I'm going to be let go--now what?
May 28, 2010 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I've recently found out that I'm probably going to be let go from my job in the next week or two. Now what?

I've seen this question, but my circumstances are different.

One of the owners of my company has recently decided to take more of an interest in the company itself. As such, he's started restructuring--so far, in my company of about 40 people, all but three of us have had private meetings with him and then been assigned more/different jobs.

Today, my boss (not, confusingly, my supervisor) let it slip that I should be prepared to "defend [my] job" to the owner.

My supervisor and I have a long history in which she hates me (this is documented and something that the CEO of the company has noticed and is aware of). If she's asked to defend the necessity of my position, she will not do so--she's made it quite clear that she'd like nothing more than to fire me, but she hasn't been able to find a reason to.

Today, the other coworkers and I (the ones who've not had meetings with the owner) phoned our ombudsman--the person we're supposed to go to with any sort of conflicts or problems we feel we can't discuss elsewhere. On this phone call, she admitted that she doesn't think that this is going to end well and suggested, off the record, that we start looking for new jobs.

This isn't performance related--so far as I can tell, it's just being decided that these three positions aren't necessary and are going to be phased out.

What should I do to prepare for this? I've cleaned most of my personal stuff out of my desk, just in case, and I've backed up my files (just, obviously, the ones that aren't proprietary). What else should I do, workwise?

Also, what should I do personally? I know that unemployment is really stressful, and once I lose this job, I'll also be losing my health care, which covers about $1000 a month in medication for a chronic health condition. There's about $500 in the bank, but we've been living mostly hand to mouth since my partner was laid off a year ago. She's found part-time work, but it doesn't have any benefits, and it's only twenty hours a week. Any suggestions on how to brace ourselves for the psychological and medical fallout?

(COBRA coverage won't be an option--the cost is prohibitive.)

Throwaway email: firednowwhat.mefi@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If I were you I would brush up on my resume right away. In doing this you will prepare yourself for a job hunt, if you have do that. More importantly, in doing this you'll be reminding yourself what skills and experiences that you have that make you a valuable employee. Take a look at your role now and figure out why it is important to the company. If it really is a role that can be phased out...figure out what assets that you have as a employee and market them to owner of the company. I'd be proactive in this and arrange a meeting with them and maybe explain to them that you see all of these changes going on in the company and that it excites you and that you are glad you are a proactive, evolving company and that you've been thinking about how your role will change and that you have X skills and X experience that make you a great employee and aren't you great. Basically be proactive and remind them of why you are a great employee and what skills you have to market to them in this new design of the company.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 9:29 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

have you (or your partner) ever filed for unemployment insurance? do that the instant you are laid off (it takes a few weeks for the first check to arrive). It's not Welfare. It's not charity. It's not a hand-out. You paid for it...it's one of those little deductions from your paycheck they've been making off with every week. Your partner might even be elegible, being under-employed. The maximum you can get is usually half your salary (or average weekly wage) up to a maximum of about $450-500 a week (depends on what state you are in). it may not cover all your expenses, but it will at least cover something until you can find another job.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:30 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

You've been given a gift that you know this is coming. No matter what the ombudsman says, or what your supervisor says, you should try to defend your job. It will help you update your resume. Don't accept this as a fait accompli.

Additionally, in case it does come true, right now, find someone in the company who will be willing to give you a reference later when it is needed. It doesn't have to be your manager. As long as the person was not a peer, it doesn't have to be your direct manager. If you can get them to write a letter of recommendation, even better.

I know COBRA is normally prohibitive, but the COBRA subsidy may be extended. Keep a close eye on that. When I was laid off last year and the subsidy was in effect, I paid $135 a month for COBRA. So it may be more affordable than you think. I would Google "low cost health care [name of state]" see what is available.

Here's what you need to do:
1) Make a list of all of your monthly expenses. Maybe you have that already, but update it. Cable, internet, gym, Netflix, rent, all of it. Have the list ready. If you do lose your job, you start going down the list and cancelling things or seeing if you can put them on hold for a couple of months (my gym lets you put the membership on hold for 3 months and ended up giving free memberships if you were unemployed, for example). See if you can get payments reduced or deferred for things that you owe and can't cancel. Be positive and upfront that you don't intend to become a deadbeat but it's not manageable, what can they do? Everyone can do SOMETHING no matter what they tell you the first time and would rather have you pay them $10 a month for a year than not pay it at all. So would you.

