Getting laid off is a traumatic experience. Mixed in with the sudden loss of income and social interaction is a whole host of emotions, including: grief, anxiety, depression, and shame.
Remember that you are not your job. The fact that you lost your job doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. There’s no shame in being laid off. More likely, there was something wrong with the company you worked for. Shame on them for making poor business decisions.
At The Office
You’ll need to settle a few things with HR. Be sure to check on your vacation and sick days. You should be reimbursed for at least the vacation days. Also, find out if you’ll be receiving any kind of severance package. Try to negotiate future unpaid bonuses or extended health insurance.
Make sure you receive a letter from your employer stating you were laid off (if this is the case). This will make collecting unemployment much simpler. Depending on your state, a layoff letter may also help you land some paid job retraining while collecting unemployment.
Before you leave, make sure you save copies of any projects you’d like to keep to Dropbox, Google Drive, or some other online storage. You might want to include some of this in a portfolio later, though keep in mind any work you’ve done on company time is owned by your employer.
Be sure to save a list of your professional contacts, especially if you’re in sales or marketing. The company might not like it, but they’re the ones letting you go.
Important: stay on good terms with everyone. Being laid off might feel like a knife in the gut, but that’s no reason to burn bridges.
See Also: 5 Ways to Quit a Job Gracefully
The first thing you need to do is schedule an appointment at your state’s unemployment office and file for unemployment. (Be sure to have federal and state taxes withheld from your unemployment). Do this as soon as possible; some states don’t offer retroactive benefits.
After you file for unemployment, find out what services they offer job seekers. You may be able to receive paid job training. If you qualify and think you’ll need them, apply for food stamps.
Remember, you’ve already paid into these services. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to use them. They exist to help people in your situation get back on their feet when circumstances knock them over.
If you’re not covered by a spouse’s policy, you’ll also need to find new health insurance coverage. Start by comparing COBRA to other private policies. Almost all will be expensive, but cheaper than the alternative of paying for medical emergencies out-of-pocket.
Once you’ve covered these bases, take a hard look at your finances, create a budget, and look for ways to cut your expenses. Unless your situation is extremely dire, leave your retirement accounts untouched. The penalties for early withdrawal are steep.
Find a New Job
Keep in mind that unemployment discrimination is a real thing. Time is working against you. The longer you’re out of work, the harder it becomes to find new work.
Your first step should be to contact people in your network and let them know you’re looking for work. You may find job leads among former co-workers, professional contacts, friends, and family.
Another way to find work is to contact people in your industry and offer to take them out for coffee. You can find people by going to industry-related meet ups, networking events, or contacting them on LinkedIn or Facebook.
You may have some success by specifically targeting the company you’re interested in joining. Once you know the company and the department, contact either the department manager or someone in HR to request an informational interview. Before the interview, do your homework on the company and prepare several good questions.
Whatever method you choose, be prepared for a long slog. The job market is still weak.
Have you been laid off or getting laid off soon? Share you experience with us in the comments below!