14.4  How to Protect Yourself After A Job Loss

Unemployment is one of the most extreme challenges in life. It tests your character. It tests your mettle - your ability to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way.

If you are laid off, getting a new job is a priority. But there are other things that require your immediate attention. The first thing you need to do is to apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI) through the Employment Development Department. The money is there to help sustain you at the minimum level while you seek other work. You are eligible if you have been laid off through no fault of your own from your last job, and if you are available for work and actively seeking work. File your UI claim as soon as possible after a layoff so that you can receive it immediately.

Second, you need to file for a COBRA on your health insurance or purchase health insurance on the open market. When you receive a jolt to the system like being laid off, your health can suffer and you can find yourself more accident-prone as you try to regain your sense of self. If at all possible, you do not want to be uncovered. If you are young you may be able to obtain health insurance through your parents or cheaply through the national health insurance program. I purchased Kaiser Health Insurance for my daughter during her job search, insurance that includes dental and vision coverage for a very reasonable price.

Third, you will want to reign in your spending immediately. It is essential that you preserve your cash resources. Financial experts recommend that you have six months to one year’s cash reserves to see you through a prolonged stretch of unemployment. The average length of time that it takes to get a job is three to six months. Looking for work is a full time, forty hour a week job. Stop spending immediately and figure out how you are going to make it through this rough spot. If you are just starting your career, usher your resources. Ask your parents for help as you go through the job search. If you need to, get a roommate or live with your family to cut down on expenses. And do not make big expenditures that will burden you with debt. Even after you get a job, save for a rainy day.

After you attend to the basics, you need to concentrate on getting a job. Your attitude, beliefs and behavior are extremely important to your ability to get a new job rapidly. Don’t stop looking for work because you think you need a break. Delaying a search just complicates things. Employers wonder what took you so long and worry you got a bit stale.

In the midst of the layoff trauma, it is important to remember that you will get another job. I remember a VP of engineering who once told me that being laid off was an opportunity to reinvent himself. He had worked in a number of start-up companies, as well as in larger engineering firms, and layoffs were a part of life. He explained to me that as an engineer, if a company has contracts and projects, then you have a job. If not, they cannot afford to keep everyone on through a down turn. He told me that he always found a better job, even in the tightest economy.  Like I said... Attitude is everything...