What to Do When You Get Laid Off
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18 Critical Steps to Take When You’ve Been Laid Off

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What to Do When You Get Laid Off
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Setting a New Course

As of late April, there were at least 33 million people unemployed in the United States. Since March 13 alone, some 26.5 million people filed jobless claims. Being laid off and faced with the challenges of conducting a job search, tightening your household budget, and still managing to pay essential bills and put food on the table can be daunting and overwhelming. To help with this challenging time, we asked both career and personal finance experts to weigh in on the best steps to take immediately after being laid off. Here’s what they had to say. (If you know someone who's lost their job, here are 22 Ways to Show Support.)

Apply for Unemployment
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Apply for Unemployment

The first and most obvious step to take after being laid off to apply for unemployment benefits. But be aware that many states are experiencing overwhelming demand right now, including longer call-in and online filing wait times. This could mean unemployment checks may be delayed. “You can't focus on recovering until you have your basic needs secured,” says Fletcher Wimbush, owner of two companies in the hiring and recruitment space, Wimbush & Associates and The Hire Talent. Applying for benefits can typically be done online through your state’s unemployment benefits website.

Figure Out Your Housing Situation
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Figure Out Your Housing Situation

With your income stream suddenly coming to a halt, you’ll also want to spend some time focusing on protecting your housing, says Wimbush. “Work with your landlord or lender to delay payments,” Wimbush said.

Review Your Budget and Cut Expenses
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Review Your Budget and Cut Expenses

Another critical early stage step is developing a revised household budget, one that takes your new reality into account. “Create a personal and family financial plan that includes assessing what are necessary and unnecessary expenditures and begin cutting where you can ASAP,” says Wimbush.

Related: The Best Ways to Reduce Monthly Bills and Expenses

Prioritize Bills
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Prioritize Bills

You may only be able to continue covering the payments for some of your monthly bills, so be sure to decide early on which of those bills you will direct your remaining money toward, suggests Jacques Buffet, career expert for the resume website Zety. Buffet recommends focusing on food and housing costs, such as a mortgage payment, above all else. “COVID-19 will keep you away from entertainment and traveling anyway,” says Buffet.

Contact Lenders and Credit Card Companies
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Contact Lenders and Credit Card Companies

If you’re currently paying debts, like loans or credit card balances, immediately contact lenders and credit card issuers to discuss what types of relief are available to customers, says Sean Messier, credit industry analyst for Credit Card Insider. “Many major credit card issuers are allowing cardholders to defer payments, waiving fees, and even reducing interest rates on carried balances,” says Messier. “Relief is often available on a case-by-case basis, so contact your issuer promptly, ideally online, since phone wait times have grown so long, to discuss the issues you’re dealing with.”

Get Health Insurance Coverage Sorted Out
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Get Health Insurance Coverage Sorted Out

The most critical thing to do after filing for unemployment is to decide how to provide health insurance for yourself and your family, says Laura Handrick, a contributing human resources professional at Choosing Therapy. “It's great if your spouse still has a job that provides insurance, but many don't,” says Handrick. “You have a limited window of time, 30 days, to shop for health insurance through the healthcare marketplace at healthcare.gov per the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The marketplace is likely to be your lower-cost option.”

Apply for Your Old Job
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Apply for Your Old Job

Though it may sound counterintuitive, Harvard Business School Online Executive Director Patrick Mullane says that if you’ve recently been furloughed, you should make “applying” for your old job task No. 1. You would do this “to ensure you remain top-of-mind in the interim,” Mullane said. “Make an email pitch to your employer about the skills and traits you brought to your role that make you indispensable.”

Ask Former Coworkers and Managers for Recommendations
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Ask Former Coworkers and Managers for Recommendations

As you part ways with an employer or company, it’s a good idea to request a few written recommendations, and also LinkedIn recommendations, says Biron Clark, founder of CareerSidekick. “Most professionals don't have any recommendations on their LinkedIn profile, so this is a great way to stand out in your job search, and many hiring managers check your LinkedIn profile even if you applied via a different channel,” Clark said.

Related: 26 Ways Social Media Can Land or Lose You a Job

Request Written Documentation of Being Laid Off
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Request Written Documentation of Being Laid Off

In addition to seeking recommendations from a former supervisor or colleagues, make a point to request a “laid-off” letter from the company’s human resources department if you haven’t already received one, says Leslie Tayne, a debt-resolution attorney, author of "Life & Debt" and founder of Tayne Law Group. This letter may come in handy when filing for unemployment benefits.

29. Seek Out Assistance Programs
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Establish a Routine as Quickly as Possible
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Establish a Routine as Quickly as Possible

Try to avoid falling into a rut of depression and inactivity if you’ve been laid off. Create the parameters for a new daily routine immediately. “This is key to maintaining mental health and staying productive while unemployed,” says Clark of CareerSidekick. “Have a set time that you shower, eat breakfast, and begin working on your job search. Include exercise, too, ideally. If you do this, you'll be more productive and maintain better mental health.”

Related: 45 Job Search Tips From Experts

Get Noticed for Your Next Job
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Get Noticed for Your Next Job

In the days after being laid off, you should immediately update your online professional profile and resume, optimizing them with keywords so search engines can find you, says Mullane of Harvard Business School Online. “Post your resume on all job boards, including LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor,” he adds.

Turn to Your Friends for Help and Tap Their Network
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Turn to Your Friends for Help and Tap Their Network

This effort can include posting to your LinkedIn network, announcing that you're looking for work, explains Mullane. You might also ask your former boss to do the same with his or her LinkedIn network. “Research shows that upwards of 85 percent of jobs are filled through networking, so, by reaching out selectively to those you know and trust, you will get ideas, leads, introductions, and maybe even a job,” Mullane said.

Evaluate Your Skill Set
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Evaluate Your Skill Set

After being laid off, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of your skills and think through new roles or industries where there may be opportunities, says Mullane. “You may need to acquire new skills, which could be a good use of your downtime during this period of isolation,” adds Mullane. “By taking online courses, not only can you gain new skills, but they may also be key to you finding your next job.”

Create a Video Interview
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Create a Video Interview

Want to help further distinguish yourself as you embark on the search for a new job? Wimbush suggests spending some time after being laid off developing a video interview of yourself that outlines your skills and talents. “Post it on your Linkedin profile so you can better showcase your significant achievements and cut through all the noise,” he said.

Raise the Deductible
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Call Your Car Insurance Company

Let your insurance company know that you’re being financially affected as a result of COVID-19. Many financial companies and service providers are offering financial assistance to their customers, but the assistance isn’t automatic, says Tayne, who suggests you may also want to “reduce coverage if you’re not driving as much and remove drivers if individuals in your household aren’t driving at all.”

16. Start Networking
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Stay in Touch With Your Professional Peers

Be sure to join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn for professionals in your industry so that in addition to regularly networking, you’re always up-to-date regarding possible job opportunities, says Tayne.

Find a Healthy Pastime
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Find a Healthy Pastime

Taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your budget you’re your housing. Find something that you can engage in that allows you to be creative and gives you time to be peaceful, says Dana Case, director of operations for MyCorporation. “This can be anything from rollerblading to painting or reading a book,” says Case. “It's easy to feel overwhelmed by these setbacks, and it can sometimes be difficult to shift your focus to doing anything but concentrating on those negative things. Engaging in this kind of behavior, where one shuts down and focuses solely on the upsetting aspects, is a detriment to your mental health and makes it much harder to get back up, keep moving, and keep going. Show yourself grace during this time and take care of yourself. This too shall pass."