When you’ve just been laid off, the last thing you want to hear from others is how losing your job can be a blessing in disguise. It might be true, but a more accurate take is that being laid off can be an opportunity for change, once you’re ready to navigate your new reality. Here are some behaviors to embrace and avoid as you get your career back on track.
First and foremost, reject the urge to go into an anxiety spiral. There are always options, so let yourself have the time and space to determine what those are. You won't be able to move forward without a clear head and an open mind. If it’s possible, make your first step an organizational one. Gather your contacts, and send a thoughtful, concise email that lets them know where to reach you. If you have a severance package, make sure you understand the terms (it’s worth noting that sometimes these are negotiable, so make a good case for more if you think it’s warranted). Thank your bosses for the experiences, and leave with your head high.
Do: Take a Minute for Yourself
You’re not going to find a new job the same day you leave, so take a moment for yourself and allow any feelings you have to manifest. “Validate your right to feel miserable,” Dr. Robert L. Leahy, author of "The Worry Cure," advised on NPR. "You're a human being. You have a right to feel unhappy." Once you’ve given your emotions space to exist, you can start to see the big picture more clearly.
Don’t: Borrow Blindly From Your Retirement Account
If your cash flow begins to dry up, you may be tempted to turn to your retirement account. But you should think twice before cashing out part of your 401(k) or IRA while unemployed. If you do, you could find yourself with the extra burden of taxes on the funds you withdrew (for contributions to retirement funds that are pre-tax) and a 10% penalty if you crack into your nest egg before you're 59 1/2 years old. In general, breaking into your retirement savings early could erode 40% to 50% of the money you take out because of taxes and fees. Unless these funds are the only thing standing between you and losing everything, try to hold off. After all, that's what your emergency fund should be for.
Do: Set Up a Budget
Once you’ve established a particular standard of living, it can be tough to adjust that downward, but think of it as a temporary change while you job hunt. Get this not-so-fun task out of the way as soon as you can. It’s particularly important if you’re living off your emergency fund so you don't eat through your savings.
Don’t: Avoid Creditors
Pride can get in the way of asking for help, but when it comes to paying your bills, talk to your creditors if you find yourself in a tough position to make payments. Banks and creditors benefit more from "sustainable" customers than they do simply from the assets they collect, so they have a vested interest in you. The more your lenders know about your circumstances, the more likely they’ll be to help you, by renegotiating your credit terms or freezing your interest rates, though the terms attached to that will depend on what kind of loan you have (student loans, credit cards, etc.). The last thing you want is for your layoff to impact your credit.
Do: Review Your Health Insurance
Losing your job often means losing your benefits. COBRA, the interim insurance provider, can be really expensive. There are several options, though. If you can be covered under a spouse’s health insurance policy, arrange this as soon as possible. If you’re unmarried and under 26, you can go back on your parents' policy. If those options don’t work, definitely shop around for a COBRA alternative to save money.
Don’t: Neglect Your Well-Being
Your new budget might mean forgoing spin classes and freezing a gym membership, but that doesn’t mean you can't engage in self care while you’re looking for a new job. There are numerous apps that coach you through workouts and meditations. Taking care of your body has the side effect of relieving some stress, and what better revenge is there than using this time to get in great shape?
Do: Take a Balanced View of Your Situation
Don’t beat yourself up for being laid off. However, if you aren’t new to the layoff situation, and it’s possibly becoming a pattern, do think seriously about why that might be, or what common threads you can find between those experiences so that the next time you leave a job, it’s your own choice.