reflection on you or your work.
Most likely, if you are laid off, the decision actually had very little to do with you.
Those who are laid off are in the wrong place (job and/or departent) at the wrong time (profits dropped or the acquiring company already had someone doing what you do and didn't need two people doing the same thing).
Often those who are laid off because they are "expensive" employees, or at least more expensive than the people who aren't laid off (they may be laid off later, though).
The corporate world doesn't usually have the time or skills to carefully prune away the "poor performers" and keep the best, in spite of what people frequently believe.
Sometimes this is called "down-sizing" or "right-sizing" -- at least by the employer.
Regardless of the exact term used, being laid off is NOT the same as being fired! Individuals are fired for job performance issues, usually individually rather than in a large group.
A layoff is a job loss resulting from a reduction in an employer's employee head count, typically to reduce expenses (both salaries and benefits). Layoffs are often called "down-sizing" or, more hopefully and euphemistically (for the employer), "right-sizing."
Layoffs can cause the job loss of a few people or of thousands. It is more often a matter of being in the "wrong" part of a company or the "wrong" job when head count is reduced than being incompetent or a poor employee.
Like an actor or actress on a canceled TV show, the actors and crew are seldom the direct cause of a show's cancelation, but they lose their jobs anyway because production of the show ends.
Usually, companies begin layoffs to reduce expenses - and, hopefully as a result, profits increase so they can survive. Sometimes it works, and the employer survives. Sometimes it doesn't work, and the employer shuts down any way with more jobs lost.
If your current employer has begun layoffs, pay attention. Don't assume that your job is "safe" even if your boss has assured you that it is. Your boss may be uninformed (or not), and your boss may be laid off, too.
If no one has been laid off yet but the atmosphere is getting tense, read the Signs of a Pending Layoff article for tips on how to predict that layoffs may begin where you work.
Set up your LinkedIn profile (unless your employer doesn't allow that). Also, read Layoff Preparations at Work and Layoff Preparations at Home articles plus Job-Hunt's free Layoff Self-Defense ebook so that you know some self-preservations steps you can take.
Moving to another job with a different employer is often a good idea. But job hunting while you still have a job isn't easy. Employers often fire an employee who is discovered job hunting, and, with technology used today, discovering you are job hunting is easier than ever before.
Read Guide to a Stealth Job Search for ideas on how to keep your job search quiet but still effective.
Until you find a new job, resist the feeling that you should just quit your existing job so you can focus on finding a new job. Being unemployed can put you at a disadvantage in the job market. Employers prefer to hire someone who is currently employed -- the thinking is that someone else likes your work, so it must be good. If you quit, you lose that advantage.
Quitting your job can also mean that you won't be able to collect unemployement compensation. So you will have zero income.
Layoffs are survivable. YOU will survive, if you are laid off. Millions of people have moved on, even moved up, in their careers after being laid off. I've been laid off twice, and, looking back, those layoffs lead me to where I am today. I am doing what I'm doing now because I was laid off, and I love writing for and editing Job-Hunt.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.