Career Advice

Five Things To Do Right After A Layoff

So the unthinkable happened: You got a pink slip. But if you want to secure your future, don’t waste too much time wallowing in your sorrow — or enjoying a little time off. According to career experts, the steps you take immediately after being laid off will make a major difference in the outcome of your layoff. If you want to be employed again in the near future, you must take some important steps right off the bat, some even before you leave the premises.

“The most important thing one can do is take a deep breath and focus on what she needs to accomplish before she permanently leaves her company,” says Alexia Vernon, a career coach and author of Awaken Your CAREERpreneur: A Holistic Road Map to Climb from Your Calling to Your Career (Sept. 2010, Joshua Tree). “There is plenty of time to deal with the emotion of a layoff. Unfortunately, while you are trying to tie up loose ends at your company is not the time.”

Here are five steps you should take immediately upon getting laid off:

1. Think about your finances. Start by getting in writing whatever terms you have been offered or negotiated, and identify the gap between what you will make in unemployment from what you have previously been making, Vernon says. “Factor in any severance you have been offered; however, divide it up over the next 12 months,” she adds. “I have seen too many folks plan for being unemployed 90 to 120 days and then eaten up their severance before landing in their next opportunity, which for many folks is still 9 to 12 months away.”

As soon as possible, file for unemployment, says Odie Smith, author of Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s Unemployment Survival Guide. “It would be beneficial to apply and file a claim as soon as possible, because under this federal-state program, states consider the first week of unemployment as the verification or ‘holding’ week,” he says. “Each state has a waiting period before a claimant can receive their first unemployment check. After filing the initial claim, it usually takes three weeks before receiving the first check.”

2. Consider your retirement benefits. Consult your HR benefits director about your retirement accounts and make sure you have a plan in place either to keep them in a current account or roll them over, usually to an independent IRA if you’re not sure where you will work next,” Vernon says. “Do not cash them out unless you absolutely have to.”

3. Spread the word. Call your colleagues, clients, friends and family members to let them know you’re in the job market and give them your personal email address and phone number. Make sure your profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are connected to your personal addresses so you don’t lose touch with anyone. “Because 90% of jobs are found via networking, it’s important to let go of any fear or embarrassment about your situation and recognize most people you know have been in your shoes firsthand or with someone close to them,” Vernon says. “This is the time to increase your socializing and be transparent about what you’d like your next step to be so that you can put yourself in the path of future opportunities.”

4. Prepare your application file. Don’t waste time before looking for another job, says Sarah Cullins, president of Finesse Staffing. “Ask for references from previous employers, get your employee reviews together, and register with a staffing agency or several,” she says. “[If you start right away,] you won’t miss a possible job opportunity because you waited too long to look and the job was already filled.  Personally, it will keep [you] in better spirits if [you] are being proactive in [your] search.”

5. Write your resume. As you gather other job-application materials, spend time writing a fresh new resume. “It will keep you motivated, and keep your skills fresh,” Cullins says. “Things you have done in the past will be more fresh in your mind after getting your resume together. Just remember that you will need to customize it for each position you apply for.”