8 things you should do if you lose your job

Regardless of how you got there, unemployment is difficult to face. Unfortunately, companies are sold and bought. They downsize, file bankruptcy, or simply close their doors every day, and some employees are left out in the cold.

It’s a traumatic experience that can be scary and overwhelming, especially if you have bills to pay and a family to support. It’s undoubtedly a difficult season in a career, but it can also be an opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to go, a sort of self-discovery.

Here are some smart things you should do in the days and weeks following your new employment status:


1. File for Unemployment Compensation

Generally, the government offers financial benefits to workers who meet specific eligibility requirements and have lost their job “through no fault of their own.” While the dollar amount will be significantly less than your lost salary, it can provide some funds to help you stay afloat until you secure another job. The application process had been a hassle in the past, but it’s become much more streamlined. In some states, it’s as simple as a phone call or an online submission.

Each state manages it’s own program. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website for information on your particular state and to file a claim.


2. Consider your health coverage options

Even if you don’t have any serious health issues now, you shouldn’t forego any health insurance. At the very least health insurance offers you protection from unexpected medical bills that can result from events like a heart attack or stroke, a broken leg, or a visit to the doctor’s office when you have the flu. When you lose your job, you’ll have the option to apply for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) health coverage, but you can also consider an individual health insurance policy.


3. Get the details on your retirement plan

While we’re on employee benefits, you should also find out what happens to your company-sponsored retirement plan. Some plans allow you to leave your account intact with the current administrator, but others require you to take a distribution. If you take a distribution, there may be some tax penalties if you don’t roll it over to another retirement account within 60 days. Be sure to get the details and consult with a tax advisor before making any financial decisions.


4. Re-evaluate your budget

Without a paycheck, your monthly budget will likely have to be reworked. Consider all of the non-essential bills you pay and items you purchase on a regular basis and make adjustments. Skip your daily Starbucks run, cut your own grass, and put your gym membership on hold. While nobody wants to give up these luxuries, the fewer bills you have when you’re unemployed, the more financial breathing room you’ll have while you’re between jobs.


5. Give your resume a facelift

Update your resume with your most recent position, any additional skills you’ve learned, training you’re completed, or recognition you’ve earned. Resumes have changed over the years, so if you haven’t needed one in a while, check out the updated formats and styles.


6. Google yourself

Speaking of marketing yourself, you should really Google your own name. Employers will likely search your name to see what you’ve been up to before they ask you to join their company, Make sure it’s all positive, appropriate, and employer-friendly. If not, this is your chance to clean up your social media accounts and adjust your privacy settings.


7. Network, network, network

The majority of job interviews are earned through networking. Connect with everyone in your professional network and let them know you’re searching for a new position. Look for local networking events in your community, schedule informational interview meetings with people in your industry, use your LinkedIn account to connect with potential employers, and reach out to your alumni network. You’ll never know where your connections will lead.


8. Keep your chin up

Not only is it frustrating, but being unemployed can really hurt your self-esteem. When you don’t see progress, it’s hard not to be discouraged. Keep networking, keep sending out resumes, and keep busy. It’ll be well worth it when you find the right job. In the meantime, work on the things you’ve never have time for; go for a run in the middle of the day, volunteer at the food pantry, organize that closet, or read a good book. This may be the only chance you’ll get, so use it wisely.

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