Free time thrust upon me.
April 21, 2010 1:23 PM   Subscribe

What next after being laid off?

Laid off today. Knew it was coming but wasn't prepared. Live in California. Realize I'm the rule not the exception. Still a bit of a shock. What have other Mefites done? I'm married, my wife still has her job and I have a small severance and maybe some unemployment. Want to just go deep into my guitar and yoga practice but probably not practical. Anyone want to offer advice? Thanks so much - grateful for any responses. Oh, and I'm 41. Good lord.
posted by philad to Work & Money (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, it's a shock. Take it easy. Get ready for a lot of networking. There will be emotional ups and downs for a while, so be prepared for them. Apply for unemployment today or tomorrow -- no point in waiting.

I've been there a couple of times -- and am, in fact, there now.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:27 PM on April 21, 2010

* apply for unemployment ASAP. Do not EVER expect to talk to a human being at EDD, all you get to do is send in paperwork, and in a few weeks they send you small checks. You have to send in paperwork saying that you're applying for jobs.
* start applying for any freaking job you can find ASAP
* stop spending money ASAP
* pray like hell.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:29 PM on April 21, 2010

What kind of job were you laid off from? Without more background info, it's going to be difficult answering you.

I'm an advertising art director, also married, no kids, 39. I got laid off last year, along with many others in my field. I took a week off, then built my own website with my portfolio. I learned how to do that from the ground up. It's a very basic site, but it's clean and most importantly it showcases my work.

I connected with people through Facebook and LinkedIn. I collected unemployment, and kept my insurance through COBRA. I contacted headhunters. I got a few interviews.

I got contacted by someone through Facebook and have been freelancing for the last 5 months, making far more money than I did at my last job. I was unemployed for 3 1/2 months. I was lucky, but I also spent a lot of time devoted to getting another job. Without the website I built, I'd probably still be looking.

My advice is to network as much as possible through the people in your old job, and through their network of friends. Facebook isn't just for screwing around.

Good luck.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:32 PM on April 21, 2010

Nice thing about being laid off is that it gives you a chance to take stock.

Step 0: Don't Panic.
Step 1: Apply for unemployment.
Step 2: Adjust your budget.

After that, figure out what you have and where you want to go. Happy with your career? Look for jobs in the same field. If not, this is a perfect time to get training for something else. Or if you've always thought about striking out on your own, give it a whirl, but set limits: "If I don't have income in six months, it's time to get a job," or whatever applies to your situation.

I got laid off in 1999 - spent seven years running my own business before a much better job came along just as I'd about had it with my own business (turns out, my boss was kind of a dick.)

But take a few minutes / hours / days / weeks and consider the alternatives to getting another job (while filing for unemployment and re-jiggering the budget).
posted by DaveP at 1:36 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would recommend trying to keep your regular schedule. You lost one job, but gained another. Your new job is finding a new job. Don't just do yoga all the time while waking up at 2pm and whatnot (although I think spending some time with your hobbies is a great way to take the edge off). Also, since your wife is going to be taking on the brunt of the financial responsibility, up the amount of housework you do. It's only fair. Basically you don't want to lose "purpose": house work, applying to jobs, hobbies.

And it's definitely worth doing what other people said and looking into nontraditional income streams while putting yourself out there.
posted by wooh at 1:40 PM on April 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Go - play your guitar and do some yoga. Greet your wife when she gets home, let her know what happened and what you need, if it is alone time or some support. If you decide to immerse yourself in guitar and yoga, do it until you feel calm. Try not to let this go on for more than three days. At the three day mark (or if you feel better earlier than this), this is a list of steps I would recommend.

1. Send a thank you and goodbye note to your boss. Let him/her know that it was good working for them (even if it wasn't), that you appreciate their professionalism (even if you don't) and that you wish them best of luck in the future. There is no sense in burning bridges and a good reference will come in handy. If possible, send a goodbye email to your former coworkers. Your coworkers may be aware of opportunities at other companies, so provide your personal email address for future correspondence.

2. Determine if you are eligible for employment insurance. I'm not sure what California's laws are - Hopefully others in this thread who will be able to point you in the right direction.

