The First Five Things to Do If You've Been Laid Off

The First Five Things to Do If You've Been Laid Off

First Five Things To Do If You’ve Been Laid Off

You’ve just been let go, laid off, given the pink slip, or furloughed. However you phrase it, it comes down to the same thing. You no longer have a job, and your mind is reeling. Before you panic and do something you might regret, take a breath and follow these five steps to get yourself back on track.

1. Take Stock: What Just Happened?

Whether it’s your first time or something you’ve experienced previously, losing your job unexpectedly is always disorienting. It may help to remember you’re not alone. People lose their jobs every day, and some of the world’s most successful people have been in your exact situation.

You’re Not Alone

Before winning several Super Bowl rings, Bill Belichick was laid off from his first coaching job. Jerry Seinfeld lost a small TV part, returned to doing standup comedy, and was discovered by a Tonight Show producer. Steve Jobs was let go from his own company.

You’re not alone, and losing your job could be the spark that ignites a whole new life for you.

2. Negotiate Your Separation Package

If you’re offered a severance meeting immediately, ask if you can come back after a day or two. You may not have this option, but it's worth asking for. Do your best to stay calm. Focus on getting the best severance package you can.

Here are some points of negotiation.

  • Pay. Ask for severance pay, back pay and unused vacation pay.
  • Health insurance. You are entitled to continue your coverage under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), but this is expensive. You may be better off getting insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Losing your job is a special circumstance that qualifies you to apply for this any time during the year.
  • Resignation. If you’re offered the choice to resign instead of being fired, consider seriously before you take it. Resigning may disqualify you from collecting state unemployment.
  • Benefits. Life insurance, membership in a credit union, and your 401K plan are all negotiable.
  • Furlough status. If you've been furloughed, how long will it last? When will you return to your job?

Some types of jobs may not offer much in the way of separation packages. In many of these, you’ll be lucky if you get a two-week severance check and your back pay. Take whatever the company offers.

3. Get Some Immediate Cash

Don’t panic about money. Take these steps instead.

File for Unemployment

File for unemployment as soon as possible. Unemployment will keep cash coming in weekly. Most states use a refillable debit card that gets loaded with your weekly pay by direct deposit.

Filling out the paperwork can take some time, but be sure to do it thoroughly. It could be the difference between having a cash cushion and not getting one.

If you worked as an independent contractor or your income was mainly from tips or commission, your unemployment may be low. You should apply anyway, because being on unemployment can immediately qualify you for state-sponsored job training and employment programs.

Get a Part-Time Job or Side Hustle

If you didn’t get any severance and you don’t qualify for unemployment, look for a part-time job, full-time survival job, or a side hustle you can start right away. This doesn’t have to be related to your field. It’s just a job to bring in some immediate cash.

Should you work part-time if you're collecting unemployment? Check with your state's unemployment office about the rules for part-time jobs. Some states will drop you from unemployment if you start a part-time job and then quit it.

4. Start Your Job Search

Once you have some money coming in, it’s time to start your job search.

Focus on the Future

By now, you’ve had some time to absorb what happened and develop a more positive outlook. Try to shed your negativity as much as possible when you look for a job.

No one wants to hire someone who responds negatively to setbacks, so avoid any suggestion of negativity about your former boss or the company. Such feelings should never come out in an interview or when you're networking.

That’s easier said than done, but it's extremely important for your success. Focusing on your future will help.

Get Your Network in Gear

This positive approach applies to the way you tell your social and professional network about what happened. Don’t complain about your situation or your former employer. Let your contacts know you’re available for work.

5. Move toward Your New Future

Losing your job can shake you up, but most people who are let go are able to recover emotionally and financially in a short time. You can too. As Manciagli says, “The world around us is filled with people who were fired and who’ve been rehired because they handled it well.”

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