Unemployment Triage – Immediate steps for when you lose your job

When unemployment strikes, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed with worry, doubt and fear. However, it’s important to understand that there are steps you can take to deal with both your immediate situation and to give yourself the best chances of finding a new job as quickly as possible. Here are some steps that can help you get oriented and be ready to take advantage of this big change.


If you’ve just lost your job, you need to make sure that you can survive day-to-day. This set of steps coupled with asking the right financial questions can help you take care of the basics so that you can move forward.

  • Relax. Losing a job, especially one you’ve been at for a long time, can be a jarring experience.  Regardless of whether or not it’s through downsizing or other circumstances, it’s very easy to blame yourself even if what happened was no fault of your own. Connect with your personal network, vent, and discuss.  The support of family and friends is essential here – there’s no shame in being unemployed. Take actions so that you have the mental energy for what’s ahead.
  • Take stock. Perform a survey of your immediate finances; tally expenses, debts and current assets, and measure current sources of income.  This includes freeing cash from such things as severance packages, unemployment benefits and savings. While the immediate situation may appear to be grim, looking at the hard numbers and making informed decisions will assist you in the long run. Further, you might have resources and options that you weren’t aware of. If you have one, consulting with your accountant about the tax implications of your newly unemployed status is a great idea.
  • Prioritize expenses. One mistake that many newly unemployed make is not tracking month-to-month expenses, including debt payments. This is a mistake. While priorities such as housing, health care and food must be dealt with, ignoring or becoming delinquent on long-term debts can destroy your credit rating. Instead, it’s wise to understand your debt profile and then contact your creditors to discuss payment options. Creditors are usually eager to work with you to maintain payment flow.  Maintaining good credit is essential to your current situation and your post-unemployment success, too.
  • Get help. Many of these steps can be confusing and complicated. You’re not alone! Consult with your former employer’s HR department, your local government agency that provides unemployment insurance and even your public library. They all offer resources and support to the newly unemployed.  Most offer free classes on creating resumes, employment and social media profiles, and conducting a job search.


These items can help you get a new job. If you prepare and plan right, you can greatly increase your chances of not only getting a job, but getting one you enjoy and will find fulfilling over the long-term.

  • Get out of the house. First, once you get all of these prior steps in place and have your job search in motion, get out of the house. Get involved with taking classes, volunteering, or performing other work that can help you develop skills and networks that can eventually lead you to a new job, be it a traditional 9 to 5 or a freelance position. Staying indoors and watching TV will lead to depression and waste time.
  • Activate your network. Use social media and other tools to touch base with friends and colleagues for volunteering, internships, freelance or full-time opportunities. The majority of jobs are filled by referral, and your network can be your greatest asset in getting through a period of unemployment.
  • Look at part-time work, freelancing and internships. Internships are no longer for college students. Employers are more apt to hire people who are actively employed, even if partially,  and many state and local governments have retraining programs that slot people into internships after a retraining period, such as SUNY’s Jumpstart NYC program. Check with your unemployment office for the threshold for earnings while still keeping unemployment benefits during your search for full-time work. Volunteering can also serve as Interning and lead to paying work.

While not being employed can be immensely stressful, it is possible to gain control and turn the entire experience into a good one.

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