Laid off from work? 8 things to do the week after you're let go

No one ever thinks (or hopes) it's going to happen to them. But then one day, you get the fateful call from HR. Just like that, you're a free agent. Laid off.
Reckoning with a layoff means adjusting to the knowledge that your job isn't always in your control — but your career is. If you tap your network, it's likely you'll find others who've faced the same challenge and have come out on top. Try to look at this bad situation from a fresh perspective: This is just one bump in the marathon that is your career.
Ahead, the eight things you should do in the week after you've been laid off — from connecting with your network to collecting unemployment. (And don't feel bad if you squeeze in some time for self-care. Binge-watching Veronica Mars is a fantastic distraction.)

Ask for feedback

Losing your job in widespread layoffs can mean that your termination wasn't personal, but rather the result of an overarching company decision. Even so, try to leave with a better understanding of your own work and history.

"When your boss tells you that you’ve been let go, use this opportunity to get feedback about what you could have done differently," advises Glassdoor community expert Sarah Stoddard. "Some employers may refrain from sharing this feedback to avoid potential lawsuits, but it’s an opportunity to learn any insights on how you fell short in your duties."

You can do the same on your own, she adds, by analyzing the situation "in an unemotional and unbiased way." Did you do your job correctly? How did you feel about the job in general? Were you passionate about it, or was it just a means to a paycheck?

"Being self-reflective will help you as you search for your new job," Stoddard assures.

Stay in touch with colleagues

You may not want (or be able) to write a long missive, but leave your contact information with colleagues you want to stay connected to.

"Being let go often means an abrupt departure with no chance to properly say goodbye. For those who you want to keep in touch with, it's still wise to send a brief email with how to stay in touch," Stoddard says. "After all, you spent time developing relationships in your previous role, and you never know when you could work with those people in the future (or, if they know of any other open roles you might be a fit for)."

Audit your emergency fund

Being able to afford your life while you're unemployed should be a priority. Revisit your accounts and see where you stand. Make sure you tally up your non-negotiable expenses (like rent and utilities) and consider pausing or canceling flexible ones (like Classpass or your gym membership).

"This is a time when you need to focus on your needs versus your wants," says Erin Voisin, CFP, the director of financial planning at EP Wealth Advisors in Torrance, Calif. "A big thing we don't want to happen is tapping into retirement accounts because you don't have enough in cash."

Depending on the kind of account you have, the tax implications of withdrawing from those reserves before retirement age can be massive. There are some exceptions— but raiding this stash should be a last resort.

Sign up for unemployment insurance

One option for bolstering your cashflow during this period is unemployment insurance. Eligibility, the amount you receive, and how long you can receive it varies by where you live.

The government-sponsored site, CareerOneStop, has details on unemployment benefits in each state. Or you can do just a quick Google search to find your local Department of Labor and unemployment office.

Get covered

Voisin advises those who have been laid off to also consider their health insurance needs. Losing your job (and health coverage) may qualify for you for one of the "life change" exceptions to sign up for insurance through the exchanges outside of the standard open enrollment period.

Additionally, "COBRA is generally offered when you are laid off, but is much more costly since your employer is no longer subsidizing it," Voisin notes. Either way, factoring health coverage "into your budget should be a top priority, especially if you have health concerns."

Recover

Immediately looking for new work after losing a job is a necessity for most people. Unless you have a nest egg that can float you for some time (or a bomb severance package), you'll need to find some way to pay the bills.

Even so, you should take a bit of time — even a few days — to reflect and then start your search. Doing so will give you time to update your résumé, figure out how to frame your experience in an interview, and focus on your career goals.

Try not to remain discouraged

It may seem epically unfair, but research shows that it is much easier to find a job when you already have one. (Plus, the longer you remain unemployed, the harder your job search continues to be.) So, once you take a reasonable amount of time to regroup and "recover from the shock of losing your job," Stoddard advises diving back in.

"Don't let those few days turn into weeks or months because it takes time and thought to land a job that will fit what you are looking for and find a company with a mission you are passionate about. The earlier you can start your job search, the better."

Prepare for the future

Once bitten, twice shy — so although you may not anticipate being fired or laid off, Stoddard says, it never hurts to familiarize yourself with your company's policies for severance pay and extended health coverage in advance.
"This will help eliminate the number of unknowns you will need to figure out post-employment."
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