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The job market has taken a beating from the national recession, and many hard-working people, even those who have been with the same company for decades, have been laid off. If you've been laid off, you're probably experiencing a wide range of emotions and wondering what to do next. While it's natural to feel angry and confused, know that you are not alone. The keys to surviving a layoff lie in knowing what resources you have available, using those resources responsibly and carefully considering what you want to do next.
First, determine your severance benefits. Many companies provide information regarding severance pay, health insurance coverage and payment of accrued time-off. If you don't receive this information, ask your company's human resources department if you can have the layoff terms in writing. You'll likely be asked to sign the agreement, but don't be pressured to do it on the spot. Ask for additional time for review. You many want to consider having your attorney look at it as well.
Apply for unemployment assistance immediately to avoid losing any entitled benefits. Employment assistance benefits individuals who have lost their job through no fault of their own. You can file a claim online, or by telephone at 1-877-OHIOJOB.
Look into health insurance. In most cases, federal law gives you the right to retain your health insurance through a program called COBRA. While it can be expensive, going without insurance may prove to be more costly if you need medical care. Your employer is required to provide information about COBRA. Don't wait to review it because enrollment deadlines are based on your last day of employment. If you can't afford COBRA, check if you are able to access your spouse's insurance.
Examine your finances. Determine what your new income will be and then add up your necessary expenses, such as food, housing, transportation, utilities and insurance. Then, look at ways to reduce them, such as getting rid of your land line if you have a cell phone, or shopping around for savings on your car insurance. Scrutinize your spending habits and eliminate unnecessary expenses. If the money coming in still is not enough to meet the cost of your essentials, consider contacting your creditors to ask for reduced payments. They will be more likely to work with you if they hear from you before you fall behind.
Resist the urge to tap into retirement funds. Accessing money from a traditional IRA before you are 59½ years old will cost you. Early access not only reduces how much will be available to you when you do retire, in most cases, it also results in income taxes on the amount you withdraw, as well as a 10 percent penalty. This is different from a Roth IRA and other funds into which you contribute post-tax money. They allow you to access your funds with no penalties. Get advice from your financial planner before accessing retirement funds to pay for daily expenses during a layoff.
Begin your job search. Resist the urge to wait weeks before starting. Determine what type of position you want. If you want something similar to what you were doing, get your resume in order and start identifying potential employers. Do your research and target companies that are doing well. If you decide now is the time for a career change, find out what you need to do so that you're qualified, such as take certification classes?
Don't underestimate the power of networking. You should always be networking, even when you are employed. Build your contact network and make it a point to keep in regular communication with those people. Be careful not to burn bridges, including your former bosses. Reach out to your network to let them know that you are looking.
While being laid-off is one of the most stressful life experiences for many people, it's important to not give up. Focus on what you need to get by and on securing a new job. Anticipate issues and avoid making decisions that will end up costing you more in the long run. Most of all, be patient and persistent.