How to Deal With an Unexpected Job Loss

Man sitting on sofa holding mug looking sad
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Sometimes you can see a job loss coming from a mile away but often it is unexpected ... and extremely jarring. If you just became unemployed, you are probably dealing with a lot of different feelings right now. The most prominent one  is  probably fear. Unemployment makes you wonder how you are going to survive financially, what you will do if you become ill and what your next steps should be. Find out how to answer all these concerns and hopefully, ease your fears.

  1. The first thing you have to do when you lose your job is find out if you are eligible for government unemployment benefits. Your financial survival may depend on receiving a weekly check. If you live in the US, individual states determine eligibility. See How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits.
  2. Determine how long your financial resources will last. If you can avoid it, you don't want to deplete your savings or increase your debt. You will need to devise a budget that allows you to cut down on your expenses as much as you can.
  3. If your former employer provided a health insurance plan as part of your benefits package, you are going to have to find out how to pay for one on your own. An illness can wipe out your savings and put you into serious debt very quickly. Most likely, you will be able to continue your group benefits through COBRA (The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). Contact your former employer's employee benefits office or human resources department.
  1. Determine whether a career change is in order. If layoffs are rampant in your field, you may want to consider making a change to a field that is growing, or at least stable. Make sure you do your homework first because you don't want to end up once again in a field with too few employment opportunities.
  1. In addition to taking care to choose an occupation that has a decent outlook, you will want to make sure it's suitable for you. Doing a self-assessment will allow you to learn what your interests, work-related values, personality type and aptitudes are so you can match them to appropriate careers. You may need professional help with this.
  2. Take this time to spruce up your skills. Find out which ones are most valuable to employers in your field and sign up for classes or find free online tutorials. Look for low-cost training programs offered by local organizations.
  3. It is probable that your primary objective is finding a new job as soon as possible. The only exception might be that you are planning to change careers and can afford not to work while you prepare for your new occupation. First you will need a competitive resume. Make sure it highlights the skills that are most in demand in your field and is free of even minor errors. Let people in your professional network know what's happening and don't be ashamed to ask for job leads. Next, review your job interviewing skills. Practice answering questions and go through your closet and choose appropriate attire.


    1. Realize you are in a very stressful situation, and being upset, or even angry, is normal.
    2. Take a little break to evaluate your situation, but try not to wallow in self-pity.
    3. Learn from this experience.

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