On the Rebound: Action Steps to Take When You Lose Your Job

With the unemployment rate rising to 14.7% in May, many Americans find themselves in a tough spot – they’ve lost their jobs and aren’t sure what to do next. Here’s a road map.
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At least 20.5 million Americans have lost their jobs – and that was just in April, 2020. Economists fear more layoffs are on the way.

These latest job numbers may still be an "understatement of the actual amount of slack currently in the labor market, as involuntary part-time employment increased and the total labor force shrank,” the Conference Board noted in a recent statement.

May and June will show some recovery as the economy begins to open again, the Board stated, but as month-by-month scenarios show, even in the most optimistic case (a V-shape rebound), "not even half of the losses suffered during March and April will be made up for by the end of Q2," the Board stated.

Action Steps to Take if You Lose Your Job

If you’re sliding into a jobless scenario – either via furlough or outright layoff due to the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic fallout, don't sit tight. Instead, move forward – even as times are tough.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people from around the world are struggling right now – physically, mentally and financially,” said Galit Tsadik, founder of FINancial Sharktress, an online money management platform. “With unemployment at an all-time high and businesses slow, many are struggling to save money or pay the bills.”

Take control of the situation with these career-building strategies.

File for unemployment immediately. “Even if you are not sure you will qualify for it - just do it,” said Kei Lincoln, a financial planner with District Capital Management.

Get creative with your household financing. Find ways to access cash to sustain you during unemployment, said Lincoln. 

“Use your emergency fund, savings, borrow from relatives, and find out how much credit you have available,” he said. “Additionally, potentially take out money from your IRA,” he said. “You don’t have to pay any penalties if you return it within 60 days.” 

Recast your household budget. It’s not hyperbole - now is a crucial time to put together a solid budget. “Focusing on your budget can help you feel more in control of your finances in the midst of uncertainty,” Tsadik said. “First, figure out your current cash flow and prioritize your spending accordingly. Make a list of everything you are currently spend money on and circle the items that qualify as “wants.” 

Food and housing should be priorities. “If you’re worried about making your housing payments, contact your lender or landlord to discuss payment options,” she said.

Lose un-needed expenses. Now is also a good time to cut out those wants, Tsadik said. 

“Think new clothes or monthly subscription services (like streaming services, delivery services, meal subscription or iCloud storage),” Tsadik said. “With social distancing and lockdowns in place, you are likely spending more time at home browsing the internet. Also, avoid impulse purchases. Be intentional and ask yourself, “Do I really need this item? Why am I purchasing this item?” 

Plan your new job search. Make the best use of your time and prioritize reaching out to your network to look into open positions and begin establishing a plan of action for the future. “Reach out to close friends and explain your situation,” said Adem Selita, chief executive officer at The Debt Relief Company. “Whether it’s via LinkedIn or just through personal outreach, people are often very willing to help, given the opportunity. All you have to do is ask for help.”

Think about your own industry. During your new job planning phase, make note of the changes in the economic landscape, Selita said. “Will your industry be permanently impacted in the future? If so, it would be prudent to adapt based on your skills and experience,” he said. “If possible, be bolstering your resume with any opportunities for personal development.” 

Past that, take an unbiased viewpoint of what you think your position and industry will look like in the future. “Are there ways for you to adapt? Look for other opportunities or industries which make use of the same set of skills you have but aren’t impacted by the change in economic landscape,” Selita said. 

Get recommendations. While you're still in touch to your work team, or your clients, ask for references as well as a LinkedIn recommendations. “If you wait, you may never do it, and your resume may lack in substance,” said Neal Taparia, founder of the business startup Solitaired, and a former executive at Chegg.

Develop new skills. You have some free time now, so leverage platforms like MITx or Coursera to learn new skills in your field, Taparia advised. “Not only will this make you more marketable, it shows employers you have initiative and are always learning,” he said. “That's what employers want.”

Network and engage. Reach out to senior people in your space and ask for 15 minutes to learn about their career and get advice from them. “People love talking about themselves and their journey,” Taparia added. “Learn from them and get on their radar. It may lead to future opportunities.” 

Above all, take stock of the situation. “When you get laid off, first thing is to take a step back – and take a breather,” said Patrick Algrim, CEO of Algrim.co, a career management company.

Algrim said it’s important to get your mind off your prior company, position, and your regular routine, and simply detox.

“After that, start working on your resume.,” he said. “Add your most recent work and accomplishments. Next start reaching out to your contacts— 85% or more of jobs are secured through networking.”

It’s important to let everyone know you're available for work.

“Start a spreadsheet of which companies are hiring and start your job application and outreach process,” Algrim said. “And whatever you do, don't give up. The only thing that will stop you from getting a job is when you stop applying.”