It was one day away from my 2-year anniversary at my first job, one hour into the workday, and one minute into a meeting with the subject titled: “Update Meeting.” This was the moment many of us at my company were informed, “your services are no longer needed.”
How many of us find ourselves in this position; cozy in our current job, resume outdated, experience poorly documented, then suddenly unemployed? Not to worry. I went into this taking notes, and I’m here to share them with you just in case you’re facing the same sitch.
Top 10 things to do in your first days of unemployment:
- File for unemployment
Rising rent costs and groceries to buy? Let’s not forget student loans. Don’t let the little cushion in the bank fool you. It always helps to get the support from unemployment benefits if you qualify. Don’t worry about savings affecting your chances at receiving unemployment, it doesn’t. Being let go is stressful enough. Take the help you can get with finances. Applying may take some time to process, so be sure to apply as soon as possible. Check out which agency is in charge of administering unemployment insurance (UI) claims in your state, e.g. the Employment Development Department for California residents.
- Get your severance agreement signed ASAP (if you received one)
I know this is a hard one. It takes having to go through the 5 stages of grief and accepting your fate to sign this document — it’s the seal on your relationship with your past company. However, it is time sensitive, and unless you are trying to negotiate a better severance deal, it’s best to get it signed and sent! If you’re required to send the physical document, consider mailing it within the first day or two. That way you won’t need to rush to ship overnight, which is another uninvited cost.
*Disclaimer: This is not legal advice
- Expedite health-related appointments and organize accounts
Haven’t had your bi-yearly teeth cleaning? Get your dentist appointment in before the end of the month. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have some time remaining with your current insurance from your former employer, take advantage. Chances are, your former employer’s insurance is your best coverage option at the moment. Alternative, unsubsidized insurance tends to have much steeper out-of-pocket rates. So before you need to make the switch, schedule appointments with your dentist, doctor, optometrist, podiatrist, gastrologist … you name it. If you have an HSA account, don’t worry, that money doesn’t have an expiration date. And while you’re at it, check in on your 401(k) savings. If you have less than $5k in your account, there’s a chance it can be closed out, so give your service a call and learn about your options.
- Take time to think about what you’re doing next
Now that you’ve gotten all imediate logistics taken care of, you may want to continue being a busy body. Which is OK; we crave something “to do” with all this new time, shaping our lives around what used to be our daily schedule for months, maybe years. However, I urge you to take some time, at least a day, to just reflect. What you went through was likely a huge change in your life, an unexpected turn. So I ask you this: What’s next? Considering finances, if you feel you’re in a pressing situation you may need to jump back into work and aggressively job search. But if you get the chance, take a minute to decide what you want to do — sometimes immediately returning to work isn’t everyone’s first choice. For me, I realized my life had been a summation of 12 years of school + 4 years of university (with summer internships/classes) + 2 years of work. A cog in the system. I couldn’t help but feel this was the universe telling me to stop and consider other parts of my life, and you may want to do so as well. Check in on your mental health and your happiness: are you living where you want to be? Are you in an industry that drives your interest? Are you in a career that drives your interest? Now is your opportunity to think.
- Do all the things you’ve been putting off
Put together that IKEA desk sitting in the corner, build that resume, send your parents that letter, do that laundry. Whatever it is, we all have something we’ve been putting off that’s important enough to set a reminder, but not emphasized enough during what was our regular working schedules. There was always something else more important or we didn’t have the energy. Once you start working through everything you’ve been delaying, you’ll feel so much more satisfied and free to focus on other things.
- Surround yourself with support
I cannot emphasize this enough. Depending on your situation, losing your job can invoke similar feelings to losing a loved one. Your whole life changes and it (likely) wasn’t your choice. The first day or so you may be in shock, busy settling paperwork and logistics. Grief doesn’t settle until a bit later. It can hit when you wake up and have the urge to quickly get dressed. Our daily motions have become instinctual. It can hit your first Sunday night when you realize Monday morning doesn’t require the same preparation. Brace yourself, notify your loved ones what you’re going through and allow them to help you — sometimes you don’t know how much you need it until that moment hits. If you know others in your boat, check on each other. An amazing blessing in disguise I encountered was having been laid off in bulk: my former coworkers and I continue to meet and keep each other accountable to build our resumes, send each other job descriptions, work together. No matter what your circumstances are, find support — be it family, friends, ex-coworkers, therapist, cats, etc.
- Allow yourself to feel all the feels (within limits)
Again, you may not fully anticipate what you’re going to feel after losing a job. I was surprised to find myself as emotionally distraught as I was a few days into unemployment. And that’s OK. We need to nurture our mental health by embracing these moments of sadness, and understand them, so that we can move forward in what’s next and best for us. Take time at the beginning of this new journey for self care and be easy on your mind. This of course is within the bounds of mental safety. If you feel weeks have gone by and you still can’t bring yourself back into a healthy lifestyle, it may be time to seek professional assistance. It’s important to note that grief is distinguishable from long-term depression, for which you may need special care if that’s what you’re facing. No shame in that.
- Make sure to get outside
Literally go outside and smell the roses, even if you feel silly. If it’s winter, go make a snowman. Spending some time outdoors each day will boost productivity and prevent sinking into a depressive state. Not only are you getting your daily dose of vitamin D, you’re giving yourself a rest from resume building/job searching. If your new job is finding a job, it’s still a job and you’ll need mental breaks. When these pauses are spent outdoors, you’re allowing yourself fresh air and a fresh mind when you return to work.
- Continue to have a routine
It’s tempting, especially when you first start waking up out of a job, to stop setting your alarm. To lose footing on your once rigid schedule. For the first few days, yes, treat yourself to sleep and mend. However, after some time, try to avoid sinking into a “Saturday everyday” pace. Remember, you’ll need to get another job eventually, and you may have a hard time adjusting to your new work schedule. If you want to land that other job, it helps to continue a daily routine similar to your last position (maybe an extra hour of sleep ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). However you arrange it, ensure to plan your week with a realistic schedule, where you know you can achieve your fitness, life, and work goals.
- Relax, you’re not alone.
Everyone will spend time in their life unemployed; due to layoffs, changes in career, growing a family, traveling — it’s not uncommon, and it’s definitely healthy to have some breaks in the course of your entire career. Because life. So don’t get yourself down, feeling alone in this struggle. The world is right there with ya. Losing a job may just be the push you needed to turn to the next chapter.