Oh my! You have just learned that your job has been eliminated or you’ve been demoted from your current role. What do you do? First of all, try not to panic.
Downsizing does happen… but not to me, you say? This is probably no comfort, but downsizing is not uncommon, and it can happen to anyone. So, take some deep breaths and move past the denial stage. Try to relax and put together an action plan. Just like anything else in life, you need to start taking steps to better your situation and get what you want.
First, let’s review some “housekeeping” issues.
Collect Your Final Paycheck
Make sure that you know when you will receive your last paycheck, and how it will be delivered to you. Some states require employers pay it immediately; others may allow a short time lag. Make sure you get everything that is due to you. Entitlements could include monies for overtime, back pay, accrued vacation, or sick leave. Talk to the appropriate person in your HR department to learn what you will receive and how you will be compensated. Click here for more information on state laws pertaining to collecting your last paycheck.
Know Your Benefits
You may be entitled to benefits offered by your company and state agencies that may include the following:
- You may qualify for severance or pension benefits.
- You may be eligible for unemployment benefits.
- Your employer may provide an introduction to an outplacement agency.
There are laws protecting you from losing your pension plan benefits even in the event of a job loss. Companies offering pensions must meet specific requirements and are held accountable by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Unemployment benefits are especially helpful if you are laid off from your job. Even if you can manage without them, remember that you have worked to put money into the system and you are entitled to take money out….The unemployment process can be lengthy, so be sure to get the ball rolling early. You might even be able to register for unemployment online without visiting an unemployment office. Read here to learn the ins and out of applying for unemployment benefits.
Make Sure Your Risks are Covered
- Health insurance. If you are not being offered a severance option with salary and benefits continuation, and you do not have outside health insurance, you will need to obtain coverage. COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) is a program that gives you the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates for former employees. The US Department of Labor provides guidelines regarding who may receive COBRA benefits and for how long. If you find that you don’t qualify, or if your coverage period expires, you may need to purchase individual health insurance. One option is to take out a policy under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Read here for more information about your health insurance options when you lose your job.
- Life insurance. If you had employer-provided life insurance, it will lapse with unemployment. If you have existing outside policies, do everything you can to keep them in force. Don’t let short-term setbacks eliminate what you’ve already invested to safeguard your loved ones.
Control Your Retirement Accounts
If you run out of money during your period of unemployment, it might be tempting to take money out of your 401(k) retirement account. However, be aware that if you have to withdraw funds from your retirement account before age 59½, withdrawal amounts are subject to regular income tax and a 10-percent federal penalty. Some states also have an additional state penalty.
- Rollovers. When you leave your company, you are likely leaving behind a company-sponsored retirement plan. You should consider rolling these funds over into an IRA. You don’t lose your investments, but you lose control over them when you leave them behind in your old plan.
Assess Your Financial Situation
A budget can make a real difference in how to survive the time between jobs. Sit down and determine which are your essential expenses. Resolve not to run up overdue charges on your credit cards, and forego those luxuries you’ve been used to – daily lattes, dining out once a week, etc. Also, do your best to keep your credit in good order. Lending institutions, insurance agencies, and prospective employers use your credit score to evaluate how responsible you are. Your score dictates the rates you get on loans, the premiums you pay on policies, and sometimes whether or not you are offered the job you want.
The above-listed items all need your attention, so do your best to get them out of the way so you can give your full concentration to finding a new job. You’ll have more success if you go about your search in an organized and systematic way. Here are nine ways that will help you get started and stay on track.
1. Decompress for a Few Days
Chances are you’ve been released on a Friday, so should you immediately start polishing your résumé and looking at the job boards? For one thing, your emotions are all over the place. You’re frazzled, stressed, and not in a good place mentally to start this process. Take at least the weekend to calm down and unwind, and then take a few extra days. Do some work around the house that you have not been able to complete, sleep in, spend time with your family, and read that book that’s been lying on your coffee table for weeks. There’s no reason to hit the ground running on Monday. Give yourself some personal time. Then, by Wednesday or Thursday, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to get started.
2. Let Go of Negative Thoughts
Whether the reason for the release from employment was an RIF (reduction in force), a PIP (performance improvement plan) or any of the other reasons that come with an acronym attached, it happens. So clear your head of all the trash that is going to keep you from moving forward and finding your next job. Don’t keep dwelling on the injustice of it all! Downsizing happens, life happens, so let’s move on.
3. Gather References
Get a sense of who your champions are at the company you’ve just left. Ask them if they are willing to tell a future employer that you are good at what you do. Especially if you haven’t been with your firm for very long, contact people you have had good relationships with in your former companies. You never know, if they understand that you are open to new opportunities, this might even lead to an employment offer.
4. Brush Up Your Résumé
Make sure your résumé shines! If you aren’t satisfied with it, you can pay someone to rewrite it for you. An alternative is to Google best résumé examples and fix it yourself. Remember companies looking to hire want to see certain things on a résumé such as employment dates that include the month/year, not just the year. Your résumé needs to look good, and it needs to be honest. Don’t inflate your educational degrees and promote yourself to a seniority level you have not reached. Most importantly, companies want to see your successes, so emphasize goals achieved, awards given, etc.
5. Work With Good Recruiters
Reach out to recruiters you know, like, and trust; ask them if they have opportunities that fit your skill set and geography. Maybe the person that got you your last job? Avoid recruiters who are just going to flood the job market with your résumé. Let the recruiter know where you are networked and don’t need help.
6. Start Researching Openings That Fit Your Criteria
If you haven’t given much thought to criteria, do so now; that will help narrow down your search. Use LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job search engines to find relevant roles. Do not send unsolicited résumés just for the sake of sending them. You need to be strategic with your approach. If you find an attractive opening and you know someone at the company, contact them. If you don’t know anyone, talk to your recruiter. A good recruiter may be able to get you an interview, while sending your résumé to a job board where 500 others have applied for the same position may not get you anywhere.
7. Follow Up
People are busy, so don’t just call once and then stop. You should call, email and then try again in two or three days. And, these days, most people respond faster to text than any other form of communication. A few years ago, texting was regarded as intrusive, but today it’s the best way to get your message noticed.
8. Never Stop Networking
If you have always networked, you will have been building up a base of support for your future. Your network will stand you in good stead now that you really need it. If you have never thought about joining any networking groups, you should start now. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce for information on any relevant groups. Start going to their events and meeting new people.
9. Line Up Some Informational Interviews
Call some people you’ve never met, but who work in the industry you’re interested in. Schedule an informational meeting with them. Be sure to explain why you want it and ask to meet them for coffee or lunch. If you can swing it, let it be your treat. If you can’t afford it, meet the individual in their office. During your chat, do your best to find out who the big players in the industry are and what industry associations or networking groups you can join. Ask the person about the path they took to get to the position they’re in. And before you leave, ask: Who else should I talk to? DO NOT ask for a job and don’t ask if they know of any openings. They’ll understand what you’re looking for, so if they are aware of something, they’ll tell you. They’ll also be more willing to share contacts with you if you’re seeking information and not begging for work.
You CAN Do This
Being downsized is very stressful, and it may seem at first that it’s the end of the world. But if you take a more positive approach, you’ll realize that it’s not. Take care of the basics and then conduct a job search in a strategic fashion. Follow the roadmap outlined above, and you’ll have every chance of finding a better opportunity and a bright future.
At Cerca Talent+, we employ all the best strategies and more to ensure you meet and interview with only the best possible companies in your industry. We will tirelessly help you fulfill your job search goals by exceeding expectations every day. If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to me, Scott Rivers, via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.