One of the most frightening things that can happen to an adult, short of violence, is an unexpected call into the manager’s office at work. When you walk in and see that paper sitting face down and the boss shifting uncomfortably in his chair, you just know before he even opens his mouth….your job is gone.
If you’ve ever had this experience, you know about the immense feeling of panic, the encroaching fear, the pounding heart and the emotions that come. You try to maintain your composure and go out with dignity. You know there is no point in arguing, because the paperwork is done, the decision is made and you’re out.
You are best not to sign anything. The company, particularly a larger company, is going to be looking after its own interests. Your 401K, pension, and unemployment benefits may be at risk, so it’s important to read the documents at your leisure and even have an attorney take a look if there is a great deal of money at stake.
For most people, the first stop is the unemployment office. This is as it should be. Never think of unemployment as welfare – this is something that you have paid into for your entire working life – it’s like insurance. If your house burned down, would you refuse the check from the insurance company because it felt like charity? Unemployment is the same thing. It is a safety net you have created for yourself with payroll deductions throughout your career. Go and apply – it will take 4-8 weeks for the first check to arrive and you may already have a job by then anyway. However, if you don’t apply until you actually NEED the money, you will still have to wait 4-8 weeks for it to arrive, which could put you in a very desperate situation.
Next, when you get home, take a day or two to relax. This can be an emotionally painful experience and you can expect to feel some grief, some anger and a sense of rejection. Take a bit of time to sort through this and don’t make dramatic decisions. Be frugal with your expenses and just let yourself process what has happened.
Once your state of mind is clear, it’s time to make a plan of action. Before even looking for another job, you should first take a look at your budget.
Eradicate all frivolous expenses. Until you are employed again and have a steady source of income, it’s important to think about every penny you spend. For the meantime, skip the fancy coffee from Starbucks, shopping as a recreational activity, and eating out. Focus on living as frugally as possible. Talk to your family about this – it will be much easier with them on board. Have a family meeting and ask everyone, kids included, where some cuts to the budget can be made. Be sure to respect the suggestions of the children – this will help them to abide by the decisions of the adults because they will feel as though their ideas have been considered. It turns this budget into a team effort, with input from everyone. You may be surprised at some of the great ideas that the kids come up with.
Start looking for a job. Job searches are different for each area and each field. Cast your net wide, because, as you know, the opportunities are scarce and becoming more so all the time. Use job search engines, head-hunters, and employment agencies. Be careful with the agencies – you want to be sure that the fee is paid by the employer and not by you in most cases. Network with every salesperson, trainer and field representative with whom you interacted at your previous job. Accept the fact that you may have to relocate or commute if local searches bear no fruit. Look at your former company’s direct competition – this may be a very viable option. Look outside your current field and broaden your search.
Look at this as an opportunity. Sometimes a job loss is a blessing in disguise. Think back – is there something that you have wanted to do for a while, but couldn’t because the job was tying you to certain hours, a location, or restricting you with a non-competition clause? This may be the perfect time to look into further training or education. It might be the right moment to start your own business. Maybe that move you’ve been considering is more viable now. You might be able to find a career that is more recession-proof than what you were doing previously. If you decide to start your own business, focus on something with minimal start-up costs that you can do from home.
Find some money. Free up some money and make some space at the same time. Using sites like Craigslist, sell some bigger items that you have no need for. Think about all those Christmas presents from years gone by that are sitting in the basement or attic – they’ll do you much more good sitting in someone else’s attic with the buyer’s money in your pocket! Things like exercise equipment, kitchen gadgets, furniture, appliances, books, electronics, toys and used clothing (especially kid’s clothing) are all popular items that people purchase used.
Change the way you shop. Hopefully, you have a big stockpile of food already sitting in your pantry. You know that SHTF moment you’ve been waiting for? This is it. Shop only to replenish the stockpile and plan your meals around the food you have stored. Until your unemployment checks start coming in, don’t worry about replacing the food you are depleting. Save your grocery money to use for bills. Unfortunately the utilities keep charging you whether you are employed or not.
Losing your job can certainly feel like the end of the world, but sometimes it is the beginning of a new and better world. For a person who lives a prepared lifestyle, it can be a bump in the road instead of an all-out catastrophe. Try to look at this as a door opening instead of closing, and hang in there!