I know firsthand what it’s like to get a pink slip. I was one in a mass of layoffs due to a new head honcho cleaning house. After years at this company, I was devastated. My husband followed me on the pink slip trail several months later, laid off from the same company, two weeks before Christmas. So all the job fears and pain of being let go during the holidays is all too real in our house.
1) File for unemployment. Swallow your pride (otherwise known as: get over yourself!) and ask for what’s yours. Unemployment is not welfare. When we’re employed we all pay for our government unemployment insurance so all you’re doing is applying for what’s yours. Unemployment filing differs from state to state so search online for your state’s unemployment filing process. Most states don’t even require you to wait in that dismal line at the office anymore—you can file online or over the phone and benefits can be paid to you via a debit card. It can take up to two weeks to get your first payment but don’t sniff at the couple hundred to several hundred dollars that come to you, max. That money pays some bills and helps keep you on your feet.
2) Look into your health coverage. If you were lucky enough to get a severance package, you may have extended health coverage for a while but know that you may not be able to find a job before they end. Talk to the benefits office of your former company and have them get for you an estimate of what COBRA will cost you. My husband and I were shocked to find out that (as I’d just had a baby) our new monthly bill for health insurance was going to be $1,260 a month. TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS! That’s big money for almost anyone. Look for less pricey options. If you’re a member of a guild or a union or professional group, you have access to lower cost group-insurance coverage. We became members of the Freelancers Union—as we decided to work for ourselves—and saved $400 a month (!!) on insurance coverage and it was nearly the same exact policy. Another option is high-deductible insurance. You pay a high deductible (sometimes $5,000 or more) so your monthly costs are very low but at least you protect yourself from owing hundreds of thousands of dollars should you get a serious illness or injury. Better to owe $5,000 than $50,000.
3) Consider going solo. If your industry looks bleak (as many do these days) and you know that employers have just closed their books on full-time hires, turn into a freelancer/consultant/independent contractor. It’s a big shift to market yourself and manage a business from home but many employers are happy to see you again and pay you on a piecemeal basis. If you do go out on your own, make sure to make it official, tax-wise. Become a sole proprietorship or LLC (as my husband and I did). The costs of an official business designation are well worth it, as you’ll save a tremendous amount in taxes. Head over to Entrepreneur.com for more tips on going out on your own.