Laid Off Spouse
February 22, 2013 10:14 AM   Subscribe

My husband just got laid off from his position today. It's with a large company and he had excellent reviews but their revenue stream has not been up to par. They told him his position has been eliminated. However, he is welcome to reapply if and when blah, blah, blah... My concern is what is the right way to help him. He has never been laid off before and for the most part never thought this could happen. He is very optimistic by nature. He does seem a little shell shocked. My job is not going to be able to support our family. What are the first things we should do? I am also concerned about his mental well being and being a supportive partner while he looks for a new job. To make matters worse (or whatever) we have one in college, one applying to colleges, one getting ready to apply, and one freshman in high school.
posted by lasamana to Human Relations (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Have him apply for unemployment right away. Also, see what sort of aid you can get from your child's college, if any, and make sure that you update the forms you are filling out for the child who is applying.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:19 AM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

Make sure he knows that you still love him, you still believe that the family can pull together to keep things stable, and that you are as much his anchor now as before the lay-off. Checking in with him should be more about how he's feeling and what he's looking forward to than finding out how many jobs he's applied to that day.

Then, yes, make sure he applies for UI immediately. He should also go to the local Workforce Solutions/Worksource to take advantage of a HUGE array of programs for displaced workers (his designation), and they are generally on top of situations like this (as in, they know which employers have been doing layoffs and where those folks might fit).

If you have 211 in your area, you should call and see what benefits your family might qualify to receive. Note that some won't be viable until 3-6mos of unemployment have passed, because the income calculation is based on the period prior, not the most current situation. Expedited SNAP ("food stamps") is sometimes an exception.

Look for free outings that the family can participate in to keep morale up and make the change in circumstances more interesting.

Examine the budget to see where cuts and adjustments can be made - groceries and household items can sometimes be trimmed a surprising amount yet remain livable.

And good luck, to all of you. Stick together, keep your heads up, and you'll all get through this.
posted by batmonkey at 10:26 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

Go today to Unemployment, so he'll start collecting next week.

Hopefully he's on LinkedIn, he should put an optimistic message in his status:

I'm looking for an exciting new opportunity!

Then search the jobs there.

As long as the college bills are paid right now, put that on the back burner.

Start looking at your budget and scale back now.

No restaurants, no fancy groceries, etc.

Your husband needs to keep his routine.

Get up at a set time. Spend a certain amount of time every day applying for jobs. Perhaps he can do some volunteer work in the afternoons. It's important to stay connected and busy. Don't get in the habit of watching Maury every day!

Here in Atlanta, the Roswell United Methodist Church has an awesome Job Seeking Ministry, I went to a meeting and I got SO MUCH out of it.

Here are my favorite sites for searching for jobs:

1. LinkedIn
2. USA Jobs
3. SimplyHired
4. Directly to companies on their Career pages.

He needs to update his resume, he may get outplacement counseling, so research that.

Hang in there, it's a MUCH better time to find a new job than it was in 2008 when I was laid off!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]

When I was laid-off, one thing that my wife started doing was telling me about every job listing she saw in the paper. On almost a daily basis.

While she was completely sincere and thought she was helping me, it affected me like she was nagging me to get a job (you bum!) So, my advice is "don't do this."
posted by Thorzdad at 10:32 AM on February 22, 2013 [17 favorites]

Don't just scale back your budget. Scale back HARD. You don't know how long you may have to make do on one income. The faster the family runs low on money, the more stress he's going to feel. So cut out everything that is not a necessity. For sure, restaurants and luxury groceries, but also think about the cable/satellite bill, health club memberships, Starbucks, etc. Once the money starts rolling in again, it will be easy to re-start all of those things.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:35 AM on February 22, 2013 [12 favorites]

Seconding the suggestion above about contacting the college of your oldest to update you FAFSA form as soon as possible - it could greatly affect tuition payments for next year. Do the same for the child applying.
posted by bibbit at 10:40 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Parroting above answers:
Register with unemployment for sure - if you follow the procedures it's really not that hard. I was overseas when I was unemployed and was able to keep up with all the filings. phone calls, internet stuff, etc, w little problem.

And look at budget.
posted by J0 at 10:40 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was laid-off, one thing that my wife started doing was telling me about every job listing she saw in the paper. On almost a daily basis.

While she was completely sincere and thought she was helping me, it affected me like she was nagging me to get a job (you bum!) So, my advice is "don't do this."

Yes, this. When my husband was last laid off (he's been laid off three times since we met and got together), I was doing a lot of job searches for him because my searching skills are better than his. And even though he asked me to do it, he still felt like it was nagging when I'd send him what I'd found. We figured out a system that worked better for us (it involved sending a single email with multiple hits instead of each hit individually). Anyway, my advice is to figure out what help he wants and how he wants it, and keep communicating to refine whatever you come up with.

Also nthing to call the unemployment agency in your area NOW.

And nthing calling your kids' schools' financial aid offices. When I was a freshman in college, my stepfather was laid off. We immediately called the financial aid office, sent a letter updating my most recent financial aid application -- and the result was that my financial aid package was pretty much immediately adjusted so that there was no expected family contribution (I got a free ride for my sophomore year, in other words).
posted by devinemissk at 10:40 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Enlist your children as allies.

