By Roshni Chowdhry, head of customer experience at SafetyNet
Being laid off is not something most people plan for. Even though unemployment is low right now, some industries (including retail) have seen several layoffs in recent months. The bad news is that nobody is fully immune to layoffs. The good news? It's possible to survive this setback and keep your career moving forward.
Here's a look at what you can do today so that you're positioned to thrive should you be laid off down the line, plus some tips on how to survive the legal, financial, and emotional toll of being laid off.
Part 1: Preparing for a Future Layoff
Layoffs are stressful in part because they're often unexpected, meaning we aren't prepared when they happen. However, there are some steps you can take while you're still employed to set yourself up for less stress in the event of a layoff. I recommend these five steps.
- Build a portfolio of your best work. Make sure it's accessible from your home computer. This will come in handy as you apply for your next job.
- Duplicate important contact information to private accounts. I'm not suggesting you attempt to steal clients from a former employer, but it is helpful to be able to reach former vendors, partners, and clients as you continue in your career. Be sure you have a way of contacting them without access to your work email.
- Build relationships with coworkers. They can be helpful if you need a reference.
- Build an emergency fund. Most experts recommend aiming to save about six months' worth of expenses.
- Get unemployment insurance. Private unemployment insurance can be a life-saver in the event of a layoff, as it offers a lump-sum payout within days of making a claim. This is especially true in an era where many states are reducing the number of weeks they offer unemployment benefits as well as the total amount of coverage they're willing to pay.
Part 2: If You're Currently Facing a Layoff
If you've recently been told you'll be laid off, I'm sorry to hear that. Here are some steps you can take immediately and in the coming weeks to make this transition easier.
- Ask your employer for a detailed explanation of why you're being laid off, ideally in writing. The goal here is to determine whether your employer has violated any improper termination laws (for example, not clearly communicating job expectations).
- Find out when and how you'll receive your last paycheck.
- Ask when your benefits (like health insurance) end.
- Ask whether you'll receive any severance.
- Think twice about resigning. In some cases, employers offer the option to resign to avoid the stigma of a layoff but accepting that offer might prevent you from collecting unemployment benefits. Check your state's laws to learn more.
If possible, avoid signing or agreeing to anything until you've had a chance to do some research and consider your options.
- File for unemployment benefits immediately. Find information on your state's requirements here. It may take a few weeks to process your application, so it's best to start the process as soon as possible.
- Be ready to document your job-hunting efforts. This is a standard requirement to receive unemployment benefits.
- Consider your options for short-term income. These include freelancing, signing up with a temp agency, and taking on-demand work (for example, driving for a ride-hailing service). This can help bridge the gap between full-time positions (but may affect your eligibility for unemployment).
- Update your budget or create your first. This will help ensure you know exactly how much you need to earn each month to cover your expenses.
- Call your creditors. Many lenders are willing to adjust your payment schedule if you're experiencing financial hardship. The best time to negotiate is before you've missed any payments, so make these conversations a priority if you have significant debt.
- Cut expenses you can live without. These might include premium streaming subscriptions, house-cleaning services, and wine-of-the-month-type clubs.
- Get creative to save money. A layoff is less stressful if you can make your budget work. Some habits that can help are preparing meals at home, choosing generic and budget-friendly foods, line-drying laundry, walking or biking instead of driving, and adjusting the thermostat.
A layoff can have a major impact on your emotional wellbeing, especially if you loved your job or were the primary breadwinner in your household. Take the time to accommodate your emotional needs to ensure you've got the energy and motivation necessary to find your next job.
- Confide in a friend or loved one. It's normal to feel angry, hurt, embarrassed, or upset after a layoff – and it's healthy to talk through your feelings. But avoid posting them on social media, where they might reflect badly on you when you're applying for new jobs.
- Make a plan for self-care. This might mean asking your gym for a discount until you find work. It might mean adding ten minutes of meditation every morning or a walk after dinner. Taking care of yourself is essential, especially when you're facing challenging circumstances, which can have serious impacts on your health.
- Ask for help when you need it. This may be easier said than done but remember: your loved ones are probably eager to support you right now. Looping them in when you're in need can yield positive results for everyone.
Layoffs are stressful events but having a plan of action if and when they happen can help by giving you concrete, productive steps to take to propel you to your next opportunity.
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