What To Do When You Lose Your Job?

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 29, 2020

Find a Job You Really Want In

0 selections

Losing your job can be unexpected and devastating. Anger, sadness, and anxiety are just a few of the negative emotions you may be experiencing.

However, in addition to the barrage of emotions, there are pressing, practical concerns to be taken care of. Namely, how do you pay your bills in the meantime and find a new job quickly?

We created this checklist to make sure you get all the money you are entitled to and hit the ground running.

File For Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment is retroactive (meaning it pays back from the date filed not the date you lose your job), so you want to file as soon as possible.

The process, requirements, and amount of benefits you will receive is different in each state. However, in general if you lost your job through no fault of your own, you should qualify.

Confirm Your Last Paycheck (And The Amount It Should Be For)

In some states employers are required to pay your final check immediately. In other states you will have to wait until the typical pay date.

However, that check might include PTO, sick leave, or other accrued benefits. Check with HR to be sure you fully understand what you are owed and when you will receive it.

Review Health Insurance Options

If you are like the majority of American workers, you receive healthcare through your job. Being laid off or fired means you now have to figure out what to do about healthcare.

Under the Cobra Act, workers are allowed to pay the full cost of their employer health plan to keep their workplace healthcare for a period of time.

However since you are paying the full cost, Cobra can be expensive. You might want to check the cost of comparable plans on the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) marketplace.

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time


The average job search takes 9 weeks- and for some can last even longer. Since your unemployment check will be less than your typical pay (expect to receive less than half), you will need to make a plan to get by on less.

What cuts need to be made will depend upon your current savings and amount of expenses.

If at all possible avoiding cashing out your 401k and draining your savings, instead focus on stretching out your available funds by cutting expenses.

Take Some Time

It is okay to take a few days off to process everything. If you are feeling overwhelmed, do not feel pressured to immediately begin applying for new jobs.

Don’t neglect your mental health. Take the time to talk to friends and family and decompress. Spending a few days playing video games, reading, or doing something you enjoy, can help get you in the right mindset for job hunting.

Check out your online presence

Do a quick Google for your name and see what pops up. Anything unsavory or maybe just something you wouldn’t feel comfortable with your boss knowing? Now is the time to change it.

When you start job hunting, prospective employers will investigate you on Google, as well as social media. Take this opportunity to tidy up your online presence and check your privacy settings on social media.


When you lose your job, it can feel like an embarrassing secret. Many are tempted to quietly find a new job, rather than announcing they have been let go.

However, there is nothing shameful about being laid off. In fact, the majority of workers will be laid off at some point in their career. No one can help you find a job, if they don’t know you’re looking.

Take advantage of LinkedIn, your professional networks, and personal relationships to find your next job. Ask your connections to let you know of job openings at their companies.

Get Your References Ready

When you’re reaching out to your network, consider who would give you a great reference. Still nervous? Here’s a guide that breaks down how to ask for a reference.

You should also consider your former employer. If you were laid off for reasons not related to your job performance, they can be an excellent reference.

Regardless of whether you were fired or laid off, you should find out what the company plans to tell future employers who inquire about your time there. While some employers will just verify dates of employment, others may be less vague.

Update your resume

Before job hunting, take the time to update your resume. Be sure to include the skills you learned at your most recent job and any noteworthy projects or accomplishments.

If you are taking your job loss as an opportunity to switch careers or industries, be sure to write a strong resume objective and explain in your < a href="https://www.zippia.com/advice/how-to-write-a-cover-letter/">cover letter.

Once you have done the surprising amount of paperwork that comes with being fired or laid off, in addition to the groundwork for a successful job search, now is the time to start applying for jobs.

You can keep looking to Zippia throughout your job search to answer any questions you may have. From how to explain why you were fired to negotiating pay at your new job.

Take the hassle out of your job search & get an offer faster
Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

Find The Best Job That Fits Your Career

Major Survey Entry Point Icon

Where do you want to work?

0 selections

Related posts