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15 Things to do When You Lose Your Job

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Whatever employers like to call it, being laid off, downsized, restructured or right-sized, the result is the same – you're out of a job. And regardless of why, being laid off from a job can be a traumatic, stressful experience, one that can cause you to lose sight of your own self-worth, your value as a worker and provider for your family, and even your career direction and purpose. The bad news is that it will probably happen to most of us during our careers, including you. The good news is that with a little preparation and smart thinking you can lessen its blow and more easily make the transition to the next chapter in your work life.

Here are few tips to help you handle a lay off:

1. DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Being laid off is not about you or your contribution to your company. It's about your company's need to reduce expenses. It's not about your failure; it's about your company's failure to raise enough money to support all of its workers. Often, very talented people are laid off.

2. SEND A MASS E-MAIL. Tell everyone you know that your e-mail address has changed. Anyone that has your old work e-mail address should be notified. Even people that don't have your old work e-mail should be notified so that you can let them know that you are seeking a new job. It's a great way to start your networking.

3. GET SOCIAL. Update your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles. If you're not on them, get on them. And clean things up. Everything should be employer-appropriate. In today's world, social media is a necessary tool to broadcast yourself to the widest audience possible during your job search.

4. PREPARE A MONTHLY BUDGET. Do this immediately! Even if you've got lots of money saved away for rainy days, you should prepare a monthly budget and get your finances in order. Identify all sources of income and expenses. Cut all unnecessary expenses, as you don't know how long it will be before you're employed again. Prepare a budget for at least the next 6-12 months.

5. SEEK OUTPLACEMENT ASSISTANCE. Ask your employer for assistance from an outplacement firm – or an individual trained in outplacing professionals. These people are trained and experienced in making the transition work – don't underestimate their value. They can help you with updating your resume, role-playing interviews, finding potential employers, negotiating a salary and other important issues. If your employer refuses to provide you with such assistance, consider hiring a placement service yourself, or at least register with several employment recruiters (AKA headhunters).

6.  APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. Contact your state's unemployment insurance progam and file for unemployment benefits. This is money that your state will pay you during your unemployment to help you meet your bills. Don't think of this money as charity, it's not. You've earned it, as part of your past paychecks have gone to this unemployment insurance fund.

7.  FIGURE OUT HEALTH INSURANCE. You may be offered COBRA continuation coverage by your former employer. If you're losing job-based coverage and haven't signed up for COBRA, learn about your rights and options under COBRA from the U.S. Department of Labor at www.dol.gov

If you decide not to take COBRA coverage, you can enroll in a Marketplace plan instead. Losing job-based coverage qualifies you for a Special Enrollment Period. This means you have 60 days to enroll in a health plan, even if it's outside the annual Open Enrollment Period. Learn more at healthcare.gov

8.  TAKE YOUR MONEY WITH YOU. Don't be too hasty in making decisions about your retirement plan distribution.  Making the wrong decisions could cost you almost half of the retirement plan assets you worked so hard to accumulate.  Although it may be tempting, don't take the cash option.  Not only does it cost you today in taxes and penalties, but it may really cost you big later on in retirement.  You lose all those years of compound interest and tax-deferred growth potential.  When you leave a job it is often advantageous to move the money to your control and away from your ex-employer's plan by rolling over your 401(k) money directly to an IRA. A direct rollover will avoid taxes and the early-withdrawal penalty.

9.   CONSIDER UPGRADING YOUR SKILLS. This is an excellent time to upgrade or develop new career skills. Consider returning to college or enrolling in a specific course to develop new knowledge and skills. Acquiring new skills will increase your self-worth and future career opportunities.

10.  CONSIDER A CAREER CHANGE. Being laid off from a job may be a signal that you're in the wrong career. If you don't like what you're doing, or can't do it well, it may be because you've chosen the wrong occupation. Read a few books on changing careers or work with a career counselor to determine if a different career would be more enjoyable and rewarding. Perhaps you should consider self-employment?

11.   BUDGET YOUR TIME. Plan your time as you would a business project. Determine what goals you want to achieve each day, week or month that you're unemployed. Reserve time for job hunting, socializing, relaxing and resting, upgrading your skills and other important factors. Don't just let each day happen, as you may soon find yourself wandering aimlessly through this difficult time.

12.  MAKE FINDING A NEW JOB YOUR PRIORITY. Although you may have the urge to take a break, the longer you are out of work the more difficult it will be to explain your hiatus to potential employers. Find a job and, if need be, then negotiate for some time off before reporting to work in your new position.

13.  GET YOUR HEAD ON STRAIGHT. Adopt a positive attitude. Don't walk around angry or with a chip on your shoulder. Understand that you can't change the past, so don't let it change you for the worst. After all, no employer will want to hire you if you've become a bitter, sour individual.

14.  CONSIDER CONSULTING OR TEMPING. Whether you need immediate money or not, consider taking on some consulting or temporary work assignments. If you need immediate income, this is a fast way to earn it. In addition, the fact that you're back working immediately will boost your self-esteem and show potential employers that you are skilled and valuable. Don't exclude the possibility of consulting for the same company that just laid you off. If the reason you were laid off was failing revenue by the company, they may be interested in hiring you as a consultant (which usually costs less than hiring you as an employee). After all, you already know the work and the needs of the company's client base!

15.  DON'T WORRY. Like most people you'll find a new job soon. It often takes an event such as this to help us grow and discover new experiences, friends, places, and opportunities