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What to Do if You’re Laid Off

These are uncertain times. We’re all hurting, in one way or another, from the coronavirus pandemic. If you’ve been laid off, or someone you care about has lost their job due to the craziness out there, I want to you to know that you’re going to be okay. We’re going to walk through some practical and effective ways for you to move forward, even in the face of fear.

But hear me on this: Just because you lose your job doesn’t mean you’ll lose everything else. Don’t let fear blow this thing out of proportion. Panic leads to irrational thoughts, which leads to irrational behaviors. Use this time to pause and regain some perspective.

If you’ve been laid off, at some point, you have to decide it’s time to press on. And I’m here to help you take the first step. 

What Does It Mean to Be Laid Off?

Getting laid off happens when your employer needs to let go of team members, usually because of hard economic times. Layoffs can also happen when companies restructure or merge with another company, eliminating certain positions.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is having a massive impact on our economy, and it’s causing lots of layoffs. Over 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the outbreak started.1

The harsh reality is that when the economy grinds to a halt, companies simply can’t meet payroll. The number of layoffs we’re experiencing right is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Most businesses aren’t letting people go because they want to, but because they have to. And certain industries are getting hurt much worse than others. Hourly workers in the service, hospitality, retail, entertainment and travel sectors are the first to go.  

Laid off vs. Fired: What’s the Difference?

Getting laid off is a result of the company’s decision, whereas getting fired is a result of your actions. Most of the time, people are fired due to poor job performance. Maybe you’ve been irresponsible and haven’t handled your tasks well, or you don’t have the skills you need to do a good job in your current position. You can also get fired due to character issues—you’re unreliable, dishonest or a bad team player.

Is a furlough the same thing as being laid off?

A furlough is an extended leave of absence from a job, with the expectation that you’re going to return at some point. It’s like you’re in a committed dating relationship, but you hit a rough patch, so you say, “Let’s take a break.” Furloughs are a normal occurrence in some jobs—like when professors take a sabbatical (a semester off from teaching).

There are quite a few companies who are having their employees go on furlough during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of actually laying them off. I believe that, for the most part, employers are hopeful that the economy will soon get back on its feet and they’ll be able to bring their employees back. Plus, it’s a lot of work to hire and train new people, as opposed to keeping current employees.  

What to Do After Being Laid Off

You’re probably feeling lot of emotions right now, which is to be expected. Whether you’re feeling scared or angry (or both), give yourself time and space to process before you move forward. No one makes good decisions when they’re panicked. So let’s start by calming down.

Take a deep breath.

Layoffs are shocking because they’re almost always unexpected. Lots of leaders don’t want to see their team members suffer, so they turn to layoffs as a last resort to help save the company or cut costs. The reality is, losing your job just sucks. So, give yourself some time to pause, process and find perspective.

Connect with friends and family.

When you’re ready, be open with your friends and family about your job situation. You don’t have to share all the details with everyone, and feel free to set some boundaries if you don’t want them to pester you with questions. The key here is to acknowledge that this is a hard time and that you’ll need encouragement. If you’re married, be open with your spouse. Don’t let shame keep you isolated in the dark. If you have kids, talk about how this will impact your lifestyle and the time you spend together. Do whatever you’ve got to do to get the support you need.



Tighten up the budget.

It’s scary to think about what will happen if you miss a paycheck. Hopefully you have an emergency fund (three to six months of living expenses saved up) to get you through the tough times. Whether you do or not, it’s time to sit down and make a zero-based budget based on your new income level. Hit pause on all nonessential spending, like entertainment and gym memberships, until your income level is back to normal. To help you move forward, our team at Ramsey Solutions is offering a free trial of Ramsey+, an all-access membership that gives you everything you need to budget, pay off debt, build wealth, and protect your family in uncertain times. Start your FREE trial of Ramsey+ today!

Figure out what benefits you have.

Your employer might offer you severance pay when they let you go. This could be a one-time payment, or it could be several payments spaced out over a few weeks or months. The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that your employer give you severance benefits, so it varies from company to company.2

You can also file for benefits through the Employee Benefits Security Administration.3 The CARES Act has expanded coverage to a wider group than ever before due to the coronavirus, including some self-employed and part-time workers.4

Now, let’s talk about health care. One of your options is COBRA insurance, which allows you to stay on your employer’s plan for up to 18 months. But there’s a catch. Most of the time, your former employer isn’t going to pay their side of the premium, which means that your monthly payments will skyrocket!

