Got Laid Off? 14 Steps To Survive A Job Loss

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2012-02-0134

If you just got laid off, you may be asking: what’s next? Here’s what to do if you lose your job unexpectedly.

There was a time when job losses were across the board and piling up weekly. Things may not seem as bad today, but I’ve got a friend who recently called me with the news that she’s been jobless for 2 months now, and as a breadwinner, she’s somewhat concerned. In her words “this is the first time I’ve ever been without a job.” Unless it’s happened to you, it’s hard to explain the anxiety one feels upon getting laid off. But it’s not time to panic just yet, if you’re able to channel that anxiety towards doing things that are more productive.


Lots of “layoff survival guides” are cropping up these days, but being a layoff survivor myself (from the 2000 tech sector collapse), I’d like to chime in on the subject. If you’ve been recently laid off, check out our pointers on how best to proceed:

Survive A Job Layoff: 14 Things To Do When You Lose Your Job

1. Negotiate for that severance package!

Even if your company doesn’t necessarily offer severance, you may be able to negotiate a parting package with them especially if you’re one of their valuable employees with a long track record. You think it can’t be done? In my case, even with my former startup in the dumps, I was able to receive a bigger package than 99% of employees. You know how? I was 3 months pregnant. Apparently, there are laws protecting employees when certain special conditions are met. The lesson here is that anything is possible, and you’ll only know if you qualify if you rattle the cage a little bit. What have you got to lose?

2. Figure in your unemployment benefits.

Most people have unemployment benefits they can count on for only a short bit of time after they’ve lost their jobs. When a recession is particularly long and nasty, those benefits are usually extended for longer periods of time. It may tide you over for a bit, but don’t let this lull you into complacency about finding your next job.

3. Polish your resume.

Keep these few tips in mind when you update that killer resume:

  • Only include relevant and significant achievements.
  • Don’t ramble ;) , keep things concise.
  • Use numbers and statistics to help describe your job better.
  • Describe those things that make you stand out.
  • Don’t lie!

Check out our resume writing tips.

survive job loss

4. Work your network.

When you’re out of a job, you’ll certainly want to keep networking with people. If you’ve got great relationships with your colleagues and ex-colleagues, you may have a leg up with your job search. Get in touch with them through social sites like Facebook or LinkedIn.com. This is one more reason why it’s important to stay in good terms with your work chums.

Whenever you network, be sure to take with you your business cards or contact information that indicates your occupation and what you specialize in. Be up front with others about your availability and your situation. The networking process is one of the best ways to land your next job; in my personal experience, I’ve had a pretty good track record with getting a job this way (through connections).

5. Leverage online job resources.

This one is pretty obvious…. I’ve found many jobs online — either by contacting recruiters in my area or by making inquiries at particular job boards and job sites. Depending on the type of work you do, certain sites may work out better for you than others, as far as generating job leads. We’ve compiled some helpful job resources and employment sites here. The best way to use job sites is to use them to give you leads on potential jobs. You may have to do some filtering and research to sidestep the bogus jobs that may be listed on these places.

6. Conserve your emergency fund?

Hopefully you’ve been able to stash enough cash in your emergency fund to last you through a downturn. Typically it’s been recommended that you have at least 6 months’ worth of expenses to tide you over. But these days, liquidity is king! If you want to be absolutely certain that your expenses are fully covered if you DO get laid off, then you’ll have to rethink how much cash you should hold. Where to put this money? Somewhere ultra safe, such as a high-yielding cash based bank account.

7. Prepare a budget.

For those who are secure about their finances, following a loose budget is probably sufficient. In fact, I know a lot of people who admit to not maintaining a budget. But if you’re in dire financial straits, it’s imperative to have one! If you know you’ll be facing financial problems (or have them right now), then it’s pretty important to keep tabs on how much you are spending monthly.

