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Six Things to Do After a Job Layoff

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The stigma of being unemployed doesn't exist any more.

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Don't sit around in shock, take action.

The shock of being laid off barely had time to set in before Jim Wessel began looking for another job.

Released as purchasing director for a resort one Friday this fall, Wessel started phoning business contacts from his car on the way home. He tweaked his resume over the weekend, signed up for job-related websites, and reconnected with old friends who happened to be recruiters.

The loss of a job can leave you disoriented, wondering what to do first. With unemployment topping 10% last month and more than 15 million other Americans looking for work, it's essential to quickly address not only job options but other money-related issues.

"The important thing is to get yourself organized," says Deborah Russell, director of work force issues for AARP.

Though Wessel, of Belle Vernon, Pa., took immediate action, having a plan hasn't paid off in another job yet. But the 31-year-old has a few promising leads and knows it was important to move fast.

"If I can acquire a job with only being unemployed for three months in this market, I'll consider it a success," he says.

Here are important things to do if you get a pink slip:

1. Tap Your (Ex-) Employer for Assistance

Getting laid off can be so stunning that the tendency is to walk away and say you'll figure things out on your own. But many companies offer help beyond the basic severance package, such as access to legal counsel or clients and outplacement resources.

Human resources departments sometimes even will negotiate the terms, such as payouts for vacation time, or work with you on legitimate ways to extend your benefits, according to Heather Hammitt of the Illinois State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management.

For example, if you're dismissed toward the end of the month, you might be allowed to stay on the payroll until the beginning of the next one so you're covered under the group insurance plan for another month.

"Most organizations know that downsizing isn't the greatest public relations move," says Hammitt, who also is head of human resources at a bank in Ottawa, Ill. "So they know that if they help their (laid-off) employees, word will get out in the community."

2. Register for Unemployment Benefits


Even if you don't expect to be out of work for long, file for unemployment insurance benefits promptly. The sooner you do so, the sooner you'll have that extra check to slow the drain on your savings.

To find your local unemployment insurance agency, call the US Labor Department at (877) US2-JOBS or visit the following link: www.servicelocator.org/OWSLinks.asp.

In order to qualify, you must have been laid off, not fired, and have worked for a stipulated minimum amount of time -- typically a year and a half. Once you've registered, you must show you're looking for work in order to receive your weekly benefit.
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