When my parents were going through some really tough times financially, they didn't tell me, and instead lashed out at me or broke down in tears when I'd ask to get something special at the store or the market. I wish they'd have leveled with me, and I grew resentful for a time when they suddenly needed me to get a hellish job to pay for college.

Your children are old enough to understand what's happened, and they deserve to be a part of your family's efforts to make the best of a very stressful, trying time. Call on them for their help. Ask them for suggestions on how the whole family can cut back. Take their concerns seriously. They may be angry or scared initially. Assure them that this is going to be a team effort, and let them know that you and your husband are not purposefully dropping them into the deep end of adulthood suddenly because of this, but you do need them to be aware and responsible as they likely always have been.

Bottom line: be frank with your kids. Make them your allies, and don't hide what's happened.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:43 AM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

another job resource is /r/forhire
posted by pyro979 at 10:45 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fwiw, college aid forms are due March 1st so get on that if it matters.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:47 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Give him a few days to just sit and stare at the wall, go for walks, however he needs to cope. Getting laid off is a shock to the system. He shouldn't make any big decisions while he's in this state of mind.

You say he worked for a big company - hopefully this means he gets a good severance package. He should read through the severance paperwork to make sure it's clear when he can apply for unemployment. Make sure you both understand the terms of the severance, what benefits run out when, etc. If you have some benefits as part of the severance, be aware of them and take full advantage.

Being laid off is scary and - again - a huge, huge shock. But once the dust settles and you look around you have a chance to evaluate where you want to be and make some positive changes.
posted by bunderful at 10:56 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't just scale back your budget. Scale back HARD. You don't know how long you may have to make do on one income.

This. This is absolutely the moment to do a full budget review. Review everything: cable, internet, insurance, groceries, personal stuff like hair colouring and manicures, etc. Review especially your family health insurance options and potential costs.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:58 AM on February 22, 2013 [7 favorites]

If he hasn't already signed the paperwork for his release he should counter whatever offer he was given. It's amazing how much more money/perks you can get just by saying a simple phrase: "Given my contributions to the company over the last X years I would like to think the company could provide a better package than this."

They will likely ask what he thinks is agreeable. He should be prepared to ask for both money and for insurance coverage, etc.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:07 AM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]

This isn't really financial nuts and bolts which seem to have been covered. When this happened to me for the first time, the worst part of finding work was the day-to-day boredom. There are only so many hours a day that you can actually look for, and apply for work. Having other things to do during this time are really important. If you can afford small projects around the house, do it. If he has any inclination towards cooking he should dive into it.

For me, it really was cooking, because we had to buy the food anyways, and cooking meals from scratch saved us a bit of coin.

Try to provide him with ways to get out of the house....even if it is just for an errand or two each day.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:35 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

File for unemployment right now.

And then, from now until Monday, he may wallow. I mean, big wallow, except without spending more money than a large bag of comfort chips. But he may feel sorry for himself, get furious, feel like shit, despair, feel like a released prisoner without feeling guilty about it, and whatever other feelings may come along.

Monday morning he gets up and gets dressed (prepared to walk out the door within an hour for an interview) and starts setting up his job searches, tweaking his resume, sending emails to colleagues, telling Facebook and LinkedIn that he's looking, etc.

Man, being laid off hurts. It feels 100% personal. He just got dumped by his job. He's allowed a little heartbreak, because even if he didn't love-love his job it was a big part of his day and routine and he had every expectation that the relationship was going to continue.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:46 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry about the lay off.

When I was laid off, my employer paid for career counseling and it was the most depressing thing ever. There was a weekly "job hunting" group where you'd go and commiserate with all the other unemployed people. Everyone there seemed to be resigned to being miserable and feeling sorry for themselves, so be cautious about any groups out there. They might not necessarily be motivating. Try to encourage your husband to surround himself with people that motivate him and won't drag him down.

The hardest thing I did was reach out to my network - friends, family, old employers - and I let them know I was looking for a new role. It was a hit on my ego, and a bit awkward at times, but I found that there were lots of people who had ideas or recommendations for me. In fact, I ended up finding my new job via someone I'd worked for 6 years earlier. Hooray!

Do your best to budget for the long run, so your husband isn't pressured to just jump at the first job he finds. Good luck!
posted by caroo at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

So sorry abou this! My husband and I have been laid off multiple times in the 20 years we've been married, but each time it's hard.
Unlike caroo, when I got laid off from Large Failed Bank, the counseling and sessions I went to were excellent - we were cheerleaders for one another, and the networking paid off years later (I was able to help someone find another job).

Looking for work *is* a full-time job. He should customize each resume and cover letter he sends. Make sure his network is updated in LinkedIn, then search those contacts for someone who knows someone at place-he's-applying. Referrals/contacts got me 3 of 4 of my last jobs - without them, I might still be unemployed. So work those - hard!

Be prepared for some folks to be incredibly helpful - I was astonished at the work a former colleague put in on my behalf, for a job I didn't get. OOTH, there will be people who just blow you off, too.

