In mid-September 2011, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the weekly number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits jumped to 428,000—the highest level in three months.
Getting fired can leave you shell-shocked, especially if you didn’t see the pink slip coming or if you thought your job was somehow “safe” from downsizing.
Regardless of whether you expected to get the axe or not, there are some things you can and should do in the immediate aftermath of being terminated.
I know this from personal experience—having lost my job as a Wall Street Journal reporter for CNBC in 2003 amid a company-wide downsizing.
If you do get fired, here are my three best tips on what to do instantly following your notice of termination.
1. Don’t sign anything.
Chances are your manager or the human resources representative for the company may attempt to get to you to sign some paperwork. It could be anything from a non‑disclosure form, to a non‑compete clause, to a separation agreement.
Frankly, signing any such documents is not in your best interest — at least not immediately, since it’s hard to think rationally and clearly when you’ve just been fired.
So tell your boss or the human resources manager that you need some time, possibly a few days, to review the documents and to think things over in order to be certain that what you’re signing is perfectly acceptable to you.
Once you balk at instantly signing paperwork, most companies’ strategy will be to subtly (or overtly) pressure you into signing as soon as possible. Some employers may even state that the terms of your separation agreement are good only for “x” amount of time.
Legally, that may or may not be kosher. But don’t think for a moment that whatever severance package they offer you will be yanked simply because you refuse to sign paperwork right there on the spot. That simply isn’t true.
Besides, after you have a chance to analyze all the terms of your separation paperwork, you may decide to negotiate for a better severance package.