What To Do When You Unexpectedly Lose Your Job

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz

Professional Human Resources (PHR) Certified

Losing a job unexpectedly can be a traumatic experience for many people as well as a stressful one. Maybe the company was experiencing financial difficulties. Maybe an employee was experiencing performance-based issues.

Finding yourself unemployed is not ideal at any stage of your career. Entering a period of unemployment is worrisome. Here's some steps so you can take the right approach.

Call The Unemployment Office

Unemployment benefits exist to help people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. This could be a lay off or through their own decision (i.e. resignation). After you have been terminated, you should reach out to the local unemployment office and arrange a time to meet with a representative.

They will be able to walk you through the steps required to file an unemployment claim. Many states differ in the rules and regulations associated with unemployment claims and benefits. Most will expect you to try to find new work or participating in training to make you more employable.

Unemployment benefits have an expiration date. This is important to know should your claim be accepted.

Understand Your Health Insurance

A federal act called COBRA gives workers the right to choose to continue group health benefits. This is provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time when voluntary or involuntary job loss occurs.

It does not guarantee the rate at which those plans will be offered. Almost always, the fees associated with continuing group health benefits through COBRA is higher than what was paid under your previous employer.

It is not only important to understand any new fees associated with your health benefits but also when they are effective until. In some cases, group health benefits terminate the day employment ends.

In other cases, it is 2 weeks after or even at the end of the month.

Be careful you do not encounter any long periods of time where you lack health benefits but do not know it. You should be able to call your HR department to discuss the termination of insurance even after you have left.

Know Your Retirement Plan Benefits

Many employees have retirement plans that are connected directly through their organizations. Employers may even have been contributing to the plan as a company benefit.

A 401k or 403b retirement plan does not disappear. You do need to research how to move the funds out from underneath the employer plan into a personal plan.

Usually, the appropriate people to talk to are those who work for the retirement plan. This is a better option than speaking to anyone within your former organization.

You can typically “rollover” these accounts in to a new employer plan or a personal retirement fund.

If your organization has a pension program, talk to the representatives of the plan to determine what, if anything, you will remain eligible for.

Many employers require a certain number of years at the organization to be “vested” in the program.

At that time, your benefits will be available to you even after termination.

Rework Your Budget

Many workers do not have enough in savings to handle a long-term unemployment period. This is why reworking your personal finances are critical during a period of unemployment.

Unemployment insurance may continue to bring money in for a period of time. The problem is it’s not likely the amount you could count on before.

Be realistic about what you can afford should you be unemployed for a length of time. Consider cutting out unnecessary expenses until you have a steady paycheck again.

Update Your Resume

Since you do not have an unlimited amount of time to collect unemployment benefits, you should prepare to begin your job search again.

Update your resume to include the accurate dates of employment and duties of your last position. Make sure your resume reflects any other changes to your address, phone number, credentials, licenses, etc.

It would be a good idea to have an updated cover letter ready to provide to companies as well. There is no reason to discuss your current unemployment within the few paragraphs of your cover letter.

Be clear and concise about what skills and experiences you can bring to the organization. You will have an opportunity to discuss why you are looking for new opportunities during an interview stage.

Step Back and Evaluate Your Career

Before you begin pushing your updated resume and cover letter to any job that seems like a fit, take some time to reflect on what you have just gone through.

Be honest with yourself about why you think you lost your job.

If so, aiming for the same position at another company might not be in your best interest.

Evaluate what you think your strongest skills and abilities are and focus on finding a position that allows you to use them.

Take this opportunity to think about what you want out of your career. If you have ever considered making a career shift, this may be the time to do so.

Maybe you've considered going back to school full-time or taking contract work.

Though you may want to be re-employed as quickly as possible, you should find an opportunity that will benefit your career, not just provide a paycheck.

Reach Out To Professional Contacts

Hopefully you have amassed a network of professional contacts throughout your career. Once you are certain of where you want to see your career go from here, reach out to those who might be able to help you. Ask old colleagues to meet up for coffee or lunch and let them know you are in the market for a new opportunity.

If your in-person network is somewhat small, take advantage of social media networking through LinkedIn or similar sites to reach out to those in your field. Don’t be afraid to ask people you know for an “introduction” through social media.

Experiencing a period of unemployment does not have to define what kind of employee you are. Many highly skilled and valuable workers will be faced with unemployment at some point during their career. Knowing how to navigate yourself through a period of unemployment will get you back to work faster.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz
LinkedIn

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz is a PHR certified HR professional with a broad range of expertise including recruitment, performance management, employee relations and talent management. She leverages her years of experience in HR to bring functional change to organizational leadership and direction to management structures and employees.

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