Being terminated regardless of the reason is without question one of the most stressful things you can experience. The level of emotional strain is right up there with a divorce, a separation or an injury. In fact, according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale conducted in 1967 which ranked life’s most traumatic events—still considered valid today, having lost your job is #10 on the list. Unfortunately, when this happens, few of us have the option of hiding under the covers and licking our wounds. Instead, we’re forced to be proactive on a great many fronts. Below is a list of things to take right now to help preserve your financial security as well as improve your chances for new employment should this happen to you.
File for Unemployment Benefits Right Now
First things first, register for any unemployment benefits if you qualify. While weekly benefits won’t come close to your salary, if you’re entitled to these funds, by all means take advantage of them. Generally, unemployment benefits last for 26 weeks though that number varies by state with Montana offering benefits for 28 weeks and Massachusetts for 30 weeks. The good news is that you can apply and claim weekly benefits online or by phone. Be advised, depending on the number of people claiming benefits in your community, you may at some point be required to show proof of your job search in person.
Adjust Your Health Insurance After You’ve Lost Your Job
If you currently have employer-sponsored health insurance, you’ll most likely need to take steps to keep it in force. The HR department or the benefits coordinator at your former employer should be able to help you complete any forms necessary. Most people retain their insurance coverage through COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. This law provides separated employees with a temporary continuation of group health coverage. Since your employer is no longer contributing to the cost of your health benefits, be prepared that coverage under COBRA will cost more than you were paying as an employee. You may want to look into other health insurance plans to find the best deal before you elect continuation of benefits through COBRA.
You’ve Lost Your Job: Cut Excess Spending Right Now
If you’ve just lost an income stream, you’ll want to take a hard look at your spending and cut out any unnecessary expenses. Obviously, if you’re no longer employed, you’re going to save on the cost of commuting, lunch and dry cleaning, but there are other ways to save as well. And keep in mind, it’s the little things that can easily add up to a few hundred a month. Spending less and saving more to save money is crucial right now during this transitional period.
- Skip the expensive coffee shops. Brew your own coffee at home or if you must buy coffee, find alternatives where it’s $1 a cup instead of name brand coffee for $5.
- Bring your own water. This is another area in which people unnecessarily spend a few dollars a day. Buy a 24-pack at your grocery store and carry a bottle with you for a mere 11 cents each.
- Reduce your Internet speed. You’ve got the time now to take things a little slower and lowering the speed at which you receive data could save you up to $30 a month. Check out our 6 other tips to get cheap Internet service.
- Change your television cable package. Eliminate premium channels and save up to $50 a month. Instead, get movies on DVD at your local public library for free.
- Review your insurance. Ask your insurance agent to go over any auto or home policies you may have. Look for areas in which you may be duplicating coverage and remove them. Raising your deductibles is another way to save up to 15% a month on your premiums.
- Avoid the ATM. If there’s an ATM nearby that doesn’t charge you a fee to get cash, that’s great. Otherwise, get any money you need when you buy groceries. Cash back at point-of-purchase is usually free. Just be sure to avoid any overdraft fees you may incur.
- Revisit your mobile plan. Do you really need all those minutes and all that data? Scaling back your cell phone plan can easily save you $20 to $30 a month. Don’t forget about the 9 other ways to lower your utility bills starting today.
- Shop at no-frills grocery stores. Buying store and generic brands and bagging your own groceries can save you up to $5 a bag. Living the frugal lifestyle is a great way to save money.
Update Your Resume for New Opportunities
Include your most recent work experience on your resume making sure you focus on any contributions and accomplishments in the description, and if you have numbers to support these, by all means use them. Review the descriptions of your other past positions and be sure you’re clearly highlighting any experience you gained at these jobs. Before you send out your updated resume, evaluate the look of it. Does it look modern? If not, consider using resume building software or hiring a professional resume service to revise it. While this is an expense, it’s usually less than $50 and can be worthwhile investment.
Update Your Social Media Profiles
Companies these days look at a lot of different sources for information about a candidate and that includes social media. If your profiles are public, make sure you haven’t been tagged in any inappropriate photos and that there are no unsuitable comments on your wall. While there’s nothing wrong with being seen as someone with a vibrant social life, you may want to play it safe in terms of what an HR manager or corporate recruiter might see. Don’t forget to review each social media platform if you have one to make sure nothing leaks you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see:
Network Your Connections
Besides checking job boards and submitting resumes, reach out to your professional contacts as well as your friends and family. The more people that know you’re looking for work, the more likely you are to get an inside tip on a good job. Depending on the work you do, you might also consider checking online to see if there are any professional associations you can join or networking events you can attend. Also, don’t forget about job fairs; they’re a great way to be seen by a wide variety of companies in one day.
Add and Improve to Your Skill Set
Taking a class or a seminar—basically anything that enhances your current skills—will make you more appealing to prospective employers. Check online for professional resources or consider a class at your local community college. While this is a good time to try to move your career into another direction, a resume for an administrative assistant with an interior design class listed probably isn’t going to help you unless you’re applying for an admin spot with a decor or design company. It’s best to keep things relevant.
Work Part-Time or Freelance After Losing Your Job
Check sites like Craigslist.com for part-time or freelance opportunities in your area of expertise. If you’re a fast typist and an organized person, you might be able to earn some extra cash as a virtual assistant. Many small businesses need help but don’t have the physical office space to house another employee. Other opportunities that don’t require professional experience include dog walking, babysitting and house cleaning. Create a flyer for yourself and post it at your local supermarket, dry cleaners and coffee house.
While being unemployed can be tough, keeping busy by looking for a job, improving your skills and working part-time or freelance will do a lot to help you feel more in control and make this period a little easier to bear. Have you not lost your job yet but feel like termination breathing down your neck? Now would be a great time to start building an emergency fund and be prepared for anything that comes your way.
Have you been unemployed before and have any tips for fellow readers? Share your advice below.