By using money management software or simply writing things out on paper, you can begin to get control of your financial situation — you’ll get better visibility over your income and outgo and can anticipate your cash flow. Be sure to include your estimated unemployment income as well as savings that you may have. I would also attempt to ration the savings out over six months at a minimum. It would be ideal if you can make your savings last longer. But while you’re doing this, make sure you’re doing what you can to find a new job as you’ll want to replace the lost savings as soon as possible.

When completing a budget, I would recommend cutting the “entertainment” expense, which includes eating out, movies, and trips. I also recommend doing away with your extraneous “pampering” expenses such as getting your hair and nails done as well as massages and personal trainers. In tough times, these items are not necessities and are the least missed.

8. Call your credit card companies.

If you have credit card debt, you’ll want to call each creditor to see if you can qualify for a “hardship program.” Most credit card companies offer hardship programs, which typically last from six to twelve months. These programs lower your interest and payment amount each month. These opportunities are great as they give your budget a break, but still allow you to pay on time every month, which keeps your credit score intact. Keep in mind that when you go on a hardship program, you will not be able to use your credit card. Therefore, you may want to keep another credit card as a reserve or back up to use for any emergencies you encounter while you’re out of work.

9. Negotiate and save.

During a time of job loss, you will have more time on your hands. For those who are so inclined, consider developing the habit of using coupons wherever you can (online coupons make it very convenient). Attempt to save everywhere possible. Negotiate everything you possibly can from clothes to food. For instance, you can visit your local Farmer’s market for fresh veggies and fruits: the prices are typically lower here than at grocery stores, and the produce is often much tastier. In addition, look for bargains. Use your free time to save your cash rather than continuing to spend as you did while employed.

10. Pay necessities first.

Lots of people on the verge of losing everything will continue paying their credit cards but may start cutting back on essentials. This may not be a wise move. When you are looking at a budget that is negative, it is imperative that you take care of your basic necessities first. This includes your rent or mortgage, electricity, water, food and transportation. If there is money left over after paying these items, you can then begin paying your other bills, including your credit card obligations. These are hard trade offs to make, but you’ll have to make them until you’re back on your feet with a steady income.

11. Diversify income sources.

Diversification is not just for investments. It also pertains to income generation and wherever else you may be spending your time. If you’ve got other ways of making money other than through your job, you’ll be in much better shape when a recession hits. So if you’ve got talents and skills, or that perfect hobby you can parlay into a business, you may think about leveraging these things into money making ventures and alternative income streams.

12. Seek support.

Some people may feel uncomfortable sharing their job loss with their families. Ever hear of those laid off folks who continue the charade of getting up to “go to work”, hiding the fact that they’ve lost their jobs to their families? Well, if instead you decide to seek out support and share your predicament with others, the better your chances of finding a replacement job (see #4), as others may pitch in to help you with your search. Plus, it usually feels better (at least it is for me) when people are commiserating with you over your situation.

13. Don’t give up.

Don’t feel discouraged! It’s easy to feel out of sorts when the job search takes longer than you expect. But these days, a lot of people are in the same boat. It’s important to stay persistent though and to keep your spirits up when you’re on your hunt. Tomorrow may just be the day you land something.

14. Think outside the box.

I’ve known some people who feel that because they’ve fulfilled a certain job or role for many years, or because it’s always been their ambition to pursue a particular career, that they must, at all costs, continue down a particular path. But tough times require flexibility, resourcefulness and practical thinking. I believe that we shouldn’t pigeonhole ourselves into specific roles or types of work — go where the demand is (if your skills are a fit), in order to increase your chances of finding work.

Parting Words

With continued malaise in the job market, surviving job loss has become a new way of life for many individuals. No doubt, losing your job is a high-stress, difficult experience to deal with. There’s nothing more worrisome than having unemployment benefits expire before you’ve lined up a new job. However, by making a plan and executing these tips, you can use your current situation (if you’re unemployed) as an opportunity to get a closer look at your finances and to gain better control over your money. If you’re seeing the writing on the wall, then it’s best to be proactive. Who knows? There could very well be a better paying job for you right around the corner.

