Sunday, November 23, 2008

What do you do when you get laid off?

With the current economic situation we are in, companies are laying off employees and some are even closing their doors. Many people are facing unemployment. For some, this may be a first time event, for others, it may be a repeat event, which adds insult to injury. Dealing with unemployment can be quite stressful and even traumatic, especially during the Christmas season.

Here are some tips for practical strategies that can help:

1. Review your separation package: At the termination meeting, your employer should provide you with a folder of information containing specific forms and instructions to review. Review these forms carefully and do the following:

• Ask about severance pay, accrued vacation, overtime and sick pay, pension benefits, and eligibility for unemployment insurance.

• Severance packages may be negotiable. You have nothing to lose by asking for more than what’s offered.

• Request information on continuation of health and life insurance benefits. Your employer, if the company has over 20 employees, is mandated by law to offer health insurance coverage through COBRA to terminated employees for 18 months. However, it is worth asking if you will be covered for a certain period of time at no cost to you.

• Ask about outplacement resources and/or an office with a phone, computer, and a printer to use for your job search.

• Request a reference letter for your files.

2. Share the news with your partner: It may seem unusual to include this as a “must-do” step, because most people will automatically do this without a reminder. After all, it only makes sense that your partner be told immediately about your job loss. Nevertheless, some people try to spare their spouse the pain and will go through the motions, pretending that they are still working. However, trying to spare your partner unnecessary anguish, can backfire on you, when he/she finds discovers the truth and feels hurt because you have kept them in the dark.

3. Talk to your children: Once you have had the opportunity to discuss this with your spouse, you’ll want to determine the best way to share the news with your children. While you can probably wait a day or two before meeting with your children, thereby giving yourself some time to calm down and gather your thoughts, don’t let weeks go by without sharing the news. Children often have a sixth sense when something is wrong, so letting them know is vital.

4. Let people know where they can reach you during this transition period. To stay in contact with your business associates, immediately send an e-mail to them, letting them know your new contact information. While you may want to send a personal note to close contacts, a simple business-like note to the majority of your client list will suffice.

5. File for unemployment benefits: The fifth "must-do” step is to file for unemployment. Granted, you won’t get paid very much, but it is money that you are entitled to and you’d be foolish not to claim it. Fortunately, filing for unemployment has been simplified in recent years. In many states, you can now file by telephone, removing the stigma of having to stand on long lines at the unemployment office.

6. Establish a Routine: Take a day or two to rest from the stress of your loss, but don’t fall into the trap of that routine, as it can lead to greater anxiety and even to depression. Get up at your regular time and plan structured days.

7. Assess Your Goals: Refocus your energy and use this time to reassess your career goals and to get on track to find a new position. This can be turned into a positive experience for you by finding a job that is even more satisfying to you than the one you left behind.

8. Polish up your resume: Taking stock of your achievements will help ease the pain of the layoff, and setting a new career objective will help you focus your job-search efforts.

9. Identify Target Employers: Research the employers in your area and identify 15 or 20 on which you will focus your energy.

10. Execute your job search: Get assistance from your state employment office - often called a “Career One Stop”.

11. Take stock of your contacts: Make a list of everyone you know, and don’t avoid them. It’s tempting to hide sheepishly when you have been laid off, but this is the time to renew your acquaintances and let them know that you are available for work.

12. Update or create your Facebook or LinkedIn profile: Employers are using social networks to look for employees these days, so make these sites work for you.

13. Stay safe, fit and healthy: This will be a trying time. Don’t neglect your health and well being. Make your health and state of mind your priorities. Don’t blame yourself. Employees are selected to be laid off for reasons that are often beyond their control. Don’t look for reasons why you may have brought the layoff upon yourself. It’s easy to get down on yourself. Unfortunately, searching for a job is much more difficult when you lack self-confidence. Not only is it difficult to speak comfortably in a job interview when you lack confidence, but it’s also difficult to deal with the nearly inevitable rejection that is part of a job search. After all, it is extremely rare that job seekers are offered a perfect job after a single interview.

14. Revise your household budget: Prioritize your spending. Make painful cuts now to avoid even more painful ones later. Never assume that unemployment is going to be brief.

15. Pray: with your partner and your family. Seek the prayers of prayer groups in your parish, diocese, and community.

16. Trust in God. He will see you through this difficult time and will provide for all your needs.

Scripture Meditations to Focus on Now:

Matthew 7: 25 - 31

Psalms 37: 25-26

Jeremiah 29: 11 - 14

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