Once you’re shown to the door after losing your job, your mind is racing with questions: Did that really just happen? Is there anything I could have done differently? And — perhaps the most panic-inducing of them all — what should I do next?
Here are seven things to do (and not do) in the days and weeks after you pack up your desk.
DON’T FREAK OUT
There’s no doubt you’re sidelined with anger and overwhelmed with stress. Acknowledge those feelings, but don’t let them get you down. After all, more than 4 percent of the population is unemployed at any given time, according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and it could be the kick in the pants you needed to find a job that’s a better fit.
IDENTIFY EXPENSES YOU CAN CUT
With less money coming in, you’ll want less money going out. Take a close look at your spending habits, and then have a family meeting to discuss areas to cut back. Could you live without that fancy cable package? Should you go out to dinner less? You don’t need to overhaul your entire lifestyle just yet, but see if there are simple adjustments you can make to keep money in your bank account.
APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT
Getting unemployment checks can help you stress less about paying bills while you’re between jobs. Apply as soon as you’re able, but keep in mind that not everyone qualifies. The Department of Labor says you must be unemployed as a result of circumstances beyond your control, such as company-wide layoffs (rather than bad behavior), and you need to be actively looking for a job. You also must meet your state’s requirements for the length of time worked or money earned. The requirements vary by state, but generally if you had a steady job and earned a full-time wage, you should be covered.
FIND SOURCES OF CASH (BUT DON’T RAID EVERYTHING)
Hopefully you have an emergency fund. Figure out how long you can make it last while looking for your next gig. If you have life insurance with cash value, you could consider tapping into that money to pay expenses. But be careful as that may reduce your death benefit. If you can, avoid raiding your retirement accounts. In addition to losing out on potential earnings on your retirement savings, on most accounts you’ll have to pay taxes and a 10 percent penalty if you’re younger than 59 1/2. Experts say the taxes and fees could amount to 40 to 50 percent of your total savings.
And if you work with a financial professional, let her know your situation so she can help you figure out ways to make your cash reserves last longer or keep debt to a minimum while you’re looking for work.
SIGN UP FOR HEALTH INSURANCE
Losing your job means you’ve also lost the benefits that go with it — not just water-cooler talk about last night’s episode of “Veep,” but also things like health insurance. Currently health insurance is a requirement for all adults because of the Affordable Care Act, so finding coverage should be a top priority. See if you can be added to your partner’s plan, look into extending your benefits through COBRA or shop around on the health insurance marketplace.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL LIFE
A funny thing can happen when you lose your job: You can lose contact with close friends. Take it upon yourself to set up dates, and make sure they know you’re not going to hit them up for money or a job. Consider doing something on the cheap, like hosting a potluck, to help you save. When you meet, don’t ignore the fact that you’re unemployed, but don’t dwell on it either. Update your friends on your progress and let them know you’ve been spending your time getting feelers out there and updating your resume. Then, move onto other topics of conversation to keep things as normal as possible.
START THE JOB SEARCH
Prepare yourself for the job hunt by updating your resume and your LinkedIn profile, or, if you’re not sure what you want your next job to be, email 10 friends and ask them what they think you’d be great at. Then go into put-yourself-out-there mode: Talk to people in your network to let them know you’re up for hire. You’ll likely get more leads from acquaintances than those in your close circle. Finally, know the process takes time. Pros say to expect the search to take one month for every $10,000 in salary.
You don’t need to overhaul your entire lifestyle just yet, but see if there are simple adjustments you can make to keep money in your bank account.