What Do I Do If I Become Unemployed?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2018
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Suddenly becoming unemployed is a situation that brings to mind a great deal of fear and frustration. Whether the termination of employment is due to some lack of expertise on the job or downsizing that is occurring due to adverse conditions in the industry or the general economy, the sense of failure and uncertainty about the future can sometimes be almost paralyzing. Before you allow yourself to sink too deep into the shock and depression that often occurs after losing a job, take steps to secure any unemployment benefits you may have and begin making at least some basic plans for your future.

As soon as you become unemployed, spend some time finding out what benefits you may have coming from your former employer. This includes any remaining salary or wages for the work you have completed as well as payment of any vacation or personal days that are due to you, in addition to any funds in a retirement plan that must be disbursed or rolled over into a new plan. Ideally, you will soon be able to roll your retirement assets into a new plan and not have to take a cash payment that is subject to taxes. On the other hand, if you foresee a long period of being unemployed, it may be necessary to take the cash payout of the retirement, pay the taxes, and use the remainder to manage day to day living expenses for awhile.


Make your way to the unemployment office as soon as you can. In many nations, there are provisions for compensation to the unemployed that anyone who has recently lost a job may obtain. Keep in mind that in some jurisdictions, termination of employment that is due to poor job performance is not covered, although just about every jurisdiction offering this type of governmental support will provide benefits to those who lose jobs due to plant closings or company downsizings. Even though the employment benefits will likely be much less than your salary or wages, those unemployment checks can help prevent you from falling behind in your debt obligations and can keep food on the table.

After addressing the issues of final pay and other funds from the former employer and arranging to receive unemployment compensation, turn your attention to the household budget. Now is the time to tighten things a bit, so that the funds you do have available will go a little further. Focus your efforts on any line items that are variable in nature, and find ways to keep them as low as possible until you secure another job. While austerity budgeting is rarely fun, it will mean that you are still making the rent or mortgage payment and don’t have worries about the car being repossessed because of late payments while you are unemployed.

Once you’ve done what you can to structure your finances to best advantage, begin the task of looking for another job. Make use of your social networks to secure job leads and follow through on them. Consider signing up with an unemployment agency to broaden the search for work. If you want to try applying your skills in several different types of companies, consider signing up with a temporary agency and going on a few different assignments. Many people find permanent employers by going on these short-term assignments, since both the employer and the employee have a chance to evaluate one another before a job offer is ever presented.

Throughout the process, don’t allow the new state of being unemployed crush your spirit. Instead, look forward to the opportunities presented by working in a new environment. With a little time and a steady effort, you will find another job, possibly one that offers tangible and intangible benefits that are far superior to your former position.



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