Created December 5, 2008. Updated February 1, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Manshu December 6, 2008 at 6:10 am

Good advice. I’ll probably add, honing a skill too. Like studying for some certification or something like that.

Richard December 6, 2008 at 9:35 am

About.com just reported that employers and recruiters use these 3 job sites most to find quality candidates.

http://www.linkedin.com (professional networking)
http://www.careerbuilder.com (keyword job search)
http://www.realmatch.com (matches you to jobs)

Whole Top 10 list here:
http://jobsearch.about.com/od/joblistings/tp/jobbanks.htm

Silicon Valley Blogger December 6, 2008 at 11:00 am

@Richard,

Thanks a lot for the info! Very helpful. I appreciate the extra resources.

@Manshu,
I do think that getting new certifications, getting additional education or maybe even considering starting a new business may be worth trying out when people take a break between jobs. It’s definitely one way to stay productive when the economy is slow.

If you’ve got enough savings to tide you over such a period, then this is a great idea; but depending on your circumstances, it may be imperative to prioritize on finding a job first (to replace your missing income stream) to keep you and your family afloat.

But yes, if you have the means and can afford to take the time to have productive pursuits beyond a job search, then go for it! :)

Miss M December 6, 2008 at 4:03 pm

A word of warning about studying or enrolling in courses while on unemployment, you’ll lose your benefits. Even if you’re taking a course in basketweaving for fun, it could disqualify you. I know a few people who learned that one the hard way.

I’ve been unemployed and I used the time for personal fulfillment as well. Read all the books I had put off reading, got exercise every day, took the time to cook nice meals etc.

jim December 6, 2008 at 8:51 pm

Miss M: That’s good advice, i didn’t know that…

As for the tips, they’re good and people should be doing them even if they haven’t lost their job. It’s always good to keep your resume up to date and your network contacts fresh.

Vincent Scordo December 6, 2008 at 9:45 pm

This is more on the psychological side, but once your in a position to reflect on what just happened it’s ideal to view the moment as an opportunity to start new and do exactly what you want to be doing with your career. So, I would add:

15. Re-energize, re-focus, and go get a new job (life is not work, work to live)

Escape Somewhere December 7, 2008 at 1:00 am

This may sound a little negative. But there might be a few steps for pre layoff planning. I know some companies that are planning 20% layoffs. In that situation I would probably start working like crazy to cut expenses to build up my nest egg to last through a period of unemployment.

It might also be a good idea to snag a few interviews before the layoff. I heard that after a large round of layoffs jobs at other companies in the city are alot more difficult to get because of a flood of applicants. So it might be a good idea to send over a resume before the flood of other applicants.

Donny Gamble December 7, 2008 at 10:40 am

These all all important tasks that everyone should try to do if they happened to have gotten laid off. I believe everyone should have an additional source of income coming in outside of their full time job.

Austin Real Estate Broker December 7, 2008 at 6:50 pm

My housemate just got laid off on Friday. Sucks. Across the board cut of 20% of his company. He started looking and it looks like there might be some jobs in tech for him, but I wonder how many of those jobs are “frozen”. I know many companies must be totally overloaded with applicants, but others will likely have their recs locked if things continue like this. Thanks for the post. I’ll shoot it over to my buddy.

Joe

Stephan Miller December 8, 2008 at 6:20 am

I am currently working on my resume. I have found that Atomkeep helps a lot with updating your resume across the various job search networks. You just fill out your resume there, add your accounts from other sites and then update them all through AtomKeep. It is not perfect. I have noticed a few bugs. But it saves a lot of time.

Cabe December 8, 2008 at 9:29 am

I am not afraid of losing my job but it is a good idea to always have your resume polished and up to date. That way even if something horrible happens you can start right back up again. Plus a nice resume could either make or break your chances at a certain job.

Aya @ Thrive December 9, 2008 at 9:32 am

Polishing your resume can also help you rethink how you want to tackle your current job in more specific ways as well. If you’re updating your resume, you might realize some skills you want to work on or some projects you want to become a greater part of. It can help you motivate yourself at your current job and maybe you won’t have to use your resume for a while.

