If you are currently experiencing unemployment or think you might soon experience a layoff, there are five important steps you can take to be more in control. Due to COVID-19 there have been a record number of industries laying off workers, so you are not alone!

According to the Department of Labor (DOL),  new unemployment benefits claims skyrocketed to 281,000 in the week ending on March 14, the highest level since September 2017.

The following tips provide simple steps you can take to start navigating your sudden unemployment, including filing for claims and key job search strategies to follow amidst the craziness of the current crisis:

Step #1 to Take After a Layoff

File for unemployment benefits

Even if you think you are not qualified, the Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced new guidelines for states regarding flexibility to offer unemployment benefits to workers affected by COVID-19.

For example, states may pay benefits in situations where:

  • A organization temporarily closed due to COVID-19
  • An employee is quarantined but intends to return to work
  • An employee has left work temporarily due to risk of infection or to care for a family member

Also, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package President Donald Trump signed into law on March 27, expands unemployment benefits. It makes part-time employees, freelancers, independent contractors, gig workers, and folks who are self-employed eligible for benefits. Specifically, it provides a $600 per week federal payout on top of state benefits through July 31 and extends state unemployment insurance by an additional 13 weeks.

Unemployment benefits vary by state. According to DOL guidelines, you should file your claim with the state where you worked. If you live in a different state, or if you worked in multiple states, you can turn to the unemployment insurance agency where you now live for help filing your claim with other states.

To connect with your state’s unemployment website, visit the DOL’s Career One Stop.

Check out Connect Your Interests & Personality to Your Ideal Flexible Job

Step #2 to Take After a Layoff

Assess / cut your expenses

Budgeting is crucial to taking back control in your career when you’ve been let go or suffered a layoff. Make sure to factor in any severance pay and unemployment benefits, then add in your monthly expenses and determine the amount of time you can take to find a new job.

If your budget won’t allow you much time to search, you might have to consider finding a job outside your current or ideal career field. Keep in mind, if you wind up getting a temporary job or contract gig, you will learn valuable skills that you can market later on your resume and LinkedIn profile. You never know, you may wind up loving a job that initially might not be appealing.

Another place to quickly find temporary / flexible work in or outside your field are employment agencies. There are a wide variety of career opportunities you can get through temp agencies that can transition into full-time and / or permanent work. Try reputable agencies like Kelly Services, Robert Half, Randstad, Manpower, Aerotek, AppleOne, and Addeco. A temp job can help you generate income in the near term while you continue your job search for something more permanent down the road.

In addition to planning your budget, you can cut expenses easily by doing an inventory of your current bills and charges using a recent bank statement. When I look closely at my expenses, I often discover I’m being charged anywhere from $5-$20 per month for some club or membership that I either never opted into or don’t need anymore.

Also, many major banks are offering deferments and waiving fees. Got student loans and/or other debts? You can contact your lender and see if they offer deferments or forgiveness programs. For comprehensive resources by topic regarding economic relief opportunities, check out this recent article by the New York Times: Your Money: A Hub for Help During the Financial Crisis.

Step #3 to Take After a Layoff

Do a personal deep dive

If your budget allows you more time to search for a new job, you might consider taking a step back to determine where you want to take your career next.

Do you want to stay in the same field you were in prior to the layoff? Or maybe you want to stay in the same career field, but you want to try working in a new setting. For example, lets say before you worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative for a large company. Maybe now you want to do online sales or work for a smaller company.

If you want a career change, do you have any idea what field you want to transition into? If you are considering a change, doing some self-reflection can be very helpful. For example, when is the last time you assessed your innate strengths, values, interests, and personality traits?

In addition to self-reflection, seeking out career information can also make the decision-making process easier. For example, how much research have you done about your targeted field? Even if you are seeking a new job in the same field, it’s important to take a step back and do some digging. Career information databases like O’Net and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) have information like fastest growing career fields and training requirements.

Need some help with the self-assessment and job search process? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Job Search

Step #4 to Take After a Layoff

Seek out support

I know it probably sounds a bit ridiculous in the middle of social distancing, but it’s important not to isolate yourself. There are still many ways to stay connected through technology!

Connect with your friends and family members and let them know which industry you are targeting. Put messages out on Facebook, Instagram, or SnapChat and let people know you’re looking. You never know, your friend’s neighbor might work at XYZ Company (your top company), and they might be willing to pass along your resume.

LinkedIn is an amazing professional networking platform and if you’re not on it, you’re at an enormous disadvantage. LinkedIn offers step-by-step guides that walk you through how to add contacts to your professional network in a targeted, meaningful way. One of the quickest ways to get connected to a large number of professionals on LinkedIn is to search for alumni groups and associations.

Keep in mind, when it comes to growing your network to land a job, it’s quality over quantity. If you simply add hundreds of people to your network, your numbers might grow but you will probably not get the results you want.

If you need help creating a LinkedIn account, click here to get started!

In addition to LinkedIn, you can also join groups on Facebook. Be sure to also look into professional associations in your field. You often need to pay an annual fee to participate, but I’ve personally found the cost to be totally worth it. Professional associations offer frequent networking events and unlimited resources to help you in your profession.

See related The Ultimate Guide to Job Search and Four Simple Strategies to Land an Unadvertised Job in 2020

Step #5 to Take After a Layoff

Be kind to yourself!

Being laid off or fired can be devastating.  I know because I’ve been there. You probably feel like the rug has been pulled from underneath you. It can be tempting to hit the ground running with your job search. But if your budget allows, take a few days or weeks to do some self-care and self-reflection.

Even if you have to start looking for a new job right away, remember to treat yourself well. Do something nice for yourself every.single.day. This is so important I’m going to repeat it: do something nice for yourself every single day. Even small things like a walk or a latte can make a huge difference. Setting daily and weekly goals can also help with prioritization and lessen the overwhelm in your job search.

If you want to make a career change but you’re not sure where to start or how to go about the process, check out The Ultimate Guide to Job Search. This is a simple, step by step guide to searching for and landing your next job.

In Conclusion

By following these five steps to take after a layoff, you can start to take back control in your career. Remember, you don’t have to complete all the steps at the same time. It’s important to give yourself daily and weekly goals and celebrate your small successes along the way!