2) Don't "take a break". You need to come up from this with both guns blazing. Update your resume. Update your cover letter. Find a Meetup for other recently unemployed people in your area. If there isn't one, start one. Every day you should get up and get dressed like you are going to work.

3) You will need a phone. If you don't have a landline, consider Skype and only use your cell phone when you are out and it's unavoidable. This will save you a ton of money.

4) Exercise is important. Even if all you do is go out and walk around the block 10 times, it is key to keeping a positive mindset.

5) Tell everyone you know that you've lost your job. Don't send a resume, but tell them that you have been laid off and are looking for new employment in X field or in X position and would appreciate any advice or good thoughts. Odd leads can come from the most unlikely places.

6) It's a numbers game. Don't just reply to what you see on Craigslist or the local paper and think "okay I'm done". Contact companies that are like your old company, contact companies who are hiring for other positions that might indicate that some day they might be in need of someone like you, get creative and look for leads. Most jobs never get posted.

Hang in there.
posted by micawber at 9:45 AM on May 28, 2010 [11 favorites]

Make sure that you have refills of your necessary medications to handle a month post-employment. Even if you take COBRA, there is a gap between when you get laid off and when it retroactively kicks in to cover that gap - if you try to see a doctor or fill a prescription during that period, you'll show up as 'uninsured' and will be billed accordingly. Doctor's offices can merely re-bill; but for a prescription you'd have to pay ahead, submit it to the insurance company, and get reimbursed.

Also, talk to your doctors now. They may be able to get you set up on assistance programs for your medications, and/or have you qualify for reduced cost medical visits.

My condolences.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:55 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing what sexyrobot said. Unemployment benefits are exactly what this situation is for. Don't let pride get in the way.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:02 AM on May 28, 2010

I agree with the advice above, don't assume this is set in stone. Craft your argument defending your job. List all the things you currently do, any obstacles you have overcome to be successful (such as the supervisor thing), plus have some ideas for expanded/alternate roles you could take. Make sure those ideas include reporting to someone else. Present this as an exciting opportunity for the company - you have always seen these gaps, and would love to take point in addressing them.

COBRA coverage won't be an option--the cost is prohibitive

If you do get laid off, ask for a severance package, and when they offer one, counter offer (it is a negotiation) for them to cover the cost of your COBRA for 6 months or so. Companies pay severance to make you go away quietly, and to avoid lawsuits, and them paying your health care for a few months is a small cost.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:11 AM on May 28, 2010

Before you say the cost of COBRA is prohibitive, the federal government has been subsidizing that cost. Find out if they still are.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:12 AM on May 28, 2010

If you don't like your job, this could be a blessing in disguise. I went through a very similar situation about 6 years ago. In exchange for going quietly away, I got 3 months salary, Cobra benefits (can't remember how much or how long) and they offered me free employment counseling from an offsite HR firm. On the day I got "let go" I went home and cried for about an hour. Then, I realized how relieved I was. That job, even though it paid great, had been sucking the soul out of me.

Get your resume polished and ready to go. Have an unbiased friend or colleague take a look at it for you and make suggestions. Make it a goal to apply for a bunch of jobs every week. There are people in my field currently who have applied for +100 jobs before getting hired.

I second the suggestion that you should ask to get your prescriptions filled up as far in advance as you can, even a 90 day refill will buy you some time.

Good luck. Everything is going to be ok.
posted by pluckysparrow at 11:12 AM on May 28, 2010

Make sure that you have refills of your necessary medications to handle a month post-employment

This is great advice.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:27 AM on May 28, 2010

...talk to your doctors now. They may be able to get you set up on assistance programs for your medications

Your doctor may be able to hand you some samples of medications. And there may also be programs beyond what he knows of to help you with prescription coverage. In New York, you can access a database of these programs as a patient, just searching for the drug name -- or even filling out a form with your basic information. Your pharmacist may know of resources that your doctor does not.

Do you have friends in your area in your field or at companies that have departments like your organization? Let them know that you're looking. I've seen a number of un- and unhappily- employed people in my area network fish for positions via Twitter. And sometimes individuals, not even acting in a corporate capacity, post job openings on Twitter. Networking happens in funny ways.
posted by knile at 11:43 AM on May 28, 2010

This is great advice.


I'm getting laid off myself in a month, and I also take medications - so I'm in the process of doing this now. Getting my daily maintenance medications refilled, which I did last week, and just today I called in my refills for the medications I only take once in a while, but which would suck to be out of without insurance.

