With massive layoffs in the face of the COVID-19 crisis and unemployment claims at a record high, many of us are expecting the worst-case scenario of losing our livelihoods. But rather than waiting and dreading what might be inevitable, why not take action now? There are plenty of things you can do pre-layoff to set yourself up for a more successful, less anxiety-filled few weeks when the pink slip does come your way. From financial and health considerations to a successful job search plan of action, here are a few ways you can make the transition into joblessness — and job searching — just a bit easier.
Start an Emergency Fund
First and foremost, financial coach Grayson Stalvey recommends that clients create a three- to six-month emergency fund. “Your top priority should be to start building or beefing up your emergency fund,” Stalvey says. “Take a close look at your budget and figure out where you can cut back. Your priorities should be your basic living expenses — housing, food, utilities, and transportation — and your minimum debt payments. Anything else should be on the chopping block.” Brittany Waters, a financial coach at Ready Set Life, notes that doing this in advance can be your saving grace when layoff time comes. “Having some actionable steps prepared means you can spend your time dealing with the emotions of a lay off rather than worrying about your money.”
Save Money Using Digital Resources
From cutting back the number of streaming services to which you subscribe to using free or low-cost app resources like Bobby, or Subby to track and manage (i.e. cancel) paid subscriptions you might have forgotten about or didn’t realize had increased in cost, there are many ways to start saving money before finances get tight. Look at other ways to save money on things like your cell phone and internet bill, and car and home insurance — a well-reviewed bill-cutting service like BillShark, which will handle all bill negotiations for you, and you won’t pay a cent unless they’re successful.
Address Credit Card Debt
In the age of coronavirus, some credit card companies are offering relief resources such as deferred payments and waived fees to those whose income has been affected, says Credit Karma. Reach out to your creditors to see if any of these resources are being offered. It’s also a good time to look into transferring your balances to an account with a lower interest rate. Sites like Creditcards.com regularly update the best deals available for transfers.
Negotiate a Reduced Rent or Mortgage
Amongst so much financial uncertainty, some landlords and mortgage lenders right now would rather keep good tenants and clients than lose them. Contact your landlord and see they are amenable to a lease or rate negotiation. Also, if you’re not already aware if you live in a city or state that enacted a moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus crisis, now’s a good time to look into that. Millionacres, a Motley Fool website, has been regularly updating an article on that very topic.
Review Unemployment Claim Policies
Unemployment rules differ by state, so now — while you’re not in an overwhelmed state — is a great time to research those so that you’re ready to hit the road running when a layoff happens. “The application process can take some time, especially right now when there’s a surge of people applying for the same thing,” says Anna Barker, personal finance expert and founder of LogicalDollar. “This means that you should apply for unemployment benefits as soon as you can after being let go to make sure you can start to receive these as early as possible.” The U.S. Department of Labor’s page on this topic is a good place to start. If you’re not eligible for unemployment benefits, it’s worth looking into Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (or PUA), which can help those who are self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and more.
Build a ‘Don’t Burn Bridges’ Mentality
Anger after a layoff is natural, but try to keep in mind, says Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of GetVoIP, that “often, it is circumstances beyond the employer’s control that have led to the layoff. As a CEO, I would advise that employees avoid bashing their employers during the layoff process, no matter how frustrated they are. Before the layoff, let the idea settle in your mind and accept it.” Doing so, he adds, “will allow you to remain respectful during the process. If you remain respectful, when circumstances take a positive turn, your employer will remember your grace, and you will be among the first to be recalled. If not that, if that employer ever comes across an opportunity they think fits your skills, they will quickly recommend you.”
Start Looking for New Opportunities
Once you’ve addressed immediate financial challenges, it’ll be time to turn your pre-layoff thoughts to a new job search. “You may not want to face the inevitable, but if you’ve noticed the red flags and think you’re about to be laid off, there’s no harm in starting the job search now,” Barker says. “Your colleagues are possibly about to be in the same position too, so it can be helpful to get ahead of the pack.” Fletcher Wimbush, CEO of The Hire Talent, recommends that job searchers “post their resume to … and apply regularly to opportunities” on the major job boards like Indeed, Zip Recruiter, Monster, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and CareerBuilder.
Refresh Your Resume
This is probably a gimme, but you should start updating your resume before you receive word of a layoff, especially if it’s been some time since you’ve done so. “Blow the digital dust off your resume, and wake up your snooze-worthy documents with compelling content,” says Meg Applegate, certified resume writer and job search strategist at the Hinge Resume Collaborative. She recommends using “the C.A.R. framework to nail down specific deliverable results — identify the Challenges you’ve faced, the Actions you took to address the problem, and the Result of your efforts for each of your experiences.” Check out Cheapism’s 22 Things to Do Now to Land a Job in a Recession for more resume tips.
Reach Out to Friends and Professional Contacts
Sites like Payscale and Glassdoor estimate that 60%-80% of jobs are filled through networking, so start reaching out to friends, family, and professional contacts now, before you get laid off. “Asking for help is the hardest part, but you’re not alone. Find an online community, reach out to friends and family, tap into any and every resource you can find to help build a path toward your next opportunity, whether that’s another job or striking out on your own,” says Kellee Marlow, empowerment-in-chief at the Spark Conversations podcast.
Find Other Networking Resources
In a pandemic, you won’t be meeting up with other professionals in person, but just as with everything else, networking has gone digital and in creative ways. Join industry-specific social media groups, webinars, and online chat groups. Lots of Meetup.com professional groups are hosting Zoom networking events. “There are other avenues to expand your horizons. Look out for your alumni organizations, community job clubs, and hobby groups,” says Michael D. Brown, coach and director at Fresh Passion Institute.
