5 Things You Should Do If You Get Fired or Laid Off

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You’re fired letter | iStock.com

Getting fired or laid off can be an unpleasant experience. You feel a range of emotions including shock, sadness, disbelief, intense anger, and sometimes even hopelessness. It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth that never seems to go away.

“For most of us, termination is shocking. For some, it is even debilitating. For others, it ruins their careers, if not their health. A termination, and the loss of income that accompanies its aftermath, can divide families and destroy the soul…and cause a loss of self-esteem that takes years to rebuild. A termination always has the potential to be a life-altering event,” said Richard Busse in Fired, Laid Off or Forced Out: A Complete Guide to Severance, Benefits and Your Rights When You’re Starting Over.

However, it will be important to work toward bouncing back so that you can start looking for your next job. Once you’ve wiped away your tears and licked your wounds, it’s time to get off the couch and get back out there. You may discover your next job is a better fit or that you have a talent you were unaware of. Know that all is not lost. Here are the steps you should take after you lose your job.

1. Apply for unemployment

Don’t delay this first step, as it could take several weeks before you receive your first check. Generally, you’ll have a waiting period of about one week before you can become eligible to collect benefits. Know that even if you were fired, you might still be able to collect unemployment. However, this depends on the reason you were fired and the specific laws for your state.

“Generally speaking, an employee who is fired for serious misconduct is ineligible for benefits, either entirely or for a certain period of time (often called a “disqualification period”). But the definition of misconduct varies from state to state,” says legal site Nolo.

2. Assess your savings

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Image

Make the time to review your emergency savings. Take stock of how much you have and how long it will last. While you’re looking for jobs, you may also want to take on a side job so you can bring in extra cash to help you stay afloat and reduce the chances that you’ll blow through your savings too quickly. Also try your best to avoid cleaning out your retirement account. Even if your former employer allows hardship withdrawals, this may not be the best choice. If you are under age 59 1/2 you’ll face fees and penalties.

3. Contact your network

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Saul making phone calls | AMC

The next thing you’ll want to do is get in touch with your professional network. Someone in your circle (or in a colleague’s circle) may be able to introduce you to a hiring manager who is looking for an employee with your skill set. Remember to keep your message light. Briefly explain that you are no longer with your former company. It is not necessary to get into details. Also, if you were fired, don’t give in to the urge to bash your former employer.

4. Look for a job

Payroll concept image of a pen

Get back on a payroll | iStock.com/TheaDesign

It’s OK to give yourself time to grieve, but you should keep it at a minimum. You may feel terrible right now, but it’s not wise to put your job search on hold for too long. Keep yourself busy by conducting a search as soon as possible. This will help take your mind off of being depressed about losing your job and may increase your chances of becoming employed sooner. You may also want to take some time to speak to a career counselor.

“Now may not seem like the time to spend money, but there are some investments worth considering. Before you start applying for any job that comes along, take time to make sure you are headed in the right direction. A good career counselor can help you choose your path. If money is really tight, consider asking family members to forgo their usual holiday gifts to you. The money might be better spent on helping you find your calling in life. You have an opportunity to do something different with your life. You just might need some help figuring out how to transition your skills. ” said Monster contributor Roberta Chinsky Matuson.

5. Hire a lawyer


The Lincoln Lawyer | Lionsgate

It’s likely you were given separation paperwork outlining what you can and cannot do after the separation. Two items to watch out for are the non-disparagement and non-disclosure clauses. You’ll also want to know if you will still be required to adhere to any non-compete agreements (if you had previously signed one). Hire a lawyer to thoroughly review your paperwork before you sign anything.

A word of caution

If you haven’t been fired or laid off, but you think it may be coming, take the time now to dust off your résumé and start looking for a new job. Be alert and know the signs. You should be especially leery if you start getting terrible assignments or your co-workers act differently around you or stop talking to you altogether.

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