If you’ve been fired from a job, it’s a blow.
The emotional toll of being “displaced” can make it hard to know what to do first or where to get help. But rest assured, help is available.
First off, hit the internet.
Check out the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s unemployment website, which provides resources to find food, housing and financial support. It has links to apply for unemployment insurance and state services such as job boards and career counselors.
Here some other must dos to get you on the road to your next gig.
Lorrie Janatopoulos, director of the state’s CareerForce employment services, recalls her own feeling of being in limbo after her Bush Fellowship ended in 2018 and she quickly had to find a new job. “It gets discouraging at times. So hang in there.”
Read through paperwork
To ease the transition, Janatopoulos suggests that you first carefully read any paperwork you are asked to sign by your old employer.
“Do that calmly,” she said. “I know losing a job is an extremely difficult situation. If you are very emotional, you may want to set up an appointment to talk to HR the following day to complete the paperwork.”
Pay attention to deadlines. You may have a set number of days to sign paperwork such as a severance agreement before offers for additional pay or benefits expire.
However, Sharyn Tejani, associate legal counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), advises displaced workers to remember they don’t have to sign severance agreements on the spot. They can take some time to calmly read it and even consult with an employment attorney who can help decide if the severance agreement is a good idea. That advice is emphasized for older workers, she said.
While reading, pay particular attention to what rights you are asked to waive in exchange for a severance check and the continuation of select benefits, she said.
Unemployment benefits coverage
Apply for unemployment insurance immediately.
“Unemployment insurance benefits can temporarily cover part of your lost wages, so it’s really important to see if you qualify and to apply for it as soon as possible,” Janatopoulos said. Go to UIMN.org/applicants/index.jsp.
In Minnesota, unemployment pays roughly half your weekly wage, up to a maximum of $820 a week. Payments won’t begin until after any severance payments you receive from your old employer cease. And note that the state’s program doesn’t pay you anything the first week in the program.
You will have to pay income taxes on unemployment benefits, so consider setting aside part of each payment, or ask the state to automatically withhold the taxes using uimn.org or the state’s automated phone system.
Maple Grove resident Heather Petri, who worked steadily for 20 years, was surprised to find herself laid off three times over the past nine years. Each time, unemployment came with required meetings, coaching and classes that really helped, she said.
But even so, “it was rough. It was check to check,” Petri said.
She is a single mother and had just closed on a townhouse. She now tells others it is OK to have a pity party for a few days, but then get to work finding your next job.
Figure out a budget
Navigating life without a full paycheck can be scary.
First, determine how you can retain health insurance. Can you enroll in your spouse’s plan? Can you get 18 months of insurance through your work’s COBRA option? Or should you enroll in MNsure? Remember if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), you can withdraw those funds for eligible health expenses even after you’ve left a job.
As for covering basics like rent, mortgage, insurance, food and student loans, the key is prioritization.
“If you’re going to be in trouble, negotiate with creditors now,” Janatopoulos said. “It’s better to plan ahead than miss payments without explanation. I know that is scary, but I also know it’s important to be proactive.”
Audit your expenses. For example, if you paid for parking or ate lunch out, you will save money while at home. Perhaps you can cut some streaming services or renegotiate insurance expenses, according to American Express.
“Review and adjust your budget,” said Thrivent financial consultant Eva Stukenberg, who is a fan of online budgeting tools to get you through a crisis such as a job loss. Banks and credit card companies offer them as does Thrivent, which also offers free online budgeting and money counseling sessions with a financial planner.
Get help with job search
If your employer has an employment outplacement firm to assist you during your transition, use it. If you’re on your own, don’t fret. Petri from Maple Grove and officials from DEED note there is free help via the state.
Contact careerforcemn.com or call 651-259-7500 to get connected with one of the state’s CareerForce job service specialists. Employment counselors can help assess your skills and interests to come up with a plan and provide resume tips, job interview prep and job training referrals.
Even if you have a plan, you’d be wise to upload your résumé to MinnesotaWorks.net, said Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The site is where thousands of Minnesota employers find job candidates.
But it’s not a slam dunk. Petri, who worked at Best Buy for years, found that her solid marketing, social media and communications skills were often overlooked by automated “applicant tracking software systems,” which made it hard to get her résumé and cover letter in front of an actual human.
Your résumé and cover letter should include key words that match the job description.
Even that didn’t help Petri.
Janatopoulos, who oversees 80 CareerForce job-assistance offices across the state, concedes submitting a perfect résumé is only part of what it takes to land your next job.
Tap all your networks “for emotional support as well as job leads. It’s hard to talk to people about losing a job, but those people can really boost your confidence when you are feeling low and connect you to your next job opportunity,” she said.
Also reach out to people you know in the field you want to pursue to see if it’s a good fit, she said. Use LinkedIn and other social media for help as well.
And don’t be ashamed. Talk about your job hunt with every person you know from business groups, block, book and veterans clubs, sporting events, PTA meetings, church, synagogues and mosques, and more.
Sometimes it really is “who you know” that tips the scale in your favor. It’s also a morale booster, said Janatopoulos. It took about a year for her to land her preferred job.
After long and demoralizing job searches in the past, Petri changed things up last year after her last layoff.
Petri found contacts on LinkedIn, joined a church support group, sought interviewing feedback from HR friends, talked to nonprofit board members and sought input from employees already working at her dream place of employment, the nonprofit social services firm Tubman.
Petri also reworked her résumé, updating the design and including specific data about what she achieved for past employers.
Determined to get her résumé in front of a human, she asked some employees at Tubman if they could walk her résumé to a hiring manager. It worked.
Petri was hired as the director of communications and public policy at Tubman.
“I learned there really is the power of your network,” Petri said.