No one ever likes to see it happen, but firings are an inevitable fact in the work force. While some firings are made for cause, a large number of lay-offs — especially in recent years — are the result of decreasing revenues on the part of the company, usually forcing them to cut costs to make ends meet. This sometimes leads to workers being let go despite fulfilling their job obligations, and presenting them with the unnerving task of starting all over again.
It’s hard to know what to do in the immediate aftermath of a firing. To help workers avoid potentially damaging mistakes entering into the unemployment process, here are five steps every fired worker should take to preserve their well-being and their future prospects.
1. Don’t freak out
Emotions can run high during a firing, but it’s important to try and keep your reaction in check. You don’t want to do something you’ll later regret by exploding in the face of your former boss or otherwise painting yourself in a bad light. Try to keep calm and reserve your reactions until you’ve had a chance to breathe and think about your situation. It’s easier said than done, but it will better serve your future if you can accomplish this.
2. Take a long, hard look at your finances
The loss of income can be earth-shaking and, to put it bluntly, terrifying. When you know your finances are going to run out, you need to take stock of your situation and figure out how urgent your income needs are. At the time of your firing, you’re also likely to be presented with a severance package, which will provide you with, among other things, a small sum of money to help you get through this transitional period.
While it’s tempting to sign this quickly and secure the financial boost, don’t be impulsive. A severance package can absolve the company of any legal liability, and depending on the circumstances of your employment and firing, you may need or want to consider legal action.
3. File for unemployment
It can take some time for unemployment checks to start coming in the mail, so the minute you learn of your termination, file for unemployment to get these benefits as quickly as possible.
4. Find a short-term insurance plan
Losing a job also means losing your benefits, if you had been receiving any through your work. Since you hope to be getting a new job with health insurance benefits in the near future, you don’t need long-term coverage. Instead, you need something to cover the gap. Start searching immediately for a short term medical insurance plan that will provide coverage for a temporary period of time — typically six to 12 months.
5. Maintain your relationships with former co-workers
Burning bridges at your former place of employment could cut you off from future opportunities. When you lose your job, be sure to be kind to your co-workers and thank them for the time you all spent working together. Those networking connections could come up huge in your impending job search.
It’s often hard to be rational at all times when you’re dealing with the emotions and unsureties of losing your job. In the end, though, you’re almost guaranteed to be in a better position by biting your tongue and demonstrating grace rather than retribution. If you hold your head high and try to view your situation with clear eyes, you’re much more likely to create positive opportunities for you that help you further your career in a new position.