3. Collect together all your credit card statements, bills, bank account statements etc. Try to figure out where most of your money goes each month. You don't need to alter your activities, but it's good to have a clear picture of what changes you could make in the future in needed.

4. Think about what you want to do. Did you love your job? Hate it? Which parts? You now have a great opportunity to think about your life and what you would like the next stage of it to be. I recently came across this and thought it would be quite useful.
posted by valoius at 1:48 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's a shock. Take it easy. Get ready for a lot of networking. There will be emotional ups and downs for a while, so be prepared for them. Apply for unemployment today or tomorrow -- no point in waiting.


I thought I was an emotionally stable person, but I also underestimated just how much I defined myself by my job. I wasn't really cool until I let go of that notion, and that took a while.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:51 PM on April 21, 2010

Exact same thing happened to me a month ago and since it is the rule, I was prepared. What the others have said:

* Apply for UI ASAP. Getting somebody on the phone from home is impossible, so if you need to talk to them, go to an EDD office. They have phones you can use to call in. It's a 30 minute or so wait. I haven't received my first check yet, but it's supposedly about 50% of my prior take home income.

* If you were getting health insurance through your work, check to see if you qualify for the federal COBRA subsidy. They cover 65% of the bill which has been a big relief since my bill would've been $500 w/out the subsidy.

* Tell everybody you know that you're looking. I've had friends talk me up to their employers and send me job leads.

* Because I'm a late comer compared to other friends & relatives to getting laid off, I get the benefit of their experience. One friend had a really good suggestion for UI - keep an Excel sheet of every single job you apply for. Besides using it to fill out the bi-weekly form, it's there as a record if you have to go through an interview with EDD. Also even if you decide to volunteer, do not mention this in regards to UI. Unpaid work is considered work and you could not get paid for any time frame where you're doing volunteer work.
posted by gov_moonbeam at 1:52 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

You now have a great opportunity to think about your life and what you would like the next stage of it to be

Yes, this exactly. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's an opportunity. You get to choose what to do with your life. You have Unemployment and a spouse with an income- you won't starve.

Of course you should look for a job, and help out more around the house. But there's no need to flagellate yourself- you didn't do anything wrong. The sky won't fall if you take a week or two to concentrate on your hobbies and decompress.

And I have heard that "looking for a job should be your full-time job" thing so many times and it sounds good but... come on. There's something to said for not sleeping in til 3pm, yes. But I would love to watch a videotape of someone honestly filling 8 hours a day, every day, with "job hunting." Send some resumes, make some phone calls, put your resume up on the appropriate websites. But it honestly doesn't take more than an hour or two per day. You can spend the rest of the day playing guitar and you won't get a job any slower.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:00 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with several posters above - apply for unemployment NOW (as in today if possible), then look at your financial situation. That should give you an idea of how long you can get by on just your wife's salary, and whether a paycut is feasible.

After that (and before starting a job search!), look at your long-term plans a bit. Do you like the field you're in? Anything you can do to improve your marketability (classes, certification, etc)? If you've been contemplating a career change, this might be a good opportunity to pursue it.

If it helps, I got laid off early 2009 and was in a far worse situation - didn't get a severance, stuck with a house that wouldn't sell, etc. After several months of fruitless job searching, I decided I'd had enough and realized that I should seize the opportunity to make some long-overdue changes in my life. A year later, I'm living overseas working in an unrelated field - I took a pay cut in the process, but am now much happier than I ever was in a cubicle. In some respects, getting laid off was the kick in the butt I needed to get out of a job that was making miserable.

So take a deep breath, relax, and have faith that everything will work out - it will!
posted by photo guy at 2:09 PM on April 21, 2010

Thanks so much - very good advice. Sounds like I need to maintain some structure and get that unemployment claim in pronto. For the various people who asked: I was a claims adjuster and miserable the whole time (yes, I'm a knucklehead).
posted by philad at 2:22 PM on April 21, 2010

photo guy: what industry did you work in before and after, if you don't mind me asking? A lot of people in these sorts of threads talk about "big life changes" but its easier said than done.
posted by wooh at 2:24 PM on April 21, 2010

Write down every place you apply. Date, time, website.

Keep a calendar exclusively for tracking working time and money earned.

Both of these will help if/when you get audited for unemployment.

