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7 Steps to Take Immediately if You've Been Laid Off From Work

How to best position yourself for the future

Coronavirus has hit our country hard in many ways. From hurting our health, to calling our first responders and doctors into battle, to dismantling our economy, to keeping us isolated from loved ones, COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives.

We’re just 4 months into 2020 and already millions of Americans have been laid-off from work because of this life shattering pandemic. In March alone, 10 million Americans applied for unemployment, and that doesn’t include those who have taken major pay cuts. 

If you’re one of the millions who has recently lost your job or internship, we are so sorry and want to support you in any way we can. If you need general career advice, answers to any specific questions on your mind or if you just want to talk, you can sign up here for a virtual coffee chat with Annabel, Suitably’s Founder. Lastly, we’ve put together the below list of 7 immediate steps you should take if you’ve been laid-off to best position yourself for the future. Please reach out to us at to let us know what else we can be doing to help you during this difficult transition. 

1. Ask for a Laid-Off Letter From HR

The first step you should take after being laid-off is to make sure you get a letter from human resources that certifies that you were laid-off, not fired. This letter will explain that you’re no longer working due to conditions out of your control (a.k.a. Coronavirus) and that the lay off was not based on your performance. It’ll be helpful to have this documented when looking for new work as it’ll show your abilities and performance were not the cause of your unemployment.

2. Apply for Unemployment

Check to see if your employer is filing unemployment for you. In some lucky cases, your employer will file unemployment on your behalf. If not, go to your state specific website to begin the process. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your HR department should you have any questions, they will be a helpful resource.

Make sure to gather all information before beginning the application process. Collect all personal and employer information needed and save it in one place. It’s helpful to remember that your eligibility, the amount you receive, and the length of time you’re covered for all depends on your original job. 

Lastly, be patient. The influx of Americans applying for unemployment has generated more traffic than the systems can handle, causing websites to crash and long hold times. Carve out time dedicated to applying for unemployment and try not to get discouraged if the process takes longer than anticipated. 

3. Inquire About Health Insurance Benefits

Many Americans receive employer-sponsored health insurance. In most cases, those who are laid-off are usually covered for at least another month under their employer-sponsored insurance. Check in with HR to see how long you’re covered for and the exact end date. 

Plan ahead and start researching other health insurance plans to apply for now so you don’t have any gaps in your coverage. You can shop for an individual healthcare plan on the state exchanges, which often offer subsidies. You can also search in Yelp for a health insurance broker in your area who can help you get a plan with excellent coverage. 

4. Get Details on Your Last Paycheck & Severance Package

Make sure you iron out all the details of your final paycheck and severance package. Ask your employer in an email how much you should be receiving and when you will be receiving those final payments. It will help you plan and set your budget (link to phil’s post) for the weeks ahead.

5. Decide What to Do With Your 401K

When it comes to making a decision about your 401k, you have many options. You can leave it in your former employer’s plan, consolidate your old plan with a new one, or open a rollover individual retirement account. Try to avoid cashing out, even though it may be tempting to get some extra cash, as you’ll have to pay hefty fees for an early withdrawal. 

6. Update Your LinkedIn/Resume

Thanks to social distancing, we all have a little (or a lot) more downtime these days. Take this time to focus on you. Now is the time to grow your professional brand and that begins by updating your LinkedIn and resume. If you need a place to start, check out our free resume template and tips to get your resume into hire-worthy shape. Whether it’s updating your profile and past job descriptions, taking a new and improved headshot, or just adding to your network to finally hit 500+ connections, it will all help you down the road. Once you’ve updated your LinkedIn and resume, begin networking by reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn. We’ve put together a cold email template to get you started. 

7. Set Your Sights on Something New

When one door closes, another one opens. In this case, the doors might be two completely different colors and styles. With an uncertain future economy and many companies implementing hiring freezes, there may be limited opportunities in the industries you’ve worked in previously. But that’s okay! Be open minded and try something new.  These industries are currently experiencing higher demand and actively looking for new hires. Check out anything and everything, it can only help, and don’t be afraid to pursue a role that aligns with your passions.

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