Posted by Manisha Thakor.
If your career is undergoing a temporary derailment, there are generally four bases you want to cover to keep your finances, health and emotional wellbeing on the right track:
- Family matters. This is especially true after losing a job, which provided you not only with a regular paycheck but also a sense of identity and community. Immediately after being let go from an employer, there can be a natural tendency for people to isolate themselves and turn away from the very people that would provide the most support. As with any loss, your first response may be shocked denial; to maintain the same standard of living, and go on as if nothing has changed. You may not want other people to know, or your family to worry, but it’s precisely your spouse, siblings or parents you need to huddle with in order to devise an interim financial strategy to make it through this rough patch. Everyone in your family needs to be involved in tweaking your household budget, and deciding which discretionary expenses can be cut back on. That Sunday night bowling ritual may need to change to watching TV at home with ice cream. Hiding the reality from your kids is never a good strategy, as they will need to find out sooner or later.
- Apply for unemployment benefits. You may have an emergency fund and possibly a working spouse to help you navigate the bumpy road ahead. But, as a taxpayer you’ve worked hard for this benefit, so you might as well take advantage of it. Remember to file as soon as possible, because benefits don’t kick in right away. And if you don’t file during your first week of unemployment, you may even lose the benefits.
- Don’t neglect your healthcare. Deciding what to do about your healthcare is absolutely essential. Make a mistake here and it may cost you dearly—and possibly even leave you uninsured for a brief period. You’ll need to decide whether to continue your employer health insurance plan through COBRA, or sign up for a new plan. You only have a limited time to enroll for COBRA, so if you choose to go that route, make it a priority during your first week off the job.
- Get into a routine. Keep waking up at the same time every day and—as silly as it may sound—make your bed, shower, and get dressed. Having a daily routine is crucial. Use your calendar to structure your Mondays through Fridays, even if that means scheduling a morning in a café with your laptop and an afternoon dedicated to reconnecting with contacts in your professional network (because jobs generally come from other people, rather than job boards!). Don’t forget to maintain good relationships with former colleagues. Organize occasional meet-ups (coffee can be a discretionary expense you don’t cut) and drop the odd email, or better yet, write a recommendation for them on a professional networking site. Also check with your local Unemployment Office about the free classes and programs they offer to improve your professional skills and expand your network.
Establishing a strong, healthy routine in the first few weeks after losing your job is critical in keeping your life’s momentum going—and preparing yourself to find your next great career move.