Though some states are seeing a decline in jobless numbers, the national rate remains high, at 9.6%, and the rate for African Americans, though declining is still at a disparaging 15.7%. With joblessness can come feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and loss. And unfortunately, it’s during this time of year–around the holidays–that most companies begin to evaluate the size and needs of their companies and begin to make those tough decisions.
But if you’ve been fired or laid off, it’s important to know your next step, so that you can have a plan of action. Giving up is not an option, and all this week in our series, “So You’ve Been Fired… Now What?” we’ll give you the tools and inspiration you need to move forward. Your first step? Knowing what you should do immediately upon hearing those words: “We have to let you go.”
Kelly A. Morgan, CEO of SAGE Professional Strategies L.L.C., and author of Journey to a Place Called THERE: A Navigation Guide for Creating a Balanced Life, (Scribe, Etc; 1$16.95) offers these tips:
First, take a deep breath, focus, and try to think clearly. “Don’t let the emotion of the news cloud your thinking,” Morgan says. “You will have time to decompress and feel the impact of the situation later.”
Depending on the circumstance, know that the options can slightly differ. “Being laid off typically means you may be called back to work, although there is generally no guarantee of timing,” Morgan says. This is not the case with being fired.
- If you were laid off, ask about compensation options. Severance packages generally cover a certain number of weeks of pay and any payout for unused and accrued vacation. Ask about unused vacation, accrued vacation, and bonus payments. Know the details of your unemployment benefits and your eligibility. Also, find out how unemployment benefits may be affected when you do find employment and how it will affect your taxes.
- Contact and sign up with direct placement and temporary agencies, Morgan advises. Be prepared to provide your resume and to complete a phone and/or on-site interview and placement test to assess your skills in various areas.
- When job searching, be honest if you were fired. “Despite any ill-feelings you may have toward your former employer, do not bad-mouth your supervisor or management,” Morgan says. “Be honest and succinct in your explanation.”
Get information on your health insurance coverage. Your company should provide you with information on how to continue your current medical and dental benefits via COBRA which will cost more than the employee contribution you made from each paycheck. Clarify exactly when your current benefits will end and whether the company will cover a certain number of months.
Adjust your budget accordingly. Determine your household goals for managing the necessary expenses as well as maintaining your savings and investments, Morgan says. Also, any extras, such as cable or eating out, may need to be cut down or cut altogether.
Know your rights. Many states have at-will employment laws and in those states, employees can be fired and resign at any time without providing a reason. If you feel you have legitimate facts regarding your termination that clearly shows you were a victim of discrimination, harassment, or unfair labor practices, legal action may be taken. Be sure to be aware of the legal expenses involved in litigation.
Assess your skills and how to maximize them in alternative ways. “Perhaps now is a good time for a career change and to begin working in an area that is more enjoyable for you,” Morgan says. Consider whether you have the personality and desire for consulting and entrepreneurship. “If there is something you always wanted to do, why not try it out. Go for it! You may surprise yourself!”
Read more from our series, “So You’ve Been Fired… Now What?”