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So You’re Unemployed: Here’s What to Do


Increasingly, getting laid off (or worse, fired) seems to be part of life. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone among your acquaintance who hasn’t, at some point, found themselves unexpectedly unemployed. Still, better to have a plan of attack than to rely on “misery loves company.”


(Photo Credit: winnond/Flickr)

The First Day

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The day you find out you’re no longer employed, your head will be swimming. Before you stagger out with your cardboard box, get your head together, and do the following:

1. Check to see what you’re entitled to from your employer.

Alison Doyle at’s Job Searching site reminds us that we’re often entitled to severance pay, vacation pay, continued benefits (for a short period of time), and so on, when we’re terminated. These things, unlike unemployment benefits, are entirely within your former employer’s control. In other words, if they don’t want to give it to you and there’s no policy in place, you won’t get them. But you still need to know what’s going on with your retirement benefits and health insurance, so connect with HR as soon as possible, anyway.

2. Find out where you stand with regards to unemployment insurance.

Will the company contest your right to claim it? If you’ve been laid off, you’re probably in the clear. Still, it’s a good idea to check in with HR to make sure.

3. Don’t sign anything right away.

Especially if you’ve been laid off, you’ll probably be presented with a termination agreement. Don’t sign anything the day you get the pink slip. Even if you’re not inclined to have a lawyer look things over, you’ll still want to be in your best possible mental space when you sign this or any legal document.

The First Week

1. File for unemployment.

Yes, even if you were fired or quit or your company says you’re not entitled to it. It takes at least a week to collect a check, so do this as soon as possible.

2. Update your resume and social media profiles.

Even if you can’t bring yourself to begin looking for jobs in earnest, getting these things sorted out will put in you a better spot when you’re ready. Remember that you’re not obligated to indicate that you were let go on any of these. Unless you’re filling out an application, and they ask you why you left, you’re at perfect liberty not to disclose the reasons you left.

3. Start networking.

Don’t send a mass email to everyone you know, but do start connecting with folks you haven’t seen for a while, especially in your industry. Now’s a good time to meet people for coffee to see what they’re up to, work-wise. At the very least, it’ll keep you occupied and moving forward.

The First Month

1. Begin applying for jobs.

Keep track of your applications, especially if you’re collecting unemployment. Most people are unemployed for weeks to months before they find a new job, and you’ll start to get hazy on the details if you don’t write things down. Tracking applications also prevents you from applying for three different jobs at the same place, or the same job more than once.

2. Keep your chin up.

It’s easy to get depressed when you’re looking for a job. It’s a lot of work, and involves a lot of potential for rejection — not to mention the financial stress. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself while you’re taking care of your career. Get rest and exercise, and see your friends. Avoid spending too much time sitting on the couch eating snacks and feeling sorry for yourself. While a few hours of that can be therapeutic, too much of it will make you feel worse.

3. Tweak your resume.

Tailor your CV to jobs you’re applying for, and have friends review it, not only for accuracy and typos, but for the general impression it gives them. Would they hire you, based on this? Don’t be afraid to mix up your resume and try different formats. After a few years at the same job, most of us let our resumes grow stagnant. A change might help show off your skills and accomplishments.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your tips for dealing with unemployment? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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