14 Things to do if You Just Lost Your Job
If you or someone you care about loses a job, it can be a tremendous blow. Take heart and press forward toward better things. Follow the steps on this list to get started on the right path for you and your family.
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 ESV
Final Paycheck with accrued time
This might seem obvious, but don’t forget. If you have any accrued time like Paid Time Off (PTO), sick leave, or vacation time, you might be due reimbursement. This will depend on a combination of your employer provided time and labor laws in your state, but don’t assume that human resources will get this right. Take the time to be proactive by researching what you are owed and ensure this is part of your final compensation.
If there is a possibility of severance pay, find out the details. If your employer does not bring it up, you should bring it up. You probably want to leave on good terms, but do not let this prevent you from negotiating tenaciously for severance. Also, don’t feel pressured to accept the first offer. Remember, this is for your family’s benefit.
Know your benefits
Find out from your boss or HR when your employer provided benefits will end. Generally, benefits end on the day employment ends, but this is still something to be certain and informed about.
Get employer recommendation
If you’re leaving on good terms with your employer, ask for a recommendation. This is especially important with a layoff. There may be a case where you need to prove the end of your employment was based on something besides your performance on the job. The recommendation can also come in handy for future job applications.
Apply for unemployment
Work on this step immediately. Unemployment programs are state specific, so you’ll need to look online for the steps needed for yours. In some cases, you’ll be able to get started online. In any event, this is a process that can sometimes take time and require verification by the bureaucracy behind the program. Make every effort to get started on this right away so that if you qualify your family will receive support.
If you had a 401k or other type of retirement plan through work, you’ll need to decide what do with that money. Your exact options will depend on the plan, but you’ll likely have a few options available to you. First, some plans will let you leave money as it is. If the plan offers reasonably priced and quality investment options, this could make sense. Next, you’ll have the option to roll over your money to an IRA. This ensures you owe no taxes on the money and you’ll be able to continue tax-preferred growth with your choice of investment options. Lastly, you’ll have the option to take the money as cash or as a “lump-sum”. This option involves paying some significant taxes and penalties while also depleting retirement savings. This option should only be considered in challenging circumstances after other sources of cash have been thoroughly evaluated.
Review your budget and spending plan
The best time to make a budget was yesterday. The next best time is today. It is important to know where your spending is going. Take the time to get a handle on where your family’s dollars go every month. Then take some time, together with your spouse, to separate out spending that is non-critical. In other words, your water bill goes in one category and “going out to eat” money goes in a separate category. For the discretionary category, think about what you can reduce or eliminate now or what you would eliminate in the event unemployment goes on for some time.
Check your emergency fund
Everyone needs an emergency fund for a variety of reasons. This is one of those times. Sit down, with your spouse, and review funds you have available to cover bills and living expenses until employment begins again.
Get our emergency fund checklist
Contact creditors and other providers
This will take time, but it is a necessary step. For every service provider and creditor you have, take the time to contact them about your situation. Many have hardship plans that can reduce or suspend your payments. There may also be discounts available. A simple google search is not good enough here. Many of these providers do not advertise these kinds of provisions for fear they will be abused. In many cases you must ask. Don’t be afraid to ask and do spend the time here.
Most Americans have their health insurance tied to their employer. If your spouse is employed, one option may be to sign up for insurance through your spouse’s employer. If this is not an option, you can pursue coverage through COBRA. In short, this is a program that allows you to continue for a period of time with the same coverage you had at your employer. Keep in mind, you will be paying for the cost which will be higher than what you were splitting with your employer before. Other options here could be a Medical Sharing Ministry, a plan on the healthcare exchange, or a short-term plan.
Update your profile on LinkedIn to be as complete as you can. LinkedIn is the primary way many companies find new job candidates. Update your profile with the same rigor you would a resume. Connect with some old colleagues to remind them you’re still around. LinkedIn will let you set alerts for jobs you might want and can easily apply for right in the app. Lastly, LinkedIn will let you choose a setting that notifies recruiters who are also on the platform you are seeking a job. This is a great way to let recruiters do some of the work for you and can lead to a recruiter contacting you proactively with an opportunity.
Contact Friends and Former Colleagues
Connections with former colleagues can be important if you need a reference at some point. This can also be a valuable source of information on new opportunities. A study found that 30% of hires came from referrals. Set yourself up for success here by keeping top of mind for people that know the great work you have done in the past and will do in the future. It can be awkward, but sometimes just coming out and saying to a friend; “I need a new job”, is the best way to go.
In an age of applying for jobs on company websites, resumes are still important. Take the time to tell your story using strong language to put your best foot forward. It is worth your time to make separate versions of your resume for specific opportunities you might be interested in. Carefully read a job listing for specific skills and make sure this same language is part of your resume. Finally, the resume you submit on company websites should be in Microsoft Word. Even if the company gives other file format options like PDF, always submit in Word. There are a few reasons, but the primary one is that the software robots that do the first pass on a resume work best with Word. Submitting in a format besides Word runs the risk your resume might not make it to a live person.
Job Hunting and Applications
Start scouting and applying for opportunities. Some potential employers move faster than others with their recruiting and interview process. The sooner you start, the sooner your potential new company will start their resume review process. Larger employers allow you to sign up for new job alerts or submit a general application. Speed is your ally here, so keep a vigilant watch on jobs that are at the top of your list.
The easiest path is to focus on the negative and the lack of employment. You do indeed, have a job. It's the preceding list. Your job is to do these things and as part of it, find a new job. Today's the first day so get to work. Better things are ahead.
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