Good luck.
posted by tilde at 2:33 PM on April 21, 2010

* apply for unemployment ASAP.

This. I'm in Indiana, so I have no idea how things work in Cali, but...When I was laid-off 5 years ago, I made the big mistake in thinking I could immediately turn-around, be the big-time entrepreneur, and build a thriving freelance business.

It didn't quite turn out that way, though. And, since I didn't apply immediately, I now cannot get any assistance.

Apply now.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:03 PM on April 21, 2010

I was just laid off in the middle of February, and I was totally unprepared, so much so that I'd just bought a new car two weeks prior. Awesome.

My office laid off about 15% of their work force, so they sprung for a consultant to meet with us for two days. I was very reluctant to attend, but I decided I'd go the first day. It turned out to be very useful. Or, maybe I'm just that naive about applying for jobs.

The two biggest tips he gave us were:

1) Prepare ways to talk about yourself--both in person and on your resume. Develop a position statement and highlight your accomplishments, not just your duties. For example, I could say that I was responsible for preparing the program book, or I could tell them how I reduced the production budget and added additional books to our portfolio. Your resume becomes talking points for an interview, so you're preparing your interviewer to ask you about your accomplishments. The big things were 1) develop a way to explain how you left your last job and 2) prepare a short statement about what you want to do.

2) The "hidden" job market. I can't remember the statistics, but it was something like 80% of the people who change jobs take a job that was never advertised (and you know, those stats could be wrong too). They discover their next job through their network of professional and personal contacts. Contact people, don't just let them know that you're looking, but let them know what you want to do, what skills you want to use in your next position. If they send you a contact, follow-up, let them know how it went. LinkedIn helped me a lot with this, and I ended up with a freelance job that way.

I just started a new job this week. My printer sales rep knew of the company and sent them my resume. Another person in my batch of layoffs who just started working again is working for the ad agency who handled my old organizations media buying.

But, be sure to take some time to deal with your emotional well being too. I was shocked and panicked and for about two days, I was like a cartoon of unemployment. It got better. If your office is offering some career counseling, take advantage of it. It's not always the waste of time that you think it is.

Good luck, and be sure to take some time for yoga and guitar and family and friends. Those things will help keep you sane.
posted by gladly at 3:06 PM on April 21, 2010

* pray like hell.

I'm sorry but these sorts of hysterics are not helpful or even necessary. This is a tangible problem to be solved and treating it as if you're at the whim of wholly unseen forces is, forgive me, absolute nonsense.

As someone who is currently employed but has been laid off in the past, my main advice is to remain calm. You'll survive. Lots of people are in your position now. Get whatever unemployment you can and try to be as thrifty as you'll can. Seriously, everyone here telling you to take a deep breath and remain calm has got it right.

You'll get through this.
posted by dhammond at 3:12 PM on April 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

This has happened to my friends. This has happened to my family. Last month, this happened to me. Good news: everyone is still alive.

- keep a regular schedule (but don't feel guilty if you spend a day in the park)
- practice a healthy lifestyle (don't abuse drugs or alcohol)
- look into private health insurance (may be cheaper than cobra)
- trim your budget (stop going out to eat, etc.)
- get socialized digitally (twitter, facebook, linkedin)
- get socialized in reality (invite friends over for dinner)
- use your extra time to nurture interests (yoga, guitar)
- think about Plan A, Plan B, Plan C (if the job search flounders, look into furthering your education, etc.)
- stay positive (this too shall pass)

A simple exercise:
Imagine and write down five different future lives. Brainstorm about where you live, the work you do and the people you surround yourself with. Don't judge what comes to mind. Share what you write with your wife. Ask her to share her thoughts.

Then roll up your sleeves and get started on the next chapter.
posted by quadog at 4:27 PM on April 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

You might think it cheesy, you might not. But there's a movie (watch it for free at Hulu: Lemonade) that's about people (a lot of advertising folks, but some others) who, upon getting laid off, took the opportunity to pivot their life and point it in a more intentional direction.