Freshen Up Your LinkedIn Account
Like it or not, LinkedIn is probably the best, most-used digital networking site out there. “Update your profile image to be as professional as possible,” says Dana Case, director of operations at MyCorporation, and “revise your ‘about’ and ‘features’ sections to highlight accomplishments in previous and present roles alike. Make sure your experience and education sections are current,” too, she notes. If you can afford it, you might also consider getting a LinkedIn premium for the duration of your job search to “propel your hireability chances,” says Maciej Duszynski, resume expert and career advice writer at ResumeLab. “What’s great about the premium subscription is that it’ll let you enjoy the crème de la crème visibility in search as well as give you the ability to reach out to recruiters, no connection necessary.”
Make the Most of Other LinkedIn Features
Also use LinkedIn for its networking potential, says Sheila Murphy, president and CEO of Focus Forward Consulting. “If you are applying for a new position, you want to see if anyone in your network or your network’s network is at the organization. It is much better to have a warm introduction to an organization, and not just apply online.” You’ll also want to start actively engaging with decision-makers in your industry to give yourself a head start, says Applegate. “It’s as easy as commenting on content written by leaders in your industry or connecting with professionals that hold the position you want. Then, take it to real-time via phone or video.”
Consider Other Professional Platforms
LinkedIn might be king, but Brown notes that it’s not the only job-seeking and networking platform out there. “There are other professional platforms like Jobcase, Xing, Lunchmeet, and Bark where you can link up with like-minded professionals. Trust me, this career ‘web’ will get you the goods when you need it.”
Audit Your Social Media Accounts
While you’re at it, check out the settings on all your other social media accounts, and if you’re not willing to lock them down so that no one but friends and family can see them, look at them critically to spot red flags for a potential employer. “Never post inappropriate content on your social media account — it is a career killer,” says Brown. “Your social media account is not so private, after all. Hiring managers and recruiters are digging through your Instagram, Facebook, and even as far as your TikTok account.”
Reach Out to Potential References
Start lining up professional references for when you do start seriously looking for a new opportunity. If you can do so without hastening your own layoff, ask your current employer for a letter of recommendation. Ask former employers and coworkers to be references you can list on your resume, but also ask for recommendations on LinkedIn. “With recommendations,” notes Applegate, “you are three times more likely to be contacted on LinkedIn than someone without one. And you rank higher in search results.”
Take Work Samples or Copies of Professional Recognition Home
Do a down-low collection of work samples and professional recognition that you’ve received. Forward emails praising your work from your work email to your personal account. Gather proof that you were a valued employee. Take home hard copies of work only if it won’t reveal anything confidential about your current employer.
Reach Out to Recruiters and Hiring Managers
Get in contact with recruiters who specialize in your industry. Let them know you’re expecting to be laid off and let them start checking out the job horizon on your behalf. This article from Job-Hunt.org offers insight on how to do this the right and wrong way. Wimbush recommends that people even “cold call or message hiring managers to skip HR and recruiters and make a killer impression on the person who will actually be making the hiring decision.”
Start Researching Temp Employment Options and Opportunities
It might be necessary to line up a gig economy job or other ways to make extra money to help patch financial shortcomings after a layoff happens. Jack Morgan, CEO of Financeeo, also recommends that people look for “ad-hoc work” on sites like “Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr and even Craigslist (that) have opportunities for anyone to make some cash.” However, he adds, “the more specialized skill you have, the more demand you will have and ability to find supplementary income. For example, you can learn the basics of SEO and do audits for website owners. As a consultant, you identify issues and explain why the issues should be addressed. You don’t necessarily need to fix them yourself.”
Related: 22 Tips for a Successful Side Hustle
Look Into Health Insurance Options
Continuing your current workplace health insurance via COBRA is one option, but an Affordable Care Act option might be a better deal. Susan Lyon, partnerships and media manager for HealthSherpa recommends that people “research and pre-select an ACA plan by getting online quotes for new plans ahead of time.” You can check Marketplace prices via this link to compare coverage options and costs. By doing this, Lyon adds, those who’ve been affected by layoffs “can save a lot of time and stress in the moment by redirecting all that time to their next job hunt instead.” Those who’ve lost jobs are eligible for a special 60-day enrollment period on the public health insurance marketplaces, and most states also have expanded eligibility for Medicaid during the coronavirus crisis.
Make Healthcare Appointments
“If you expect to be laid off, then you should take advantage of your health insurance benefits as soon as possible. This includes using any of the free annual vision or dental benefits,” says California lawyer Anderson Franco. “You should prioritize this to avoid future health insurance costs and to take advantage of your benefits while you still have them.” It’s one less thing to worry about when your main focus will need to be finding a new job and making ends meet. It might be worth looking into stocking up on important medications now, too — some insurance plans allow you to get more than one month’s worth of a prescription at once.
Set Up Optimism Resource Go-Tos Now
Okay, this might not be essential, but let’s be honest. A layoff is going to take a toll on your emotional well-being. There will be more stress and anxiety, even depression, and you’re likely to have some pretty low days. Bookmark these TED Talks “to watch when every conceivable bad thing has just happened to you.” Check out podcasts that focus on finding the sunnier side of life. Barnes & Noble has this list of encouraging books for job seekers. There are even themed playlists dedicated to optimism and survival on music streaming services. Whatever it takes to get to the other side of this, right?