Not too many things are scarier than the prospect of losing your job. You might be facing a layoff for lack of work, or you may feel as if you could be fired for cause. A project may be coming to an end or company closure may be imminent. A boss with whom you’ve had a shaky relationship from the beginning may be ready to end your employment. Regardless of the reason, you want to take a few steps to get ready in case the ax falls. If the worst doesn’t come to pass, then you’ll be ready to maybe look for a new, more-certain job in the future.
The Job Hunt
Start applying for new jobs while still employed – even if you are busy or depressed, force yourself to begin your job search. If the company you are currently working for has assistance in this regard because the impending layoff is public knowledge, take advantage of the connections and any resume/ cover letter writing service they offer. It they don’t and you went to college, connect with your alma mater for help in job searching. If you attended college or tech school, the career services department at the school may offer free assistance. Many colleges and tech schools have large, well-funded, comprehensive job search departments. Even if your school only has one lady in a back-office cubical, contact her for help and advice – you never know what kind of knowledge and connections you might tap into. Your local library, chamber of commerce, community group, or unemployment office may also offer free career assistance.
The Unemployment Office
As soon as you get your layoff notice, go to (on go online to) the unemployment office. The U.S. Department of Labor in conjunction with the states administers this program, which provides unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and who meet certain other eligibility requirements.You need to apply for the benefits through your state unemployment office, and you usually need to show evidence that you are searching for a new job in order to continue to collect benefits. Unemployment benefits are generally not available to employees who are fired for cause. If you feel you were fired unfairly, it is important to let your unemployment office know and provide documentation to support your claim so that you can claim unemployment benefits while you look for a new job. Make sure you know the difference between a layoff and a termination for cause. The terms matter. When my millennial children say “Olivia got fired today,” I ask questions to figure out why she had to go and usually find that the employee’s departure is a lay off rather than a firing. If you work for a small firm, make sure they know to categorize you as laid off, not fired, if you lose your job for lack of work.
Concern about potential job loss means that you’ve got to be very honest with yourself financially. Many of us live paycheck-to-paycheck with little or nothing left over. When that paycheck stops, we are in a really tough space. When you know the paychecks are coming indefinitely, you can be more relaxed about stuff like not having a budget or savings. When faced with the possibility that you won’t be earning money for awhile, you have to change your habits. The very sound advice to “reduce expenses” seems so simple, but we realize how tediously hard it is to actually implement day after day, week after week, month after month. Look at your bills and your habits and write or type ideas for those you can reduce or eliminate. Change your behavior in ways that save money. Don’t take on any new major purchases if you can help it. It’s not fun to be short of money, and hopefully your joblessness will be short-lived, but you want to be as ready as you can be before it happens.
Renewing Your Connections
Let’s face it – “who you know” can make a difference in finding a job. Many people land their jobs because they are related to, friends with, recommended by, or in some other way connected to another employee who works there. Interestingly, some of these successful job hunt outcomes are the result of a chance encounter with a stranger on an airplane or at a meeting or through third, fourth, or further connections. So, if you are comfortable with doing so and not going to get in trouble with your current company, tell people that you are about to lose your job and ask if they know of any places that are hiring. Brush up your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and make new contacts. Asking for help is hard for me and many others like me, but if you can get up your courage to do so, your job search may end sooner.
The potential for a job loss is a very nervous time – you are not over-reacting if you feel stressed and upset. Acknowledge that it is a difficult period in your life that has been preceded by good times and will be followed by more positive life experiences.