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Ramit Sethi: Here's how to plan for losing your job

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Ramit Sethi: Here's how to plan for losing your job

It's an uncertain time when it comes to holding down your job. While some states have been able to relax their stay-at-home orders and bring people back to work, other states have seen the number of Covid-19 cases spike, forcing them to again shut down businesses and activities to curb the spread of the virus. 

That can make it very hard to determine if your job is safe, or if you've been furloughed, if your job is coming back. For some, those job losses will be permanent. About 11% of Americans who are out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic don't have a good chance of getting called back to their old jobs, according to recent research from the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. And with coronavirus cases increasing in several states, there are recent signs that layoffs may start to increase again and hiring will slow down.

With so much uncertainty, it can help to start thinking ahead, says Ramit Sethi, personal finance coach and best-selling author of "I Will Teach You to be Rich." If you're worried that your job may be at risk, there are four big steps you can take today that can help make an eventual layoff less painful, Sethi says.

1. Accept reality

"One of the key principles to your employment right now is to accept reality," Sethi says. You can't walk around thinking it won't happen to you. Ask yourself honestly: Is my industry at risk? 

If you suspect that the answer is yes, take a closer look at your company and your job specifically. What's the company's financial situation? How many other people do your job?

"To really be brutally honest, unfortunately, there's not always a silver lining and some people will be laid off," Sethi says. Some industries, some companies and some jobs will disappear because of the pandemic, he says. 

If you feel that your job is at risk, the first thing to do is just acknowledge it doesn't feel good, Sethi says. "There is a grieving process that has to happen," he adds.

But keep in mind that while you can't change what's happening outside, you can control your reaction to it, which is Sethi's second step. 

2. Be proactive

The ratio of unemployed workers to job openings as of mid-June is about 3.6 people for every available position, according to EPI. That means it's important to get ahead of any potential job loss as opposed to waiting until you're unemployed and trying to find something to keep you financially afloat, Sethi says. 

"Don't get your back against the wall; don't wait to react," Sethi says. Make a plan as soon as you can that includes how you'll need to adjust your spending and who you might approach to get leads on available jobs. If you do end up losing your job, at least you will have a basic playbook that you can follow, Sethi says.

Unemployment typically takes an emotional, mental and financial toll on everyone. But remember that a lot of people are going through this and it doesn't have to be a shameful thing, especially if you plan ahead. "Everyone knows someone who has been laid off," Sethi says. "The better a plan you have before it happens,  the better off you will be."

3. Start tightening up your budget

If you're at all worried about the possibility of being laid off, Sethi recommends cutting your spending drastically — and doing so as soon as possible. "Take a look at all the expenses you've got and target a couple of your biggest discretionary areas," he says. Evaluate what you spend on dining out, groceries and entertainment, as well as recurring expenses like gym memberships, streaming services and monthly subscriptions for food, clothing and beauty products.

Once you have a good estimate of your spending, decide what's essential and what can you live without until you're back on your feet financially. 

4. Hit up your network

Even before you're laid off, "I would tell everyone I know that I'm going to be looking for a job," Sethi says. "It's easier to get a job when you are still employed. If you have the option to tell people about your job search while you are still employed, it's advantageous to you."

When approaching people, make sure you're clear about what you're looking for in a job. Ask your friends, family, colleagues, former colleagues and even acquaintances: Can you introduce me to anyone, even for just 15 minutes of conversation?

"A lot of people get nervous about, Should I post this on social media? What if my boss sees it?" Sethi says. For most people, that's not worth worrying about, he says. If you are concerned, start with your immediate network of family and close friends.

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Among those in your immediate circle, reach out to the people with a strong network first. "They can't tell you about the job if they don't know that you're looking," Sethi says. 

If you are comfortable sharing your job search more widely, social media, including LinkedIn and Twitter, can be helpful, Sethi says. "That will tap into that lurker network of people who you may not be connected to," he adds. 

Keep in mind that the most important thing is not the tactic you use to look for a new job: It's your psychology. Be open and willing to let people help you.

"There's nothing shameful about looking for a job. There's nothing shameful about telling people, Hey, I'm really good at what I do. And I'm looking for something new. Here's what I'm looking for and I would love your help," Sethi says. "There's nothing shameful about finding a job."

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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