Are you prepared to swing into action should you suddenly lose your job? Well these days, that’s a reality many people face or worry about facing. Nobody is safe from the long hand of layoffs and pink slips. Until this economy picks back up (which I have faith it will) nobody is safe. The key is to not wait until the last minute or worse, hide your head in the sand obliviously with the hopes of never having to face a lay off. The first 30 days are the most critical because unlike with a planned exit, you don’t have time to get your house in order or your ducks in a row before the boom is lowered.

Apply for unemployment. This is the absolute first thing you need to do. You paid a lot of money into the system over the years and this is not welfare or charity. This is money that you are entitled to. Many people feel ashamed or embarrassed about applying, like it’s something shameful. Listen, you need to pay your bills, right? So why shouldn’t you get what you are entitled to? Remember, it’s only temporary and you are not the sum total of that check. Go straight to your state’s unemployment department (or department of labor or workforce center, or whatever it’s called in your state). File as soon as possible as it takes a couple of weeks to go into effect. You can have the checks mailed to you or direct deposited. In some states, you may be eligible for retroactive payments from the day you file. But check with your local office for policy. This isn’t “sit on your butt” money. You will have to provide proof that you are actively seeking employment.
Update your resume. A rule of thumb I give to my clients is to update at least annually. By reviewing the resume, it gives you a fresh insight into your skills and how far you’ve come. It also tells you where you need some improvement. Take this time to do a hard assessment of yourself. Identify areas where you’ve positively contributed and any major milestones you celebrated. Be careful not to have your resume read as a series of job descriptions, but rather a summary of accomplishments and contributions to each role. Recruiters like to look for results that occurred because of your actions. Make sure to highlight them as related to the type of jobs you seek.
Do your research. You have access to Google, Yahoo, Live.com and Ask.com. Put them to good use. See what’s going on in your industry that may have caused you to lose your job. Is it an industry issue? Is your company suffering from a setback or crisis which caused them to let people go? What are the analysts saying about the industry? What industries are strong and which companies could benefit from your skills and expertise? Who are the key players and what contacts do you already have to get a foot in the door? If you have none, how will you reach out to people who could get that foot in the door? All of this information is vital to preparing you to land your next job. It’s much better to be on the offensive than defensive.
Look at who you know. Everyone knows (or should know) that I am a firm believer in cultivating your network BEFORE you need them. If you’ve done this well, it should be effortless for you to reach out to them. Don’t be afraid to let them know you are back on the market. Ask if it is OK to send a copy of your resume. Don’t just send it without asking. It’s rude. Ask your contacts about any industry events or networking opportunities that might be helpful. Ask them if there are any opportunities at their company or if they can put you in touch with people who can assist them. If you have not communicated with them in years, I wouldn’t jump straight into the “I need a job” conversation. Nobody wants to do a favor for someone who doesn’t give them a second thought any other time. Networking is giving as much as taking. it’s a team sport. If you don’t make the effort to stay in touch in some way, then you risk not having a solid relationship with the people who could help you.
Get your finances in order. Now this goes in line with applying for unemployment. If you were a good girl and had your emergency fund already set up and funded, you should have a nice cushion. But you don’t want to tap into it if you don’t have to. That’s where unemployment comes in. You may still have to tap into it, but not as heavily. Do NOT tap into your 401K or borrow against your home if you can avoid it. Sit down and create your budget. Be realistic with yourself about your needs vs. wants. Cut as many luxuries as you can so that you have your basic living expenses. Cancel any unnecessary magazine and newspaper subscriptions, downgrade your cable, phone and cell services and get rid of memberships (ie. gym). Learn to do your own hair and nails (it won’t kill you). Immediately cease all shopping and eating out. If you didn’t have an emergency fund and can’t wait for unemployment, don’t be afraid to seek help. There are church based and community programs in some cities where you can request one time assistance with your rent/mortgage and some utilities. These programs are for people who really need it. If you really need it, go apply.
Go online and see who’s hiring. Now is the time to hit every job site you can think of. Google search for niche specific sites. Visit the websites of the companies and fill out their online applications or submit your profile & resume. Update your Linked In profile to reflect your true skills. Investigate who’s recruiting for certain companies and reach out to them. Introduce yourself via email and ask for a brief phone conversation. This will put a voice with the name. Do not just send your resume to every company, or every recruiter. Compose a personalized cover letter/email for each person you contact. And most importantly do not mass email or CC your email to a bunch of recruiters. You will not be taken seriously.
Hit the pavement old fashion style. Yep, that’s right. Get out those pumps and your best suit and get out there. A lot of companies will tell you to “apply online”. But I always say it’s best to submit your resume anyway. You may get lucky and run into someone who’s a decision maker. Don’t be afraid get out there. It’s better to get your face out there and known, than to remain an anonymous name on an email or profile.
Sit your family down and explain that changes need to be made. If you have kids, you need to get them involved. A lot of parents feel kids don’t need to know about the family finances. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My parents never discussed money with us and we grew up financially illiterate. I tell my son about our finances. Kids need to understand WHY they can no longer have the little miscellaneous luxuries they used to. If they’re old enough, they can get a part time job to help pitch in or at least take care of their own expenses (like lunch money, haircuts, etc). Today’s kids are innovative, creative and wired. You never know what money your kid could make on the internet. They could have an eBay business, web design, tutoring, or any number of things they can use their skills doing. Yes, kids need to be kids, but I believe in preparing kids for the future aka the real world. If they understand the flow of money in and out of your household, they’ll learn to appreciate what they have and might even be inclined to help contribute to the household.
Educate yourself. If you can afford to go back to school, great. But there is no law that says education has to come from a classroom. You can read books, magazines and journals from your industry or field of interest, fire up the internet and look for free tutorials and articles, attend industry events, take continuing education or certification courses, or simply reach out to people who are where you want to be and start a dialogue. If you decide that you can go to school (as in college or trade school) look into financial aid. If you truly want to advance or change careers, make the investment of your time and dedicate yourself to completing a program.
Take a part time or contract position if one is offered to you in the mean time. I tell people that nothing is forever, and this includes contract positions. Working part time or on contract is an option if you don’t want to file for unemployment. It keeps your skills fresh and income coming in while you’re looking for full time employment. It also gives you the advantage of meeting new people and building your network.
You are responsible for your own career and well being. When you’re fired or otherwise terminated, it’s never a happy time. But you can’t retreat and hide away from the world. You need to be proactive and take control of the situation. You may not feel in control without a job or steady paycheck, but trust me, if you take care of everything I outlined above, it will ease your mind. You’ll have a handle on what’s going on, coming in and going out. It will be a tough time, but if you take action immediately within the first 30 days of losing your job, you’ll be able to stay afloat and in control until your next job comes along.
Til next time.
Adrienne Graham