When you lose your job, it’s a shock. The days after getting the news feel surreal as your new reality sinks in. Your income has drastically changed. Your healthcare may be in jeopardy. The routines and schedule you’ve become accustomed to suddenly stop. You feel like you don’t know who you are when you’re not [your former title] at [your former company].
I know how you feel. After nearly 90 days of social distancing, working full-time from home with two young children, both my husband and I were furloughed within less than 24 hours of each other due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He found out first at 4p on a Tuesday. I found out at 10a the next morning. For both of us, the furloughs are indefinite.
First, I want to tell you something a wise friend told me the day after. You are enough as you are. You are worthy of love and belonging. Your job does not define you. Full stop.
Take a few deep breaths. Tense up your whole body, from your forehead to your toes, and hold for a count of five. Then release that tension. Breathe in, breathe out. You’ve got this.
Now, I want to share the actions steps I’ve been taking in the wake of job loss — a few things you can do when you lose your job to regain momentum and a sense of control.
Take Time to Process
You probably feel like you’ve been in a car wreck — dazed, confused, wondering where you are and what just happened to you. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s normal. In the blink of an eye, your whole world turned upside down. Take time to sit with those feelings, take time to process what you’ve been through and grieve what you’ve lost. Go for a walk, journal, meditate, talk with friends and family. This is important. Don’t skip this step. But don’t linger here too long. It’s time to think about the future.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is so important, especially after you lose your job. Don’t let stress and anxiety build up until you can’t take it anymore — take care of yourself regularly. Eat a healthy meal (like this soul-warming lentil soup, or this colorful glow bowl), get some sleep, keep up your routines as much as possible, get some fresh air, tidy your space occasionally. And tell your inner critic to back the heck off because you’re doing amazing.
File for Unemployment
As soon as you can, typically the first day you’re no longer employed, file for unemployment through your state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency. Here’s where you need to go if you’re in Michigan. Filing for unemployment is the first step in securing a source of income. Double check the things you’ll need to have handy when applying, like your social security number, driver’s license number, W2s from your employers for the last 18 months, etc.
Understand Your State’s Rules on Additional Income
The amount you’ll receive in unemployment will be less than you were earning while employed. It’s typically at least 60% of the average weekly earnings during your base-year period, though this varies by state. Something I learned is that you can earn additional income through part-time work or side hustles while on unemployment, up to a certain amount, without losing your benefits. The rules vary by state, and your unemployment benefit for a given week could be reduced depending on how much extra you earn. In Michigan, you can earn up to 1.5 times your weekly benefit before losing that week’s payment. For every dollar you earn, 50 cents will be deducted from your weekly benefit. Currently, the federal government is offering an additional $600 per week to everyone receiving unemployment benefits through July 31, 2020 — this is included in your weekly benefit total, increasing your extra income threshold. Always always always be sure to report all extra income.
Rework Your Budget
Go through your monthly budget line by line. Take a look at discretionary spending like takeout meals, streaming services or cable and subscriptions to see what can be reduced or eliminated. Review your obligations like your mortgage or loan payments, rent payments, credit card payments, utility and phone bills — contact the companies to see if it would be possible to reduce or pause your payments for a period of time. Wherever you can, trim your budget down so that your monthly expenses match your new income as closely as possible.
Refresh Your Resume + LinkedIn
Take some time to update your resume so it’s ready to send to go when you find jobs your interested in. And update your LinkedIn profile, making sure your email address is available and it’s clear you’re seeking your next opportunity.
Set Up Job Alerts
I did this on Indeed — setting up alerts for jobs matching specific keywords that are in my area and within my desired salary range, to receive relevant job postings in my inbox. It’s still important to reach out to your network and to research companies you’re interested in, but this is a good place to start. Who knows, the perfect job might just land in your inbox. It’s happened to me.
Find Out When Your Health Insurance Will Expire
If you were on your employer’s health insurance plan, make sure you know when your coverage will expire after you lose your job and then make a plan for what will happen after. Does your spouse’s employer have an insurance plan you can move to? Do you qualify for COBRA through your employer? Will you need to look on the open market? Talk with your employer’s human resources department to find out what’s available to you.
Keep Learning + Growing
It’s all too easy to fall into a slump when you lose your job. When you feel like you’ve lost momentum or don’t have a clear direction, the couch’s siren call is loud and convincing and Netflix is an easy way to escape. Help yourself build momentum back into your life. Keep challenging yourself by learning a new skill, taking up a hobby, investing time in something you love. It’ll be good for your mental and emotional well-being, could potentially boost your resume, and will help you in interviews if you’re asked about what you’ve been up to since being laid off.
I’m so sorry you’re in a situation where you need this information — whether for yourself or a loved one. I sincerely hope your world brightens soon. Sending you hugs.
Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert in unemployment law, payments, or rules. What I shared above is a roundup of the things I’ve learned and done (or will soon) since being furloughed, in the hopes it’s helpful to you as you work through this new phase. It’s a starting point and I encourage you to continue to research what next steps are right for you.