It's short, and definitely worth checking out, especially in your situation. If Future MeFites are reading this and the Hulu link is broken for some reason, the movie's website is here:
posted by Alt F4 at 4:51 PM on April 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Same age as you, same employment situation. Weirdly, I was also laid off on a Wednesday. Yes, apply for unemployment now. After that, you should take a brief break and then get back in the hunt. Think of it as a vacation. Chances are you haven't had one of those lately, huh?
posted by Gilbert at 7:44 PM on April 21, 2010

I second the suggestion that you take a brief break/vacation. (First apply for unemployment, though. Then take a brief break.) Do yoga, cook from scratch, play a lot of guitar.

When you're ready to start networking and job hunting, I recommend making a schedule for it -- search online for jobs for an hour, and keep them all in tabs. Then take a break for an hour or two and do something else. Come back later to apply for the jobs, and take your time writing thoughtful cover letters for each one. (After a while, you'll find that your thoughtful cover letters sort themselves into various categories and you can start reusing them as templates.)

Do not under any circumstances spend more hours per day job hunting/applying than you'd've spent working at your previous job. I did that, and it was completely counterproductive. I ended up just feeling like I was wasting my time, sending out 15+ job applications every day with maybe one response every month or two. (Seriously.) Even that might be too many hours (17 months into job hunting, I have cut back from 7 to a half hour for job hunting and 2 hours for cover letter writing), but YMMV.
posted by shamash at 1:08 AM on April 23, 2010

Right after I was laid off, I read this blog post, and it was so, so helpful.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:24 AM on April 23, 2010

I'm so sorry this happened to you, and that it's still so shocking.

I had a similar situation; not exactly laid off, but I had a long-term contract that was supposed to go even longer, and when the economy tanked, all contracts at my workplace were severed and a hiring freeze instituted. It was pretty shocking and definitely disrupted my finances.

Anyway, within the year of losing my job, I decided to start a business. It wasn't an overnight decision; I'd been planning to eventually start a business, but I didn't imagine it would be so soon. Anyhow, I've been glad I did it. I actually get a better feeling of security working for myself, weird as that sounds. So I guess what I'm saying is, if you've wanted to start a business ever, this could be a good opportunity, especially if some severance pay gives you start-up capital. I basically started mine on no money, except a few hundred on some additional training/certification I wanted, and the small fee to actually register the business. You can get a website for next to nothing.
posted by Ouisch at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2010

My own advice, as one who recently experienced the same thing. The things that either I did, or wish I had done, starting with Day 1:

(1) Mercilessly slash your budget to the bone. Look at each and every place where money leaves your household budget, and ask yourself if there's a cheaper methodology.

(2) Make sure to maintain your self-care. There's reasons that sitcom humor involving the unemployed uses stereotypes such as "never getting out of your pajamas." Get to bed on time, make sure you eat three square a day, shower and shave.

(3) Get outside at some point each day.

(4) Don't let your number-one job of finding work elsewhere slip. Ever. Since there's no "sorry-but" letters from employers anymore, the job application process can trigger learned helplessness in job applicants: you apply and apply, but never see any progress. It's a reaction so common that the BLS tracks such people as "discouraged workers". Force yourself to play through the pain and keep applying.

(5) Document every job you apply for. From Day 1.

(6) No matter what your job, if you have people you know above a stranger level, you have networking. Let people know you're unemployed and would appreciate them keeping their eyes open for work. See the earlier post re: 80% of jobs not being listed. I don't know if that's an old wives' tale or legit, but it can't hurt you.

(7) Create "apocalypse" plans (what you'd do when your balance is zero) once, thoroughly prepare for them, decide when they will be triggered, and then put them away both physically and put them away in your mind, knowing you've prepared for that eventuality.

(8) Decide what projects you've always wanted to accomplish that you're now going to do with the time off. What will have you as a stronger person when you return to the workforce? Are you in shape? Have you always wanted to write a book? Or read the classics? Do you know what you want to do for your career?
posted by WCityMike at 1:13 PM on April 24, 2010


(4b) Don't let it sit for a second: apply to positions immediately. Be the first application in the door. The job market is so supersaturated that people are getting hundreds of resumes for positions they'd struggle to fill before, and are closing their inbox to new things soon after posting the initial advertisement.
posted by WCityMike at 1:23 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much everyone. Hope I can be as helpful to someone as you all have been to me. Peace.
posted by philad at 4:39 PM on April 24, 2010

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