As the coronavirus forces so many businesses to cut down or shut down, people are losing their jobs. Nearly 17 million people have filed for unemployment over the last three weeks, with another 6.6 million people filing claims last week. For context, the previous record was 695,000 in 1982. If you’ve just been laid off — or think you might be soon — you’re not alone.
Job loss is always hard. Factor in the uncharted waters of a pandemic and very fast recession, and figuring out your next steps can feel like … a lot.
That’s why we’re teaming up, as Ellevest’s lead career coach and lead financial planner, to help you navigate those waters. Here’s our roadmap for dealing with job loss during this pandemic.
1. Grieve, love yourself, and reflect.
It’s OK to grieve. Losing your job is a life-changing event. You’re likely to go through some or all of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These stages are sequential, but they’re not just one and done — you can be angry or depressed for a while, and then one day feel OK and ready to go do this thing, and then be “nope” again the next day. (Been there.) And those feelings are likely to be much stronger with the grieving we’re collectively doing during this pandemic. Treat yourself kindly right now.
While social isolation is challenging, it can also be an interesting opportunity to do some important reflecting. What went well in that job? What didn’t go so well? What might you want to change moving forward? Where do you want your career to go next? What could a new job look like?
Take some time to write down what you're proud of. How did you support your team? What projects do you look back on with a smile? It will help you remember what you've accomplished, which is not only good self-care but also will help you tell your story later.
2. Get into a routine.
Reflect long enough to find some clarity … but not forever. It’s easy to stay in this space — especially right now, when routines are disrupted and it can feel like time has stopped. But it’s important to make your own routine. The structure that a workday gives you has an effect, and the lack thereof can have an effect on you (and your sleep and your mood), too.
So we recommend you create a structure of your own. You don’t have to fill every minute, but … get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time each day. Do something in the morning that energizes you — a brisk walk, meditation, pleasure reading, exercise. (If you’re a “need an agenda” type, make a list of things you want to accomplish for the day.) Schedule meals, time to chat with friends, time to connect with family. Do something that grounds you every evening — gratitude group texts, family reading time, journaling, whatever works for you.
You’ll eventually find that you are naturally more energetic at certain times of day, and less so at other times. You can use that knowledge when you’re thinking about job-hunting tasks when you’re ready.
3. Take care of the immediate paperwork.
Even as you reflect, there are a few time-sensitive things you need to handle right away.
First, if you have a work-owned computer, you’ll likely need to return it. If it’s appropriate in your circumstances, see if you can review your files and make notes of your achievements and duties. You’ll need to respect any terms of your employment about intellectual property and data, of course — but just having eyeballs and taking notes about the work you’ve done can help you remember when you’re updating your resume.
File for unemployment benefits now, because it can take a few days before benefits kick in. Plus: With the huge increase in claims, systems may be down, and many states are staggering filing days based on your last name. Here’s a state-by-state benefits tool to get you started — take a look even if you don’t think you’re eligible, because the CARES Act widened unemployment eligibility to include freelancers, gig workers, performing artists, people who work at non-profits, and people who have had contracts canceled. You can get more info about filing for unemployment here.
Next is your severance agreement, if you have one. How much severance or continuation of pay and / or benefits are you being offered? Are there terms you have to agree to in order to receive them? Are you being provided outplacement services to help with a job search, or any other perks? You might want to have an employment attorney review it if something’s not clear. Don’t feel pressure to sign the day you’re laid off. An agreement will usually include a due date, and employees over 40 are guaranteed time for review. Take the time you need and if you don’t see a specified timeframe, ask for it.
And fourth is reviewing your health insurance options. If you’re qualified, COBRA (which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, btw) allows you to choose to keep your employee health plan for a while. It’s temporary and you have to pay the entire premium, including the part your employer used to pay — which can be expensive.
You might also have the opportunity to join your spouse’s health insurance if they have it, or your parent’s, if you’re 26 or younger. Or you can apply for a new plan via Healthcare.gov (aka Obamacare, federally administered health insurance). For each of these options, losing a job is usually considered a “qualifying life event” (aka “special enrollment period,” and you’d be able to join outside their usual open enrollment period.
If price is an issue, you might also be eligible for Medicaid (free or low-cost health coverage to some people who meet income criteria, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities) and CHIP (same, but for children). Both of these have recently relaxed income qualifications in response to the pandemic. If price isn’t an issue, you can also explore private insurance, which you’d choose and pay for out of pocket. Both are available year-round, with no open enrollment periods.
4. Connect every day
We have an incredible opportunity to network virtually right now. Checking in with people is important to our well-being. We crave it, and we have the time to do it. That’s all “networking” really is: reaching out, checking in, nurturing connections, being people. And now, you have one more thing to connect about. Tell everyone you’re looking for your next opportunity. You never know where your next opportunity will come from.
So reach out to people you know. Start with your friends — for women, a core inner circle of other women who look out for each other is often the key to career success. (Plus, they can tell their friends, and “a friend of a friend” might be that next opportunity.) Then move out to workplace ties — people who worked with you in the past who can give you a recommendation. One study showed that 60% of people who found a job did it through former coworkers.
Then, we challenge you to reach out to people you don’t know, but who inspire you. If they’re really an influence on you, your true, authentic voice will come when you reach out. That can lead to incredible connections. (True story: Stephenie did this with Sallie Krawcheck … and now she works at Ellevest.)