Also see if he can negotiate any additional health-care coverage in his severance package, that can be gold, especially for a family (COBRA ain't cheap!).

Best of luck to you and your family.
posted by dbmcd at 12:23 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

If he's still technically employed refinance quickly to an interest only mortgage to reduce the payments. I did that when I got laid off and got 5 year interest only ARM. When the bank checks for employment they only check for currently employed.
posted by Ferrari328 at 12:31 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

One thing I did want to say. Be open to taking jobs with new titles and responsibilities.

There's an early on Simpsons where Homer is unemployed:

Lisa: There's a job here for a Techincal Supervisor

Homer: No, that won't work, I'm a Supervising Technician.

I went from being a Sales Engineer to working in Sales Operations as an anayst. It was a leap of faith, but I'm happy I did it.

I was open to any job I was able to do: Executive Assistant, Secretary, Sales, Sales Engineering, Account Management, Marketing, Finance. I cast a wide net.

Also, when he's not so raw, he needs to perfect a narrative of his career. It needs to be short, and sweet and show no bitterness or regret.

I was able to find a new job because I had an upbeat view and never felt down or discouraged. I also worked like a dog applying to nearly everything there was to apply for.

There are guys, laid off with me, who could not make that shift and to this day, they move from Telecom Company to Telecom Company. Catch a clue guys, that's a dead end.!

Anyway, thought I'd throw that out there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:34 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the best things you can do for him is to let him know that you aren't upset or let down about this. While a broad generalization, I can safely say that most men have a lot of their ego and self worth tied into their career and ability to provide for their family. You don't need to coddle him, but a little reassurance that you are fully supportive and know he will land another job (potentially even better) will help a lot.
posted by dgran at 1:09 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

The best way to get a new job is to get leads from friends, neighbors and family. A personal reference is very important to a potential employer.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 1:33 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Perhaps ask him what would be helpful or encouraging to him. Finding ways to validate him as someone who is important and can support the family in other ways can go a long way towards soothing the wound of possibly feeling as if he's letting the family down in some way.

Also, I just want to say that you are not bad parents if you can't pay for college for your children, if that is causing you any stress. Many people pay for it on their own, so although it would be disappointing if you were planning on it and find you can't do it, it is not necessarily connected to the future success of your children.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:18 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

In addition to updating forms you should also call the financial aid offices for the college student/future college student to notify them of the change in circumstances. (Coming from someone whose father was laid off with 2 kids in college).
posted by murfed13 at 2:55 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just found a job (thankfully), having been unemployed for three months after being laid off for the first time - totally a shock as I'd always been a high performer and I really thought I was indispensable.

Definitely apply for unemployment, but be careful about traveling abroad while filing, depending on where you live - be sure to read the conditions carefully. In New York state, they actually screen for foreign IP addresses to catch people who file while out of the country. Not fair, but something to be aware of.

I agree with people saying you should treat finding a job like a job, but I would also suggest limiting the amount of time you spend looking each day. There's a lot to do when you first start looking - rewriting your resume, your LinkedIn, figuring out what search terms to use, etc. etc. but once you've got that all sorted out and you're in full swing, it really doesn't take that long to see the new jobs that are posted every day. And it can get very frustrating and depressing to force yourself to spend X amount of time each day looking for a job, when you've already looked at every job posting a dozen times.

As others have mentioned, definitely contact people you know and let them know you're looking. Also depending on your industry, try to get in touch with a good headhunter. I was lucky enough to find a job "cold" through an internet posting but most people I know found jobs through headhunters or personal references. And while I was interviewing, people at my old company (not my references) were asked about me - small world.

For my own sanity, one of the most useful things I figured out how to do was to identify the recruiters that always posted fake jobs and never responded to me, and exclude them from my job search - massively improved the signal to noise ratio for the type of jobs I was searching for.

I also found that, despite applying for dozens of jobs that I could maybe, sort of, possibly do in a stretch, I was really only applying to them so I could tell myself "I applied for 5 jobs today" and add to the arbitrary number of job applications I'd sent out. Because I only ever heard back from the jobs that actually seemed like a really good fit for me. So in retrospect, I think my time would have been better spent focusing on the few jobs that actually seemed like a good fit. I only found this type of job posting maybe once every few weeks. I'd started to feel like a fraud, like "unwanted goods", after applying for dozens and dozens of jobs and never hearing anything back, but realistically, I just wasn't a good fit for 90% of the jobs I applied to.

I also wouldn't mention that you were laid off, or unemployed in your cover letter. I suspect that many employers screened me out when I mentioned this. If you get an interview, you might be asked about it, but if you get that far it won't even matter.

Anecdotally, I had the best response rate from job postings where I sent my resume directly to somebody (not in HR) at the company through e-mail. I sometimes heard back from headhunters I sent my resume to, although there were some headhunters who repeatedly posted great-sounding jobs who never responded (I ended up filtering their names out of my search). I'm pretty sure I never got a response (other than rejection) from any job where I had to apply through the company's online application system.
posted by pravit at 4:46 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

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