BPS December 23, 2008 at 1:59 pm

The main factor I would say is confidence. If you know your stuff and have enough confidence in yourself, then you are ready to go!

LayoffGossip December 29, 2008 at 3:58 am

People always hate to talk about when they are laid off. But as it has become every day’s news headline since Yahoo started it with cutting 1500 of its task force last year, now there’s a need for a platform that can allow people to express how they are feeling about their company and discuss whether their layoff was justified or not. They want to share openly but anonymously.

Writer's Coin December 29, 2008 at 5:04 am

I think #14 says it all: be ready to do something slightly different in your next job, especially if you want to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Things like knowing an extra language of having certain specific computer skills can make all the different. Heck, even having an interest in something random like wine or music can come into play.

Johanne January 15, 2009 at 4:04 am

Excellent and timely advice. Tip #13 is always true. Having the right attitude is always a must, especially in difficult situations.

Glo February 11, 2009 at 2:06 am

Great tips! I especially love #s 8 and 9.

Eraserve February 28, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I would suggest preparing for the eventuality of getting laid off. For instance if you think your qualifications are limited then perhaps you should be working to expand them. You could focus on more Education related to your chosen field and branch out into an alternative field thus expanding your potential job market. In today’s economy and all the cost cutting going on, this would simply be smart planning.

Andrew March 9, 2009 at 11:13 pm

One thing I’d like to add is this networking resource:

FreeAgents (freeagentnet.com) is a great spot to keep your finger on the “pulse” of the unemployment community. Its a social network for people out of work, and its designed more from a “meet people in the same situation, network with them, and figure out what you want to do from here” standpoint, so its a more informal network. However, it is a very powerful place to swap tips and meet interesting and qualified people.

Great article! Very useful tips — I just hope I don’t have too much time to use them!

-A

jonathan July 13, 2009 at 9:42 am

you are lucky to have the unemployment benefits and insurance. Those of us who live in a developing country do not have those benefits..

Nicholas April 29, 2010 at 9:30 am

Dear Silicon Valley Blogger,

Surely my comments are not timely to your post about 1.5 years back. At any rate, my compliments. I do like your run down of 14 key focal points. I’m sure this has come to great use to many people visiting your blog.

Personally I have tried to develop a methodology around three core elements:

Plan – everything you need to do before you even start.

Build – everything you need to create before you start to move

Run – the unique methods you can apply to secure fast results while you run!

I put this down in a little document, typing while trying. Don’t know if I was just lucky or not but I was trenched on 1/28 after 25 years in the same company. On 3/3 I got my first job offer and since then another 2 job offers. That gave me the confidence to really write down my methods in a quick booklet which I’m not distributing for free. Seems to be a tremendous success.

Anyways, thanks for your post.

Cheers

Rob Bennett July 3, 2010 at 6:50 am

I think that the most important thing is to overcome any unjustified feelings of shame and to address any justified feelings of shame. If you feel shame, you won’t be out there meeting with people and it is only by meeting with people that you are going to come across good job leads. If you contributed to the problem, come to terms with what happened and make whatever changes are needed. If you didn’t, don’t be bullied into feeling a shame that you should not be feeling.

People really do move on to better things after job losses. That’s because a job loss forces them to take stock. Others do horribly. That’s because the pain causes them to hide out and things go downhill.

You always need an attitude of being willing to take the world on. But the need for that attitude is doubled after a job loss when the natural inclination to take it that way is cut in half. You’re lucky if you have a loved one who will give you a good pep talk (or 10 of them).

Rob

John R July 3, 2010 at 6:55 am

Calling card company’s really can work out well in reducing payments and interest.

ChrisB July 3, 2010 at 8:59 am

In today’s economy where there is no job security whatsoever, I think it is important to actually plan for a job loss. You should think through carefully what you will do if you lose your job tomorrow.

