Losing your job isn't fun. You're probably feeling angry, hurt and upset. But it's important to keep your emotions in check and exit gracefully. "You don't want to burn any bridges," says AuWerter. "Your former boss and your coworkers are going to be valuable contacts further down the line." Keep in mind, too, that most recent layoffs have been about the economy, not about individual job performance. Be sure to get a letter of recommendation from your employer before you leave - it will help you in your job hunt later on.
In the mean time, sign up for unemployment. Most people qualify, but don't expect to receive a check equal to your former salary. "The average check these days is about $300 per week," says AuWerter. Be sure to apply for benefits as soon as you're laid off. It may take a few weeks until your checks begin to come in the mail. If you're not sure how much you're eligible for, visit www.CareerOneStop.com.
It's also important to keep your healthcare coverage. A lapse in health insurance could turn a bad situation into a terrible one. It's very easy to go bankrupt without coverage. Look into a Cobra plan that allows you to pay for the insurance you received through your employer. It isn't cheap, though. You'll now be responsible for the employee and employer part of the tab, as well as a 2% administrative fee. "For a family, this can easily cost you $1,000 or more per month," says AuWerter. Your best bet is to compare a Cobra plan with an individual health insurance plan to figure out what works for you financially.
Also, take a good look at your household budget. Consider where you can slash spending and do your best to differentiate between needs and wants. AuWerter suggests cutting back on cable, cell phone plans and gasoline bills. Carpool when you can, or take public transportation. You could also start making your own coffee at home instead of buying your usual daily latte. Try keeping a money journal. Write down everything you spend, no matter how big or small. After a few weeks, take a look at where your money is going and where you can save.
Finally, remember that finding a new job is now your full-time job. Tell everyone you're looking for work - neighbors, friends, former coworkers, etc. You never know where a new job prospect may pop up. It's important to keep your options open. AuWerter also suggests taking some classes to update your work skills. It shows prospective employers that you're willing to do what it takes to make yourself marketable.
For more information on job loss, as well as additional personal financial advice, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Petrun