Recession Watch: What to do if you're laid off

Layoffs are never fun, especially when they seem to come out of the blue. But you can get through it, as many before you have successfully done. Here are some tips for coming out of the layoff with your finances intact.

File for unemployment immediately. Some states give unemployment benefits based upon the day you file for benefits, rather than the day you lose your job. Sign up right away to avoid missing out on any benefits you're due.

Take a hard look at your family's budget. Where can you immediately cut costs? What bills absolutely must be paid, no matter what? Evaluate your family's needs and wants, and come up with a worst-case-scenario budget so you can see where you have to start cutting your spending immediately.

Begin your job search right away. Don't sit around waiting to be called back to work, even if your employer promises you that you will return to work soon. You don't know for sure if you'll ever go back to work there, so do yourself a favor and start your job search right away. If you do get called back, good for you. If you don't, you'll be glad that you've been pounding the pavement.
Get some help with your resume. It never hurts to have a second set of eyes look over your resume. You probably think you've covered all the bases, but ideas from a human resources professional can help too. They might even be able to help add some "punch" to it. And of course, you'll want to have someone proofread it. There's nothing worse that misspellings and grammar problems when you're trying to find a job.

Start networking. Friends and family are a great place to start when looking for a new job. Don't hesitate to contact old co-workers to see if they're aware of positions available or opportunities that might be right for you. Some communities have networking events just for job-seekers to help exchange leads and advice.

Look into educational programs. States often have special educational programs set up for those who have unexpectedly lost their jobs. You might be able to go to college at a reduced rate or get into a technical training program at little or no cost.

Be willing to make some sacrifices. You might have to take a temporary job paying less than you're used to if you have bills that need to be paid. Swallow your pride and do what you need to do to avoid falling behind on your obligations. No one wants to be underpaid or work beneath their skill level, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to put food on the table.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud. This post is part of a series offering consumers advice on what to do during a recession.

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