You’ll probably save an arm and a leg by getting on a government health care plan or, better yet, a private plan with a high deductible. But before you start running around and shopping, take the five-minute coverage checkup to figure out  what type of insurance you and your family actually need.

Create some new routines.

Your time has been shifted around, so use it to your advantage! Maybe you can pick up that novel you’ve been wanting to read or spend more time walking around your neighborhood. Don’t stop showering, getting up at a decent hour, or exercising just because you’re not going into work. You’ve got to take care of your mental health during the uncertainty of the coronavirus.

Decide to have a long-term mindset.

Nobody knows how long this pandemic will last. Our leaders are doing the best they can, but the reality is that this is the first time we’ve ever been through this as a country. So, buckle down and have a long-term mindset. But stay hopeful. This won’t last forever. The fundamentals of our economy are good. Consumer confidence will come back—just hang in there.

Job Searching After Being Laid Off

You can’t live on severance pay or unemployment benefits for long, especially if you have a family to take care of. Here are three practical ways to go get back out there and look for work during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Use your connections to move into another field.

If your industry has taken a blow, it’s time to start branching out into other types of work. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and even take lower pay for the time being.

Start your search by making a list of the people in your immediate circle who can help you get connected into another field. Reach out to them with a phone call (you’ve got to love that social distancing!) and let them know about your situation. Be bold—but not obnoxious—as you ask for work opportunities. Tensions are high right now, so you don’t want to give anyone extra stress. But you’ll never know unless you ask. Plus, a true friend will do whatever they can to help you find work!

If you don’t see any success with your immediate circle, don’t be discouraged. Often, it’s not about who you know—it’s who they know. Keep asking and digging and expanding your network. It might take a few days or weeks, but if you’re persistent, you’ll start to find opportunities. And as you prepare for your interviews, make sure your resumé is in good shape!

2. Look for industries that are experiencing high demand. 

A crisis doesn’t hit the economy evenly. Some people are losing their jobs, but other people are working extended hours. Essential services will continue, even in a crisis situation. Here are a few industries where you can start your job search:

Medical: Of course, you can’t become a doctor overnight! But clinics and hospitals are undergoing extra stress, and they might be hiring support staff. You could answer phones or file paperwork. Telemedicine is also a growing industry that could use remote and contract administrative work during this time.

Grocery: Grocery stores and supermarkets are doing their best to stay open and supplied during the pandemic. They most likely need extra help to stock shelves in order to keep up with demand.

Cleaning services: Businesses that are still up and running need to make sure they’re complying with CDC cleaning regulations. Local cleaning companies might be experiencing a surge in demand, so check to see if anyone is hiring. 

Childcare: Lots of people who are working overtime (like doctors or people in certain government positions) have kids at home who are out of school right now. This gives you an opportunity to help families who need childcare and make some money at the same time.

Delivery services: Since most restaurants are doing to-go orders only, there’s probably an increased demand for drivers and fulfillment services. Supply-chain industries and meal kit companies (like HelloFresh or Blue Apron) are going to become essential as people eat out less.

Security: Hospitals, government organizations and supermarkets might be increasing security personnel at their organizations to prepare for any type of panic or outbreak. See if there are any opportunities close to you.

3. Check online job boards for contract and part-time work.

Sites like LinkedIn and Indeed will update their job boards with relevant and timely work opportunities. The industries we just talked about will need to fill extra roles temporarily.

Check in regularly to find opportunities that match your skill set.

Maybe a local media station needs administrative help to keep up with increasing news coverage, or a local catering company could use temporary drivers to deliver at-home meals. Amazon is hiring 100,000 part- and full-time jobs to keep up with increased demands.

You Have What It Takes

Times of crisis reveal the kind of person we are. Being laid off from a job is tough, and if you factor in a global pandemic, it makes it even more overwhelming. But you can use this time to your advantage. Gather your thoughts, come up with a game plan, and get back out there. For deeper dive on how to do this, check out my Get Hired Digital Course. It's an online video course that will give you the tools and strategy you need to stand out in the application and hiring process.

I’m confident that you’ll come out of this stronger if you decide to rise to the challenge. You have what it takes. Press on!

Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is America's Career Coach, the nationally syndicated radio host of The Ken Coleman Show and #1 national bestselling author. He has been featured in Forbes and appeared on Fox News, Fox Business Network, and the Rachael Ray Show. Since 2014, he has served at Ramsey Solutions, where he offers expert advice every day to help thousands of people discover what they were meant to do and how to land their dream job. Learn More.

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