Millions of Americans are suddenly and unexpectedly out of work due to the fallout from Covid-19. At the time of this post, estimates put the latest unemployment numbers over 20% and climbing—the highest level since the Great Depression.
If you just got laid off, you’re not alone (though we know that’s of little comfort during such uncertain times). To help you take action, we’re outlining what to do when you get laid off, from making sure you can collect the benefits you’re entitled to to getting ready to enter the job market.
Steps You Can Take While You Await The Next Opportunity
Take a moment to process the loss
It’s normal to experience feelings of grief, anxiety and anger after losing your job, regardless of whether it was in your control or not. Experts say it’s not only healthy, but necessary to give yourself time to absorb the impact of being laid off.
Vent to a trusted friend or family member, allow yourself to feel confusion or uncertainty and try to resist the urge to rush feeling “ok” with your new situation.
File for unemployment as soon as possible
Under normal circumstances, unemployment typically takes around two to three weeks to receive from the time you file a claim, but with the surge in applications there are likely to be delays. Many have reported problems with simply being able to get through to file in the first place, so the sooner you can jump on this when you just got laid off, the better.
You should apply even if you’re not sure you qualify, because recent changes in light of the coronavirus significantly expand who’s eligible. The CARES Act extends unemployment benefits to part-timers, freelancers, gig workers and self-employed individuals while adding an additional $600 per week federal benefit on top of what you receive from your state. This additional federal payment is currently set to run through July 31.
You can apply for unemployment benefits through the unemployment office in the state where you worked. Each state has slightly different requirements to apply, but in most cases you’ll need your social security number, bank account information for direct deposit, most recent employer’s name and contact information and the dates you were employed there.
Sort out what you’ll do for health insurance
After filing for unemployment benefits, the next thing to do is get your health insurance in order. If you had insurance through your job, it typically won’t continue for more than a month after you’re laid off. If your last day falls early in the month, you may have a little more time left on your coverage than if you’re laid off later in the month.
If you lose access to employer-sponsored coverage, you have two options for health insurance. The first is COBRA, which is available if you were laid off from a company with 20 or more employees. This allows you to continue your health insurance coverage for yourself and your family for up to 18 months. You’ll be responsible for paying the full premium—your share and the share your employer previously paid—yourself.
The second option is to shop for your own coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Healthcare.gov has a section of its website dedicated specifically to health insurance resources for workers laid off during coronavirus.
Take stock of where you stand
Once the dust has settled and you’re feeling ready to take action, it’s time to formulate a game plan. One of the first things you’ll need to figure out is how urgently you need work; this will determine how selective you can be in the types of roles you’ll go after.
If you have a comfortable emergency fund, you may be able to wait it out for an opportunity that’s a strong match for your skills and aligns with your salary expectations. If you need funds fast, you might be in the market for anything that will deliver a paycheck.
Remember—just because you take a position now to bring money in the door doesn’t mean you can’t still actively search for a job you truly want. We’re living through an unprecedented time employment-wise, and many traditional expectations about job hunting, resume gaps, short-term work and the like will go out the window for the foreseeable future.
Know who’s hiring
While many companies are cutting thousands of positions, others are opening hundreds of thousands more to meet new demands in supply chain, manufacturing, shipping and more. Amazon is reportedly hiring 100,000 new workers, Walmart is hiring 150,000, and Lowe’s is in need of 30,000, just to name a few.
Delivery services like Uber Eats and Instacart, essential chains like CVS and Kroger, and technology companies like Zoom and Slack have also announced new openings to meet the sudden surge in demand. Some of these positions are temporary, but that might be the perfect scenario if you’re looking for something to tide you over until activity in your industry picks up again.
Polish up your LinkedIn profile
If it’s been awhile since you logged into LinkedIn, now’s the time to revisit your profile and clean it up for prospective employers. First, make sure you’re using a recent photo that’s clear and good quality. It’s the first impression hiring managers will have of you, so make it count.
Next, make sure you’re taking full advantage of your headline—the line that appears directly underneath your name in your profile and in search results. Many people use this for their job title and company name, and that’s perfectly fine, but you can also add a few more words that promote your top selling points and help search engines find you. So, for example, instead of ‘Marketing Manager,’ you might expand your headline to read ‘Senior B2B Event Marketing Manager.’ This way, hiring managers searching for ‘event marketing’ and ‘B2B marketing’ will be able to find you more easily.
Rather than using your profile summary (the short blurb of text under your name and headline) to describe yourself or give biographical information, instead use it as a place to showcase your results. Similar to how resume line items should be results-oriented rather than descriptive, you want your summary to convey how having you as an employee has benefitted your employer.
For example, instead of ‘two years of experience as a technology sales associate,’ change it to ‘a trusted resource that helps clients solve their technology problems using Acme Company software.’
Related: How to Optimize Your LinkedIn
Tap your network
One silver lining of being laid off is that you don’t have to be discreet about your job search. You can broadcast it far and wide that you’re looking for openings, which will expand the number of opportunities you’re likely to hear about.
Now is an appropriate time to reach out to your professional contacts to let them know you’re in the market for a new job. Do this one-on-one, rather than via a mass email, and be specific. Tell them exactly what kind of roles you’re looking for as opposed to just asking for job leads. This will help trigger a lightbulb if they know of anything that might be up your alley.
Related: Guide on How to Network
Sharpen your skills
When you’re out of work, you suddenly have a lot more time on your hands. Filling all of that time with job searching can be exhausting and, after a certain point, counterproductive. Instead, break it up by pursuing some activities that will expand your resume.
Take a course, learn a new application, or even focus on a non-technical skill you’ve been wanting to get better at, like creative writing or public speaking. This will not only strengthen your skillset, but give your mind a break from the monotony of poring over job applications. Plus, it will give you something concrete to talk about in future interviews if you’re asked what you did during your break in employment.
Work with a headhunter
If you just got laid off, it’s totally normal to feel lost and unsure of what to do next. Should you hold out to see if your old company bounces back? Look for a job with one of their competitors? Try something new entirely? Take any job that’s available just to make sure you have a paycheck? If these are the questions running through your mind, you can benefit by working with a headhunter.
A headhunter helps match job seekers with employers that are looking for their skills.