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5 Things To Do Right After You Lose Your Job

Fired? A layoff may be one of the worst moments of your life, but how you handle the setback is important. These five action steps will help you make the best of a scary situation.

Five things to do immediately after losing your job.Everyone is a surprise “step into my office” away from unemployment. Even in these post-recession times, downsizing still happens. Just look around. If you haven’t been laid off yourself, you probably at least know someone who has.

Traumatic though it may be, a job loss doesn’t necessarily have to toss your life into turmoil. If you take decisive action rather than wallow in your misfortune, you can use the difficulty as an exciting launching point for the next phase of your professional life.

Here are five steps to take after you’ve been pink-slipped:

1. Write a thank-you note to the person who just let you go.

Forget about your lingering fantasy of going Jerry Maguire and telling off everyone at work who got on your nerves. Set aside any differences you had with your supervisor, grit your teeth and reach out to show your appreciation for giving you work. The rationale: This person will be flooded with phone calls and emails from prospective employers who check up on you to see what kind of employee you were. You need these people to hear good things about you. Also, your former boss could even wind up being your next boss if something opens up there.

2. Roll over your 401(k).

Resist the urge to freak out about your lack of income and cash out your retirement account. The penalty for doing so is severe, so only do so  as a last financial resort. Instead, keep your account on ice as long as possible, with the goal of rolling your funds into a 401(k) at your next job. If the search for employment takes a long time, roll your account into an IRA.

3. Shore up your benefits.

In the age of Obamacare, accepting pricey COBRA coverage is no longer automatically the best move. Sign up for Obamacare, then compare the options available to you there to that which your employer offers. Consider shifting to self-pay for dental and vision insurance, paying out-of-pocket for eye exams and teeth cleanings and putting off major work in those areas until you are once again insured. If you happen to be 25 or under, there’s also the option to go under your parents’ medical coverage.

4. File for unemployment.

Unemployment insurance, though a shadow of your former paycheck, can be make the difference between remaining on your own or moving back in with the folks. Visit your state’s website to fill out the necessary forms, and remember to file weekly claims that document your search for work. If you receive a severance, it could take a while for payments to start flowing, but it’s best to start the wheels in motion as soon as possible.

5. Maintain your workweek routine.

There’s no fault in using your newfound free time to take a long put-off road trip or frivolously waste a day on video games or movies, but don’t let yourself become used to a life of leisure. Snap back into your former routine, spending your typical work hours scouring the job market for new opportunities. Making your new “job” a hunt for your next job is the best way to ensure you won’t miss out on any opportunities. When an offer does come in, don’t be picky. Accept the first workable offer to get your paychecks rolling again, and work from there as you look for something more ideal.

Published or updated on July 21, 2014

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About Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal writes Funny Money weekly for Money Under 30. He lives in Tucson and works for the Arizona Daily Star. He's also an author, blogger and Twitterer.


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  1. People can easily panic when they lose their job. I would certainly go looking for a new job immediately the next day, if not the same day.
    I totally agree with being courteous with the people who just laid you off. If it was merely downsizing, they could give you a glowing reference which could help walk you in to the next job.

  2. A change in employment is a qualifying life event allowing anyone to purchase an Affordable Care Act policy outside of the open enrollment. Premium and cost sharing subsidies are based upon income – which is now much lower. COBRA will almost always cost far more because you will have to pay 102% of premium costs.

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