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Job loss and layoffs are scary, but take these steps to stabilize your situation

By Gita Sitaramiah, Star Tribune
Published: May 27, 2023, 5:37am

Sam Bishop-Strand recently took to Twitter after losing the job she loved at 3M.

“If you know me, you know how much I loved working there. I realize these things happen and aren’t personal, but it hurts,” she tweeted.

While optimistic about her future, Bishop-Strand also worried about potential changes to her lifestyle: “If I have to work in an office again, what will my dogs do? What will I do with my home office?”

Her mixed feelings are a normal part of transition after a layoff, experts said. “It’s an experience like no other,” said Brenda Peterson, who launched the Layoff Lady blog after she was the victim of seven layoffs. “You need a road map.”

Here’s some advice from financial advisers and job coaches on steps to take after losing your job:

Hit pause

First, breathe.

Too often, career coach Karen Kodzik sees people jump into a job search without working through the sadness of missing colleagues or feelings of betrayal after working loyally for a company that lets them go. The risk of not processing these emotions is that you might bring negativity into future networking coffee dates and job interviews, turning off potential connections.

In extreme cases, she refers embittered clients to counseling before diving right into a job search.

“Don’t bring your baggage forward,” said Kodzik, founder of Cultivating Careers in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Deal with it first.”

But some people might not have the luxury of taking all the necessary time to rebound. The urgency to find a job depends on the situation. For anyone living paycheck to paycheck, it’s an economic storm. For others, it might be a temporary setback. Figure out how much time you can afford to take to reassess.

“A lot of times people make abrupt decisions without knowing their full picture,” said Kim Miller, a certified financial counselor with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

Apply for interim aid

Sometimes, people wind up in a financial pinch after a job loss when they could have been receiving steady unemployment checks, a spokesman for Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development said.

If you are unemployed or have your hours reduced, apply for unemployment benefits as soon as possible. You should apply even if you have severance pay, which might delay the start of benefits, but it’s better to submit your application early, nevertheless.

Depending on when you’re laid off, you might have health care coverage for the remainder of the month or as part of a severance package. You also could sign up for COBRA and continue paying for the insurance you had with your employer. Or you can look into health coverage via your state’s health insurance marketplace.

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If you’re married, a layoff qualifies as a life event, so you could join your spouse’s health care plan even if the timing is outside a benefits enrollment period.

Assess your budget

Analyze your household expenses to figure out how long your savings will last, especially knowing job searches can take months.

Focus on needs, including food, housing, health care and transportation. Cancel vacations and cut other expenses, Miller advises.

“Sometimes people underestimate a gap in income,” she said.

Consult your family to see if you could live on less before deciding you can only apply for jobs at the salary level you once had. If you want to start a new venture or retire, that takes additional planning on top of downsizing expenses in the short term.

Also, don’t ignore your debt even though you’ve lost your steady income. Try to at least make the minimum payments on your credit cards, even if finances are tight.

“Not making a payment on time is really going to impact negatively your credit score,” said Lisa Tuttle, an Ameriprise financial adviser in Edina, Minnesota. “Really make that a priority and not throwing the bills to the side for a few months.”

Manage bills

If you’re struggling financially, call your utilities companies or other monthly-expense contacts to see if there is a way to temporarily reduce your bills or go on a payment plan. Call your landlord and lenders, and tell them you’ve had an income loss to see if you can work out a hardship plan or skip payments for a time, Miller said.

Federal student loans are currently on pause, but you might be able to defer private student loans or seek an income-driven payment plan, she said.

Find a gig

Unless you’re deciding to retire or can rely on other financial support, you’ll need to find a new source of income. The end goal, of course, is to obtain another full-time job. But in the meantime, there are still ways to make some money.

Whether it’s freelance writing, driving for Uber or delivering groceries via Instacart, all will generate a least a little income. Tuttle has an executive client in the eighth month of job hunting who’s consulting for supplemental income.

Since learning 3M had eliminated her position May 3, Bishop-Strand is treating her search like a day job. She puts in full shifts applying for new roles and doing phone interviews, save for a midday break to walk her dogs.

“I have definitely cut way back on our spending and am trying to get all my doctor’s visits in while I have health care,” she said.

She would love to return to 3M someday, but is confident her experience in communications, branding and social media will help her land a new role.

“I hope I can find a great employer with the integrity I’m looking for,” she said, “and a salary and a job that I can enjoy doing every day.”