By Chris Tobias
Lay offs have been happening by the thousands and it seems no business is safe from closing or laying off employees. If you’ve been one of the many who have been laid off, or if you know that you are going to be laid off in the near future, there are a few important steps you need to take to help you survive the lay off.
Get it in writing – Make sure you receive a letter from your employer that you were laid off. Being laid off is very different from being fired or let go for poor job performance and will make a difference in collecting unemployment. It is also important that any prospective employers know that you lost your job due to a lay off instead of being fired. If you haven’t received a formal letter, then you should request one from your employer. Ask for a recommendation letter from bosses and co-workers – The best time to collect recommendation letters is now because you will need these when you begin applying for jobs later.
Review your unused vacation or Personal Time Off (PTO) – Keep a record of all unused vacation or PTO that you have and discuss with the Human Resource Manager at your company as to when you can expect to be paid for these days in full. Some companies will add this to your last paycheck while others will pay you this amount in a separate check. Make sure you understand when you will receive this money, so you know when to expect it. This extra money will be a great help now that you are no longer working.
Discuss severance pay – While some companies openly offer severance pay to the employees they lay off; others do not offer it at all. Ask your employer about severance pay if you are unsure of whether or not you will receive any so you know right away what kind of compensation you can expect.
Discuss continuing insurance with your employer – If you were receiving health benefits at your job then you do have the right to continue coverage under the company plan for up to 18 months under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). However, you will be expected to pay the entire premium instead of your current employee portion. In many cases it is still less expensive to stay on your company plan because group insurance costs far less than individual insurance. If the premiums are too high for you to pay you may want to check into state sponsored medical insurance until you are able to find a new job.
File for unemployment benefits – You should file for unemployment benefits as soon as you receive your notice of being laid off. Depending upon your state and situation, you can receive 6 to 12 months of unemployment benefits. Extensions may also be granted depending upon your situation. If you have computer access you can apply online at your state’s unemployment website.
Manage your finances – Once you know how much money you will be receiving through severance pay, vacation or PTO payouts and unemployment benefits you should scrutinize your finances and see where you can trim the fat. Realistically, it takes up to six months to find a new job and you need to make the money you have last throughout this time period. Don’t rely on credit cards to get you through this period or you will find yourself deep in debt by the time you find a job. It is better to cut your spending as much as possible, so it won’t take you years to pay off bills from this time period.
Find opportunities to enhance your skills – Being laid off is devastating, but it can also be a time for you to expand on your skills and education. Take advantage of any classes or programs your former employer offers to help you assimilate into the job market. Check for state or federal programs that offer free classes to the unemployed to enhance their skills or learn new ones. The more knowledge you acquire, the more marketable you will be when you apply for a job.
Network – The more people who know you are looking for a job, the greater chance you have of running into someone who may know of a job that is right for you. Let family and friends know you are looking for a job and ask them to keep an eye out for one for you. Keep an eye on legitimate internet job search sites for jobs in your area. Use your free time to volunteer at your church, local senior center, children’s school or any other place you enjoy supporting and network with the people you meet at these places. Since 70% of all jobs are found through networking, the more people you come in contact with the better chance you have of finding a new job.
Stay positive – It’s hard to look on the bright side when you are struggling to find a new job but it is best to keep moving forward than to sit and do nothing. Work on improving your strong points and learning new skills that will make you a more valued employee. Even though it was not your choice to be out of work, this is a good time to work toward acquiring a job you will enjoy and will hopefully be even better than the one you had before. It isn’t easy losing your job, but it helps to know what you should do in the event of a lay off. By being careful with your money and keeping yourself busy learning new skills and networking, you will hopefully find a new job that is even more rewarding than the one you had before.