It normally begins by saving every month and to build up at least six’s month’s salary to carry you through tough times. And cut credit card debt. It is expensive anyway. My motto has always been: First you make it then you take it.

Unfortunately some people live above their means and when they become unemployed they are in dire straits.

Chris Boshoff
Publisher, ErgonomicChairAdvice

Jen Well July 5, 2010 at 1:00 am

A job loss is not the end of the world. We have to move on, the better move is we have to prepare a PLAN B before that happens to us.

Consumermiser July 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Nice article. I love the budget idea which you should have in place even when you are employed in order to save, build good credit, pay off debt, plan for retirement, fund the kids’ education if you have kids, and build wealth. Networking, negotiating with credit card companies, using your down time to be more frugal such as clipping coupons, and paying necessities are all great ideas. I think I would go into EXTREME MISER MODE if I was laid off. I would also consider trying to start my own business on a shoe string budget.

I agree with Chris B above: Don’t forget to plan in advance for an unfortunate event such as unemployment by creating an emergency fund. You should build up an emergency fund which is equal to 3-6 months of your income. In this tough economy, many financial advisors are recommending 6 months. Finally, live below your means now so that you learn to live off less.

My Favorite Story: My father was the bread winner in our family and lost his job in his 40s and he never worked another regular job in his life. We lived off my mother’s teacher’s salary and they put 2 kids through private college and did not go into debt. How? We lived below our means even when we had 2 incomes so when we were left with 1 income, it was not a hardship.

Bidemi July 8, 2010 at 6:37 pm

It’s always good to have a second job (self employed business) along side your regular salaried job; in case you should lose your paid job, you have a second job (plan B) which you can rely on.

lorena July 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm

I don’t have the skill to fake a smile when I’m blue. Due to this, I don’t think I’m really one to go meeting new people when I’m out of job. But, here’s what I did. After losing my job I went home and discovered that an old friend just moved back to town. It’s been years since we saw each other so I decided to pay her a visit. I learned that she’s now a copywriter. When I told her I was jobless she searched for a new job for me. I’m not an expert writer but with her vouching for me, I got the job easily. So if you’re jobless, try to reconnect with some friends or even relatives. They might know people who can help you earn some fast money. Hopefully you will have the same luck I did.

Abuviqar July 27, 2010 at 10:42 am

Good advice and really motivating, but it might be somewhat difficult to do but at least you’ve provided some solutions that I can try to do if it happens to me.

Thanks

timetomakethedonuts September 17, 2011 at 4:08 am

Well I am a single mother of two, with one child in college. I have never lost a job. Though most of these tips may be useful to some being as though I was struggling to maintain life with a job, my loss of the job is an ultimate blow to my very being. I don’t have a 6 month cushion and bills are piling up. My health declined during a 4 year stint at that job due to the mental stress of walking through the doors physically so I’ve had to take antidepressants, have bronchitis/asthma and a torn MCL while en route to work. I’m still suffering the pain.

rob gerber February 1, 2012 at 11:03 am

Apparently the majority of people have never heard of the hardship programs offered by credit cards. They just default on their payments because they believe that’s the only choice and end up having to pay penalties and higher interest rates later on, even as their financial situation improves.

Silicon Valley Blogger February 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm

@Rob,
I agree — when you default, you’re only screwing your credit. So think about talking to those card companies because they want their money and may work out a beneficial arrangement between you and them so that it’s a win-win!

Emily Hunter February 2, 2012 at 2:58 am

When I gave up my job, I did most of those things — I found that the one thing that REALLY helped me when I gave it up was shoring up my network and attending networking meetings in my area. I’ve not only made a lot of good friends in the process, but I’ve made valuable connections which have helped me survive.

Kevin Mzansi February 7, 2012 at 6:38 am

Number 1 was the biggest saving grace for me. Having a good severance can really give you options to be able to go after something more of a long-term career change, if that is what you want. It never hurts to see where the person laying you off’s boundaries are on how much severance he/she can agree to….

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