That first week was not what I expected. I thought for sure I’d be depressed, but I was more relieved than depressed. It helped that I found ways to stay busy, and that I got out of the apartment a lot. One of the best pieces of advice I got was to talk to people, and not to sit around the apartment. So, I went to a coffee shop, and talked to some of the people there. Turns out one of them was also recently out of work (turns out a lot of people you meet during work hours aren’t working, shocking, I know). He and I met several times for coffee, and lunch, and helped each other in our job searches. Recently, he found the job he had been looking for!
I also spent more time talking to friends on the phone more than I normally do. Frankly, maintaining close friendships has never been a skill of mine. I have a lot of friends, but few truly close friends. At least as I understand “best” friend. These talks were valuable on two fronts. First, many of them had been laid off in the past, and had a lot of good advice. Second, and more important, I could express my feelings to people that weren’t my spouse or kids, so I didn’t need to guard anything I was saying. Of course, I didn’t really need to guard things with my spouse either, but sometimes you need someone else to share fears with, other than the person you live with….
Enough about getting out and about, there are additional things you need to do this first week.
Apply for Unemployment Benefits
Heh. If you’ve read any other pages, you may have seen this one already….but please, don’t make the same mistake I made. Apply for Unemployment compensation right away. It’s not welfare, it’s not a handout. This is a system that exists for just this circumstance. Information can be found on the Unemployment section of this site.
Have a Plan for Health Insurance
If you got your insurance through this job, you need to plan to replace that coverage. One of the main causes of bankruptcy in the US is large health care costs. I know people that go without health insurance. But, most people would not recommend this. Indeed, we are required by law to have insurance. I have a longer article on this elsewhere, but here are the most likely options.
- Your spouse may have insurance coverage available through his/her job.
- COBRA is a program whereby you can buy insurance through your former employer for up to 18 months. This will not be cheap…
- Private insurance purchased in the market
- Public insurance offerings, if you qualify
This is a topic not to be put off, or ignored. Spend some time this first week understanding your options, and making a decision. For most of us, the decision is fairly obvious once we look at the details of each option.
Take Care of Yourself
I’m going to combine several things from the checklist in this section. Getting laid off can lead to all kinds of health issues.
First and foremost, it is a blow to our mental health.
In my talks with people who have lost jobs, the most common thing I hear (and I experienced it too) is a loss of identity. What’s one of the first things you are asked when you first meet someone in the US? “What do you do?” or, what is your job. In Europe, that’s less common. In the US, much of our identity is tied up in our jobs. So, a good first step is to realize that you aren’t your job. You are a lot of things, friend, partner, parent, child, golfer (or whatever hobbies you have), random person on the bus…..you are so many things.
That said, for many of us, half or more of our waking day was spent at work. Losing our jobs is a big deal. There are a lot of ways to get through this grieving. The best way is to confront it, and to decide (eventually) that you aren’t your job, and that you are as good and important as any other person. But, know that for many, this will take a lot of time. And your emotions will go from high to low a lot on this journey. For me, it was all triggers. I’d feel better about losing my job, and then someone from work would text me. Or, someone would ask how the job hunt was going. In fairness to them, those are all good things to do…..but also in fairness to us, they can trigger negative thoughts. Acknowledge your feelings, and identify the trigger, and realize your job isn’t you, and you’ll be able to move on.
Next, take care of yourself physically
Loss can lead to depression and other things. Those things often lead to us not eating well. And not exercising. And maybe drinking more than we did/should.
Start Assessing Your Finances
For many people, losing a job is going to lead to tough financial situations. We were lucky. We had sold a house about 18 months before I got laid off, and had the profits invested in some lucky stocks. We had more freedom to decide what I’d do next than a lot of people have. Even with that, there are still days and weeks where we worry about money, and need to make decisions about how we are spending our money. I’ve cancelled several subscriptions, and we’ve (somewhat) cut back on eating out.
If you don’t have a budget, or aren’t really sure where all your money goes, now is a good time to figure that out.