And micawber is right that it's a gift that you know this in advance. I go through this every so often, as I do yearly contract work. But they also have some great advice. As well as sorting my meds out, I also throw my cell phone $200 so I don't have to worry about that for a couple of months at least while job searching and waiting for UI to start.

One last thing: I do not know what your chronic condition is, but if it is considered a disability, and if you take public transportation, you may qualify for some sort of Disabled Reduced-Fare permit for transit riding. Your doctor would have to sign off on it, but if you're unemployed and money is tight, this may help.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:38 PM on May 28, 2010

You paid for it...it's one of those little deductions from your paycheck they've been making off with every week.


Unemployment insurance premiums are paid by your employer based on a formula that is driven largely by the number and frequency of previous claims. Your eligibility for unemployment benefits will be determined by a variety of factors in play at the time your job ends. It is not welfare, charity or a hand-out. And, yes, you should definitely apply.

Know thy facts, however!
posted by John Borrowman at 1:45 PM on May 28, 2010

Make sure that you have refills of your necessary medications to handle a month post-employment

Adding to this really great idea, if your employer uses a Prescription Benefit Manager like Express Scripts, you may be able to order three months worth of each medication at one time.
posted by contrariwise at 3:20 PM on May 28, 2010

I would Google "low cost health care [name of state]" see what is available.
Do that first, I would think.

Be well. I believe there is good advice in this thread.
posted by Neofelis at 4:10 PM on May 28, 2010

Borrowman, if the employer pays it in form, the employee pays it in reality, even if it does not show up as a deduction. Fact of life.
posted by yclipse at 4:34 PM on May 28, 2010

You have my condolences.

Take your everyday budget – what comes in and what comes out. Look at every single line item – and I do mean every single line item, down to looking at individual grocery items, sub-items of cable and cell phone packages, et cetera, et cetera. Ask yourself if there's a cheaper methodology by which you can accomplish each and every thing.

If you have something like Quicken, bring up a pie graph and look at what your biggest expenses are while you were employed. Be strict and brutal with yourself as to how much the biggest expenses can be mercilessly slashed to the bone.

A few such steps I took:

I realized I hadn't turned my television on in months, so sold it and my VCR/DVD (not for much - it was a big bulky CRT TV, not a flatscreen, and I mostly just wanted to get rid of it more than make money off it), and shifted the few shows I follow to Hulu, calling my cable company to stop cable television. I also canceled Netflix in favor of Hulu.

I canceled my domain name and website hosting package. I considered lowering my Internet cable speed package, but didn't cut that since I'm on it so much every day job hunting.

I called my cell phone company and inquired when my contract would end; that sent me to a retention department where I negotiated a very low per-month package.

I called my credit cards and told them I was out of work, and signed up for special payment plans with them.

I haven't bought any books, instead using the library right around the corner.

I started clipping coupons, signing up for store discount cards, and buying store brands. I found a blog that tells me the deals for my local stores (in my case, Jewel and CVS), and scan the "deals of the week" post for those stores. Check The Frugal Map to see if you have an equivalent blog for a store nearby you.

I signed up for my pharmacy's prescription plans, which actually turned out to be five times cheaper than my insurance co-pay.

I started monitoring Cheapism, Reddit Frugal, Reddit Poverty Tips, Simple Dollar, Get Rich Slowly, and Budget Bytes.

I still order groceries via Peapod, but that's because I don't own a car and can order in greater amount when it's delivered. Peapod also comes in extraordinarily handy in helping me avoid supermarket psychology such as shelf placement, etc. I have Peapod set on sorting every listing by lowest "Unit Price", meaning whatever I'm getting, it's usually the cheapest variant. And I use nearly every applicable coupon or discount the site offers.

At the moment, you're going to have a little bit of a futz going on with the unemployment. Unemployment expires on Wednesday, June 2 because, once again, Republicans and "Blue Dog" Democrats decided to play political brinkmanship with the well-being of millions of constituents, and delayed the passage of H.R. 4813 until the Senate gave up and adjourned for their week-long Memorial Day vacation (I'm sorry, I meant the Memorial Day "district work period"). So that may affect you negatively until whatever needs passing is passed upon their return on June 7. At that time, the COBRA subsidy will hopefully also be reauthorized – meaning that you will be able to get a large percentage of your COBRA subsidy paid for by the government, at least through November 30. That will help with your health care.

