10 Things to Pack in a Layoff Emergency Kit
You may hear the footsteps of an impending layoff months ahead of time, if you're lucky. The company may be offering buyouts, with the promise of layoffs if enough people don't take the money and run. Or your boss is reassigning some of your duties, or your company recently merged and someone else at the new company already does your job.
Whatever footsteps you hear, or even if you don't hear them, it's a good idea to get a layoff emergency kit together so that you're moving forward as quickly as possible after a layoff. Here are some things to "pack" now before you're called into the boss's office:
1. List of achievements.
This is a good list to have on your resume, but could also be used as a pre-emptive strike against a layoff by showing your boss what you've accomplished lately at work and what you plan to do in the coming year. What projects have you led or plan to lead soon? What makes you unique and necessary to the company?
2. Updated resume.
This could wait until after you're laid off, but why wait? As you walk out the door at your old job, you could be running into someone who could help you immediately find a job, and a fresh resume would be handy. Along with a paper resume, have an electronic version updated that you can quickly e-mail or send in a link. LinkedIn is a good place to start.
Wait until you're officially laid off, but be sure to update all of your social connections on your new status. These include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, a personal website, any websites where your resume may be posted, and any other places where people find you online. Within a day of being laid off, you should do this and contact everyone you know either via e-mail or phone, and let them know you're on the job market.
4. Flash drive.
However you keep contact information at work, make a copy of it and take it home. This list can be used to grow your new business or help you find new work. This is why it's a good idea to start a work-related Twitter account and let the working world know what you're doing so they can find you when you're looking for a new job. Along with your list of contacts, be sure to take home copies of any personal documents you have on your work computer, and print out your performance reviews to take home.
5. Emergency fund.
This should have been done with your first paycheck, but if it hasn't, start one now. It's a savings account or other short-term account that you can have immediate access to, and should have six months' worth of living expenses. Find a bank to set up your emergency fund and automatically transfer money to it each month. This beats raiding a 401(k) retirement account early and paying a penalty.
6. Financial statements.
Along with setting up an emergency fund, there are other financial steps to take before losing your job and steady income. They include living within your means and not using credit cards, getting rid of high-interest debt as quickly as you can, checking into getting disability coverage before losing your job, and checking out how much it would cost to extend your company's health coverage through COBRA if you're laid off.
7. Health report.
Most companies will pay you for vacation days you've accumulated, but unused sick days and holidays are another question. If you're uncomfortable asking your Human Resources Department, then casually ask other employees, or just take a few sick days to do everything on this list and get your emergency kit together.
If you have other job perks that you haven't used recently -- such as having an annual checkup or eye appointment -- you might as well get them done now while you have full health coverage. Get that cavity filled while you still have dental insurance. If you have a flexible spending account, turn in all forms and expenses so you don't forfeit the money.
8. Personal workspace.
Whether you're planning to start your own business from home or just want a quiet place to look for full-time work, set up a home office that has everything you need to be successful. This includes having a separate cell phone number for your new business and to accept job phone calls; setting up a personal website that you can modify later; printing business cards with your name, new cell phone number and business e-mail address and website on them; and creating an e-mail address that is formal and is used for business purposes only. There's nothing wrong with setting up a side business while working full-time, although you don't want to use company supplies to do it and you shouldn't compete with your company for business until after you've been laid off.
9. Moving boxes.
You don't want to look suspicious and come to work late at night and start packing boxes of stuff, so start taking a little home at a time so that you're desk is clean enough so you can pack a small box within five minutes and be out the door after being notified that you've lost your job. Don't take any company property and don't leave anything embarrassing around, but do be sure to keep a few family photos on the desk so it doesn't look like you've already left.
10. A good book.
Other than giving 120 percent now at work and proving how valuable you are to the company, it's difficult to prepare emotionally for a layoff. You want to go out knowing that you've given it your best shot at keeping your job, and with future references in your pocket. Plan on taking off a week after getting laid off -- read a book, go swimming, or whatever relaxes you. After sending out initial e-mails that you're on the job market again, take a week off to reflect on what kind of job you want to do next. Chances are that it will evolve, but let the idea ruminate for a week before going forward with it. You'll need time to relax before starting the next phase of your career.
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