Anyone who has been laid off, let go, downsized, fired or involuntarily separated from their position has faced that “what do I do now?” moment of utter panic. If you’ve recently been placed on indefinite unpaid leave, here are six things you should do immediately after you lose your job…
Ask human resources for outplacement help
It’s easy to think of large corporations as deaf to the needs of the little guy, but your HR department is made up of real people. Real people can understand the pain of your situation and will (generally) want to help. Besides, the worst they can do is say no; the best they could do is find you a more amazing job.
File for unemployment benefits
Hopefully, your search for a new job won’t take very long, but no one can really say for sure. It can take a couple weeks after you file before you start receiving benefits, so don’t wait until you absolutely need those benefits before you file for them.
Establish your health insurance coverage
Maintaining health insurance coverage is important. If you can move to coverage under a spouse’s or domestic partner’s health insurance, you’re in good shape. Insurance coverage generally can be changed only once a year, during the enrollment period, except in particular situations. Your loss of health insurance is one of those situations.
During your final visit with human resources, you will be given information about COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. COBRA allows you to maintain your current health insurance coverage for up to 18 months, and it can get expensive. Before you tap into COBRA, research other short-term health insurance policies. Changing your insurance coverage can save you loads of money, and, if worse comes to worst, can extend beyond COBRA’s 18-month limit.
Tap your networks
According to Jobvite, 15 percent of job searchers in 2011 used social networks to find jobs. In mid-July of 2011, Jobvite also released poll results showing that 89 percent of employers are or will use social media as a recruitment tool, and 64 percent have already hired a new employee through a social media network.
The moral: The people in your network can help you find your next job if you let them know that you’re looking. Update your LinkedIn profile, Facebook information and any accounts you have on any other online social network. Use your offline networks, too — talk to your friends and family and ask them to keep an eye out for anything good that might come along.
Tip: The time immediately after a job loss can be very emotional. If you feel the need to rant about your former job or employer, keep it off social media. Restrict such protestations to your closest friends and in private.
Figure out how to save some money at home
Money could be tight for a while. Start listing ways you can save money at home to make your savings last longer, and then implement those ideas.
Update your resume and focus on your future
Don’t simply change the information about your previous job; now is the time to reconsider and refocus your resume and your career. This can be your opportunity to change careers to something more personally rewarding. As you revise your resume, focus on the skills, competencies and accomplishments that pertain to what you would really like to do in the future.
If you have the resources, maybe you don’t need to go straight back into a job. This might be the right time to go back to school to finish your degree or earn another one.
Scores of people — though not a majority — have discovered that getting laid off from a job was the best thing to ever happen to them. You could be next. Focusing on your loss is counterproductive; focus on your open future instead.