With unemployment still a problem in many locales and occupations, many people fear the possibility of being laid off. Here are some tips for coping with that prospect, courtesy of Ethan Ewing, president of free online consumer portal Bills.com.
- Negotiate well. If you are laid off, negotiate for a layoff package just as you would for a salary. Ask if you can cash in vacation, sick or personal days; determine how long insurance will run; and look into extension of any other benefits.
- File for unemployment. File as soon as possible, because it could take several weeks to receive a check. Regular unemployment is for 26 weeks, but the Extended Benefits program may allow you another 13 to 20 weeks, depending on your circumstances.
- Network. Talk to others – you’ll get sympathy, and they may even refer you to your next job. If possible, find a support group to get you out of the house for coffee and mutual advice, or at least join an online support group for advice and networking.
- Do not sign up for COBRA immediately. You have 60 days after leaving a job to apply for medical insurance under COBRA, and it applies retroactively. You might get a job within those 60 days. If not, you can submit your notice to continue coverage on day 55. Make sure to set aside the amount of the first premium just in case. COBRA coverage is expensive, but the stimulus law included a subsidy to cover 65 percent of the cost of COBRA premiums for up to nine months.
- Maintain old contacts. Write thank-you notes to your supervisor and key colleagues, enclosing your contact information. With luck, they will keep you in mind if they hear of an appropriate opportunity.
- Use the web. If you have not joined online sites such as LinkedIn, consider doing so. Create a professional profile that mentions your most recent experience. Update your resume. Research networking events in your career area. Write down your professional contacts’ information and take it home with you. When possible, obtain personal e-mail addresses (rather than work addresses alone) for your most valued colleagues so you can stay in touch no matter where they go.
- Tighten your belt. Cut out unnecessary costs, whether cable TV or magazine subscriptions. Focus on must-pay bills. Generate extra cash by means ranging from a yard sale to selling an extra car. Student loans can likely be deferred while the borrower is out of work. Those who anticipate having trouble paying a mortgage should talk with the lender about options.
- Leave retirement alone. Many people reflexively reach for a 401(k) withdrawal form when laid off. But early withdrawals come with income tax and penalties. Since your nest egg is probably already cracked from recent stock market upheaval; avoid tapping it unless absolutely necessary.
- Stay positive. Easier said than done, but get up every day, get dressed and get some exercise. Dedicate time every weekday to networking, applying for jobs and attending work-related events.
Every recession does come to an end eventually. Stay professional, stay calm and stay prepared so that you can survive whatever the job market throws your way.