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.