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What to Do If You Get Laid Off

With the unemployment rate at a 26 year high, an increasing number of people are concerned about the possibility of being laid off. While there is little, if anything, you can do to prevent being laid off – there are a number of things you can do if you have been laid off to make the situation more bearable. For most people, the biggest priority after being laid off is to find a new job – but there are a number of matters to tend to including your unemployment benefits, retirement fund and health insurance.

1. Keep Your Cool

Getting laid off is always hard news to receive.  You feel like something is being unjustly taken away from you, probably because of dumb decisions someone else made.  It can be even worse if others in your area who don’t do as good of a job are not being laid off.  Venting this frustrations isn’t going to do any good though.  You need to stay on the good side of your employer and your boss despite the situation.  They will be the ones providing references for you as you look for a new job, there’s always the possibility things may turn around and you end up working for that company again in the future, or at the same place as your boss or co-workers.  Now is not the time to burn bridges.

2. Get Contact Info

Getting a new job is as much about who you know as what you know.  Make sure you have phone numbers an email addresses for as many of your coworkers as possible.  Especially others who have been laid off and are also searching for a new job.  It’s very likely they will be your life-line to your new job.

3. Break the News

Trying to keep your family in the dark is a huge mistake.  It can be very uncomfortable breaking the news but it has to be done.  You may think you’ll get a new job lined up first and then tell them, but you’re taking a huge risk by doing so, it’s going to create a lot of stress and you risk loosing a lot more than just a job in the end.

4. Update Your Resume

Odds are you’ve picked up a good number of new skills during your time at that employer.  Make sure your resume reflects that.  Don’t just quickly jot down a new entry on your work history, but update the resume as a whole to represent the skills you currently posses.  This is your key to getting interviews with new employers; you don’t want to mess it up.

5. File for Unemployment

You may feel you can skip this step because you don’t plan on being unemployed long enough for it to be worth while, or you don’t feel like you’re “that bad off”.  But none of us can know for sure.  It can be embarrassing, but you need to bite the bullet and do it.  It doesn’t necessarily require standing in line with hundreds of other unemployed people.  In most states you can do it over the phone or online.  It can take several weeks before you see any money from it so file early.  If you were still employed would you pass up “free money”?  Then don’t do it when you need it most.

6. Check for Other Jobs at the Same Company

This is probably the most overlooked option.  It’s not uncommon for one department to be laying off while another still has job openings.  Especially at larger companies.  A simple department move can save you a huge headache.  You’re odds of being able to switch departments is generally much higher than being hired at a new employer.  You already know how the company works, so the company saves on training time, severance and saves face.

7. Get What You Are Entitled To

Are you receiving a severance package?  Do you have unused vacation time?  Expense reports that haven’t been paid yet?  Find out and make sure you are paid for every bit of it.  Also be mindful of how your employer handles your unused vacation time.  If you have 10 days of vacation left, some will try to pay you as if your termination date was 10 days out.  But you probably work 5 days a week not 7.  They need to set your termination date 14 days out if so.  Basically your termination date should be 1.4 days out for every day of unused vacation time you have left.

8. Start Applying for Jobs

This goes without saying, but apply, apply, apply.  Don’t just search the employment section your local paper and call it a day.  Go online to sites like and   Search the employment section of the websites of other companies you think you may be qualified to work out.  Quite often there are job openings at companies that the HR department at those companies haven’t got around to advertise yet.  By searching for these, you not only will have more places to apply, but better odds of getting those jobs due to being one of the few who found the listings.

9. Cut Back on Expenses

Even if you are receiving unemployment benefits, they’re most likely less than what you were making before.  You need to make sure any savings you have can last as long as possible and you don’t go into debt while you’re looking for a new job.  Shut off cable TV, cancel any online subscriptions you may have, eat in more, etc.  You may get bored, but hey, that’s more motivation to look even harder for a new job.

10. Suspend 401k Contributions but Don’t Withdraw

If you have a 401k, it would probably be wise to suspend any contributions from it.  It’s going to be hard enough staying out of debt and you need all the help you can get.  However, don’t withdraw money from your 401k.  You’ll pay heavy penalties for doing so, and you’ll really be shooting yourself in the foot later on in life.  You should try to avoid borrowing from it as well, but if it comes between that and charging on credit cards, you’re better off borrowing from the 401k.

11. Sign up for COBRA

COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, and is a federal law that gives you access to your health care coverage for a maximum of 18 months after being laid off.  Unfortunately individuals have to pay the cost of the coverage out of pocket, which can be difficult on the reduced pay received through unemployment benefits.  Even though making these payments is going to be very difficult, it’s well worth it.  You think you have problems now?  Try dealing with thousands of dollars in medical bills due to an unforeseen injury illness without insurance.  That’s the type of problem that will stick with you long after this unemployment nightmare is over.

12. Talk to Staffing Companies

I know, I know, you probably hate these places.  But, they can be the quickest route to a new job.  Meet with them and they can probably get you a couple of interviews and some short term work if nothing else.  Possibly even a great job.  If you’ve met with one and they’re not actively working for you, go meet with another.

13. Check in with Coworkers

Remember gathering all that contact info in Step 2?  Now’s the time to use it.  Check in with those old co-workers and find out how their job search is going.  Odds are some of them have found jobs by now and may be at companies with more openings.  It’ll give you more ideas on where to look and having a friend on the inside is a huge advantage when applying for a job.  You can also use websites like which are designed for this very purpose.

14. Pick up Odd Jobs

If you have an office job that could be done from home, go online to contract labor sites like, and and try to find some work you can do from home in the mean time.  If your work is more physical perhaps you could pick up some contract work around town.  You can also try to pick up different types work.  For example, there are plenty of adults who mow lawns for $30-40 each.  Not bad for an hour’s worth of work, and its work that pretty much anyone can do.

15. Go to Professional Conventions and Meetings

If you work in any type of professional field, odds are there is some type of regular meeting for your industry.  Assuming these are free, go to them!  It’s a great opportunity to keep your skills up to date and an even better opportunity to network and find out about job openings.

16. Look into Dislocated Worker Programs

If you worked in a very unique field and there really are no other job openings in town that match your skill set, look into the Dislocated Worker Program in your state.  These are set up to help cover the expenses of workers in your situation to find similar jobs or help cover expenses of going back to school to get trained for a new job.


SB (Guest) - Very nice article, should be helpful for people in need. We should all be prepared for the worse in this economy. I have drafted a comprehensive list of 20 things to do when you are on the verge of being laid off. Do check out the link if interested. I will be glad if you get benefitted by the list.
mazand - Good tips. I would say one of the things you could do in a situation like that would be to look for alternative ways to make some extra money online. There are many ways to make money online (here are a few methods you could use , you might not get rich or even make enough money to pay your bills with most of these methods, but non the less, internet provides an option to earn some extra money. Thanks.
henry140468 - thanks for the advive!!great blog!!
babecollector - good post. But i guess i just file unemployment and relax for a week before looking for a new job
- Good tips!