Photo by Spoungeworthy
You know it’s coming. You see the closed-door meetings, the boss who can’t look you in the eye, the stories on the local news. The storm is coming. You’re about to lose your job.
There are a couple ways to handle this. You can spend all of your time at work moping, whispering to your co-workers, defiantly surfing the internet instead of working, and generally feeling sorry for yourself. That’s tempting, but a passive approach will only increase your stress level. There’s no sense in making this even harder than it needs to be.
A better approach is to take some immediate steps to make this whole thing easier on yourself. Stress comes in large part from a feeling of powerlessness, and there’s a lot you can do to combat that feeling. Here are some things you should be doing:
- Clean out your desk. Don’t take home all of the stuff on your shelves, walls, and other visible areas just yet (because that’s just depressing and obvious). Now is the time, though, to clean out the personal items in your desk drawers, go through your files, take the personal stuff off of your computer that you really shouldn’t have on your work computer to begin with, etc. Get all of your personal contacts off of your company cell phone too. You never know how much lead time you are going to get when they actually give you the news, and you may not have the chance to do this stuff when the the time comes. It’s also a lot more depressing to do it with someone standing there watching you (yes, some companies insist on having someone stand there and watch you clean out your desk). Keep a few shopping bags hidden in your office, so that when you have to clean out the rest, you can get it done quickly and get out. The longer it takes, the more it’s going to suck.
- Get your LinkedIn profile done, and get those “invitations to connect” out. When you are still technically employed, it’s much easier to click that “Add Pat to your network” button. When you’re out of work, you’re going to feel like a loser, and it’s going to be a little humiliating to be reaching out to people you haven’t seen for a while (it shouldn’t feel that way, but it does). Do it NOW, so you’re ready.
- Get your resume done. I can’t say enough how important it is to get the resume done before you’re unemployed. In those first few weeks, you’re going to feel like crap. A person who feels like crap is not going to be as effective in terms of writing a fabulous resume. People tend to put this off until they absolutely HAVE to do it…but it will not get easier. Seriously, do it NOW.
- Get your medical stuff done. If you’re due for an annual exam or you need your teeth cleaned or your prescriptions filled, take care of that stuff now, while you still have insurance.
- Get information on your new financial picture. Find out how much you’ll get for unemployment, so you can start planning. You should find this on your state’s website. In fact, in most states you can file for unemployment online, so you’ll need to have the site bookmarked anyway. Read the eligibility requirements too, because if you’re not going to be eligible for some reason, you’re going to want to know that sooner rather than later. If you’re lucky enough to be eligible for a severance package at work, check your company’s intranet site and see if you can find out what that will look like, and find out how much your COBRA payments are going to be. If your kids are in daycare, find out how much notice you have to give to get them out (my center required 30 days, which is pretty standard). The more you know about your financial situation beforehand, the better. Depending on your state and the circumstances surrounding your job loss, you may be eligible for other aid as well; check out this long list of services for unemployed Wisconsinites. If this stuff is out there for you, use it. Your tax dollars paid for it.
- Work out your new budget. I was fortunate enough to have a pretty good idea that I was going to be leaving my job long before it actually happened. I started working on my budget right away, and I found some places to cut well before I stopped working. I also calculated the cost savings of NOT working, which in my case was a big chunk of money (I had two little kids in expensive daycare, and I commuted 40 miles/day in a minivan at a time when gas was $4.19/gallon). In places where you’re going to need to make cuts, make them now. I was glad I cut the Netflix subscription, the expensive cell phone contract, etc. beforehand, because it gave me a chance to get used to those changes before I had to deal with the larger adjustment to being home. The more you can spread out the big changes over time, the easier they’ll be to digest.
- Make a list of things you’re going to do when you’re home. One of the toughest adjustments to unemployment (aside from the lack of income) is the lack of structure. You’re used to getting up and going to work, and suddenly…nothing. This is sort of fun for the first week, but after that some people find it really depressing. Ideally, you’ll spend a lot of time job hunting, but give some thought to other things you can be doing. Are there webinars you’ve meant to do? Could you learn to use Twitter? Tackle that reading list? Clean out the basement? Start planning now, so that you can turn to this list when you’re feeling sluggish and depressed. You might even find that there are things you can look forward to in this whole thing.
- Find stuff for the kids. My oldest child turned 3 the week after I stopped working. She’d been in daycare since she was 13 weeks old, so suddenly being home with me and her baby brother was a huge adjustment for all of us. I spent some time finding free or cheap activities for us, and that helped a lot. For example, Barnes and Noble offers a free story time for kids, and the local children’s museum has tons of activities during the day that I’d never known about. Our local park and recreation department has all sorts of cheap classes, and our nearby mall has free activities for kids in the summer as well. There are tons of websites out there with free coloring pages you can print, art projects you can try, etc. There’s a whole world of stuff out there for kids that working parents don’t always know about. Check it out—it’ll make the transition much easier on you AND your kids. It will get all of you away from the TV/computer for a bit, and you might even have fun.
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