But make sure you do sign up for unemployment. It's nothing to be ashamed of, and it will be a true lifesaver. While it varies from state to state, the general structure is: first, whatever your state's "normal" period of unemployment benefits is. Then 34 weeks of federal unemployment extensions (Tiers I and II). Depending on your state's unemployment rate, there is an additional 19 weeks after that (Tiers III and IV). Finally, your state may or may not have a final "State Extended Benefits" program for an additional 20 weeks.

Add Salon Unemployment, Progress Illinois Unemployment (even if you're not in Illinois), and UnemployedWorkers.org to the list of sites you periodically check – or add them to Google Reader, FeedDemon, or your feed reader of choice, if you do that.

Make sure you have a very plain e-mail – sign up for a new webmail account if you don't. In other words, even if your e-mail address could not be considered insulting or offensive, if it's casual, you don't want it. Rather than blakhwksrule49@gmail.com, you want jane.doe@gmail.com if possible. If that's not available, try jane.doe2@gmail.com and keep trying until Gmail tells you that one's free.

Set up an employment history document for yourself to make filling out the "job history" parts of e-mails easier. I can't emphasize this one enough. Go ahead and do the phone calls/research necessary to fill in any blanks you don't have. Generally, I've been asked for: organization's name, full address, telephone number, job title, starting salary, ending salary, additional benefits (*), supervisor, supervisor's title, supervisor's phone number, starting date (**), and ending date (**).

Spit-polish your resume until it gleams. Then give it to someone who you know is a good copyeditor and will be honest with you, and tell them that they should feel free to savage it with red ink with utterly no regard for your feelings. You needn't take every suggestion they make – they could be wrong – but with any point you and your copyeditor disagree on, invest some serious thought as to whether they're right.

Set up your resume at CareerBuilder and Monster; set up searches on CareerBuilder, Monster, Indeed, and Craigslist for your job field, and for the purposes of setting up those searches, keep a wide definition of what your job field is. If you aren't one with RSS, CareerBuilder, Monster and Indeed will send daily e-mails to you, and Craigslist can be e-mailed to you courtesy of feedmyinbox.com.

Whichever you do, stay on top of those e-mails/RSS items and apply to them at your first and earliest opportunity. From the moment those listings appear, people are applying to them – some companies get more than enough responses after just a day or two of their listings being online. Aged items do you next to no good when applying.

It's a good idea to keep an application log, both in case you're audited by your state unemployment agency and also just to give you a sense of traction.

Make sure family and friends know that you were laid off, either via e-mail or Facebook message. I suggest individual messages, not a single mass e-mail, even if the text is the same. Be factual, optimistic, and do not convey desperation or fear.

No matter what your profession, set up something on LinkedIn and reach out there as well. You can get your friends copied from Facebook to LinkedIn by setting yourself up a profile on Yahoo Mail; it allows for an import from Facebook, and LinkedIn can then grab them from the Yahoo address book. When you apply to jobs, take a quick look on LinkedIn and see if you have a friend-of-a-friend connection to anyone there.

If your job entails being someone's boss, do you have references from past subordinates? If your job entails having a boss, do you have past references from old bosses?

Lastly, some psychological advice:

* Make sure that, during your job search, there are present in your life other goals that you can work towards and achieve without the job market influencing you.

* Be vigilant against any sign of "letting yourself go" – be sure to keep your self-care up.

* Create a list of things you promise yourself you'll do every day (get up no later than this, make breakfast, wash dishes, etc.), and check them off like a chore list you might have had when you were a kid.

* Make sure you have sources of good news in your life, and try to ignore the "if it bleeds it leads" and fearmongering you're going to find everpresent in the mainstream media. Despite the whole "transcendental meditation" graphics surrounding it, I find this page to be a very useful site to check to be able to see a bunch of good news at a glance. (On the off-chance that you're slightly techie, I wrote some stuff that gets rid of the transcendental meditation stuff around things: it needs Firefox, the Stylish extension, and these two userstyles.)

Well, that's my $0.02; hope it's useful to you. Drop me a MeMail if you have any questions, or my e-mail's in my profile.

     (*) - I've seen this asked both as a monetary value – in such case they're referring to bonuses usually, and occasionally asked as a text field – in such case they're asking about health, dental, visual, etc.
     (**) - And a lot of the web forms I've filled out are very inflexible and specific fields that require the date right down to the day – so be prepared either to round upwards or, better, research and find the date.

posted by WCityMike at 7:40 PM on May 28, 2010 [11 favorites]

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