Through no fault of your own, you are suddenly out of a job. Thank you, COVID-19.

Now what?

If you’re out of work due to the pandemic, your employer may have furloughed you temporarily or eliminated your job entirely. Or worse, your entire industry is in trouble.

No one knows how long the pandemic will last, so let’s look at how you can take action.

Regardless of whether the unemployment is temporary or permanent, your first step is to assess your financial situation. This includes both your personal finances as well as identifying any benefits due to you, either from your company or government sources.

One of the biggest mistakes many people make after losing their job is not making immediate adjustments in their finances. With the uncertainty of the full impact of the pandemic, you could be out of work for four weeks, or four months.

If you were already living paycheck-to-paycheck, there will likely be some impact on your finances. Adjust your lifestyle to fit your new financial reality … at least temporarily. Conserve as much cash as you can.

Once you know what you’ll have to live on, you can determine if you need to find other sources of income — for example, a part-time job.

When you were laid off, your company may have provided information about the benefits you have access to. If your company is continuing to pay part or all of your salary while you’re at home, that should be specified in the information you were given.

Likewise, if you are not being paid, you may be able to access accrued vacation or sick pay. If you have company-provided healthcare, find out if your company will continue to pay your premiums while you are unemployed. (Otherwise, you will need to secure temporary health care coverage.)

If you were furloughed from your job, look into filing for unemployment benefits immediately. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) may offer resources for you. Learn more here:

You may also qualify for unemployment benefits from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic if:

  • Your employer closed
  • Your hours were reduced
  • You or someone in your household is quarantined
  • You or someone you are caring for is “high risk” (older adults and/or persons with serious chronic medical conditions)
  • You have a lack of childcare due to the Coronavirus (i.e., your childcare closed)

Without a job to go to every day, your days may seem endless and taking care of your mental health is going to be critical. Keep yourself going by working on projects that you’ve put off because you’ve been busy with work.

Think about where you want your career to be one year from now, and five years from now. Take the opportunity to move closer to these goals.

Focus on personal development. Are there skills you can work on developing? There are opportunities to take online classes through Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning. With many of the free courses, you may even be able to secure a certification to add to your résumé.

Speaking of résumés, now is also an excellent time to work with your résumé writer to update your résumé, LinkedIn profile, and other career search documents. When you’re back to work and the economy is humming along again, you may find yourself wanting to look for a better job. Now might be the right opportunity to take the time to gather your accomplishments.

Seek support from others during this time. In-person gatherings are highly discouraged, but you can use technology like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom to meet up virtually with friends, family, and even co-workers.

Be sure to take care of yourself during this time. Eat right. Try to get at least some exercise each day. Get plenty of sleep. Take advantage of the programs and services available to you and be prepared for what’s next.

For more help on this, watch my interview on the Life Works podcast

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