5. Take a financial inventory
Uncertainty is more stressful than knowing. That’s why getting a good sense of where you’re at financially right now is a form of self-care. If you take inventory and get clear that you can afford expenses right now, then you won’t need to worry about them every time you shop for groceries or pay a bill. If you take stock and know you can’t, then you have a next step you can act on.
You don’t have to do this all at once — maybe you dedicate 30 minutes each day and incorporate it into your routine. (Chipping away at it can help give you a feeling of progress each day, too.)
Look at your spending.
Gather your recent bank statements (and credit card statements, if you have them) so you can see everything you’ve been spending on lately. Put each expense in a bucket: essential, cut back, pause, or cancel. Look at where you’re spending, too. Maybe there are less expensive places you could be shopping for food or clothes. Look for places where you could shop around or negotiate prices, like your phone or internet plans — it’s worth calling to push for a lower rate on your credit cards, for example.
Look at your debt and what you can do about it.
Some good news: The CARES Act contains several temporary emergency measures. There’s a four-month pause on evictions if your landlord has a federally backed mortgage. Homeowners with federally backed mortgages can get extra forbearance. Payment of most federal student loans is also halted, with interest waived temporarily. If you hold non-federal loans, check with your loan provider (many are offering similar pauses). If you have credit card debt, some providers are offering a break as well — it’s worth calling to ask. And we have a rundown of ways to manage credit card debt, too.
Look at all your possible sources of income.
Some things to think about:
Unemployment checks — look at how much, when you’ll start getting them, and how long they’ll last in your state
Your emergency fund (if you have one, now is the time to use it)
Your lines of credit, if you need to go into debt right now. Can you take out a personal loan, home equity loan, or put expenses on credit cards right now? (Here’s more on how to decide)
Your options for assistance. Recent legislation loosened some of the eligibility criteria for some food assistance programs.
We put together a list of options for earning income you can try from home, like virtual tutoring and customer service.
6. Start telling your story and exploring on LinkedIn
You’ve done some reflection by now, so it’s time to take inventory of your skills and unique talents, and get clear on your story. What value can you bring?
A good way to start is by crafting an “elevator story” — a concise description of who you are, what you do, why you do it, who you do it for, how you do it well, and what you’re looking for. Focusing in on this way can help give you clarity on your own capabilities and career goals, and it also helps you talk about yourself in interviews and connections.
Then it’s time to revamp your resume and LinkedIn profile. A few things to consider for LinkedIn:
Update your entire profile so it reflects who you are now — not three years ago when you last looked for a job. This isn’t just your resume, but your photo and that area on top that LinkedIn calls your “introduction card.” That’s a place for you to expand on your elevator story and tell people about who you are, what you care about, and why you might be great to connect with.
Set your profile to “public” so you’re findable.
Join (or interact with) groups around your interests and passions. Find interesting people to follow, and comment on what they share. Share your own interesting or relevant info. Sharing, groups, and comments are easy ways to start a conversation with people.
While you’re there, start learning about other companies. Broaden your scope. What organizations inspire you? What do they have in common? How can your skills, values, experiences apply to a number of industries, roles, and professions, even beyond what you’ve done before? Understanding why you’d love to work at those companies can give you a baseline to think creatively about where you’d be a fit, and it will inform your questions when you start applying and interviewing.
7. Dive into your job search
Even in these uncertain times, many businesses aren’t pausing operations right now. Go ahead and apply to any open job you see (and like). You may have the chance to interview, or even start work remotely. So now’s the time to practice your interview skills, and in particular, to develop your video interview skills.
This time of Zooming with our friends is a fantastic opportunity to suggest some practice interviews. A lot of people will be looking for work and you can reciprocate; others will just have free time and want to help out. Reach out to see who’s willing to do some trial runs with you. A few things to consider:
Even with all the jokes about working in pajamas, interview standards don’t change. Use the utmost professionalism with what you wear for interview purposes. Ask your friend to tell you what it looks like on camera.
Get your environment in order as well. Is there clutter in the background? Do you have a system set up so that nobody else in the house will disturb you? Do you need to close doors and windows to reduce noise?
Be familiar with your tech. Are your headphones working, if you’re wearing them? Ask your friend for a sound check. When you have an interview scheduled, do a trial run on the platform they’re using (Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, etc).
Then you can get into actual sample interview questions in your runthrough. This will help you think on your feet, sharpen your talking points, and become comfortable. Bonus: The great thing about video interviews is that you can have a few notes in front of you! You should never be reading straight from a script, but it’s a huge advantage to have your talking points handy if you need them.
One last thing: Consider volunteering through your job search as well. Volunteers are sorely needed during these rough times. And if you’re grieving your job loss, helping out has extra benefits. It will keep you busy, put your experience in perspective, and help you feel productive and connected. It can also help you build skills, and could even be a networking opportunity (you really never know). Most important, it will remind you that we’re in this together.
And we’re here for you. If you have any unanswered questions about job loss, you can contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will answer you personally.
© 2020 Ellevest, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Information was obtained from third-party sources, which we believe to be reliable but not guaranteed for accuracy or completeness.
The information provided does not take into account the specific objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific person.