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Life

You Just Got Fired. Now What?

September 17, 2018

So, you got canned. Here’s what to do next.

4 min read

So, you’ve been canned. Terminated. Axed. Given the boot.

No matter how you want to phrase it, nothing really softens the blow of getting fired. It’s not just a shot to your ego, it can put you in a financial conundrum, completely upending any immediate plans you may have had—whether that’s getting married, going on vacation, or something as simple as going to the grocery store.

You might get fired for being late, lazy, or just plain bad at your job. Or, you might get fired because your company simply had to trim the payroll. Whatever the reason, the most important thing is that you focus on what’s next.

The good news? The economy in 2018 is in pretty good shape, and lots of businesses are hiring. The unemployment rate is hovering around 4%, and 40% of small businesses in the U.S. reported that they had at least one job to fill.

In the trucking industry, there is a shortfall of 50,000 workers, forcing trucking companies to offer drivers attractive signing bonuses and increase wages to as much as $80,000 annually. In some cities, such as Miami, it’s possible to get a starting wage of $75,000 annually without a college degree.

So, it’s as good a time as ever to start looking for a new job. But there are some things to do before you start sending out resumes.

File for unemployment benefits

Before you do anything else, get in touch with your state’s unemployment office (you can usually sign up online, too). You’ll need some sort of income, and though signing up for unemployment benefits may be an ego check, it’s probably a necessity.

Even if you suspect that you’ll be able to find a new job quickly, you’ll probably want to sign up anyway. Benefits can range from $240 to more than $800 a week, depending on your state of residence.

Click here for more information about unemployment benefits and assistance.

Click here for job-search resources and training opportunities.

Revisit your budget

You should already have a budget. But without a job, your income has been drastically reduced, so it’s time to recalibrate your financial strategy.

Until you find a new job, you’ll want to reduce expenses as much as possible. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may need to make some changes, both big and small.

Cut costs

If you’re having trouble looking for ways to save money, look at small habits that you can change. Here are a few suggestions:

Another place you can likely find savings is by canceling any non-essential subscriptions that are automatically taking money out of your accounts every month, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Spotify—you can live without them until you find a new job.

If you’re skeptical that could actually save you any money, note that the average American spends more than $850 per month on subscription services, ranging from phone bills to meal-kit deliveries.

Don’t forget about insurance

If you had an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, it’s time to look at what options are available to you. If you’re married, see if you can switch or otherwise change to your spouse’s employer-sponsored plan.

Otherwise, check out state and federal government health care exchanges. You may qualify for low-cost plans, or be able to find one that otherwise fits your budget.

Take care of yourself

For most people, going to work gives their day structure—they have a routine. When you suddenly don’t have to show up at the office, your routine can fall apart. Your eating habits might change, as can your exercise and even your sleep schedule.

Try your best to stick to a routine, and stay busy, as it can be easy to let everything slide when you’re suddenly saddled with a lot of free time.

Set an employment goal

It can be hard to stay motivated, so light a fire under you by setting a goal for yourself. For example, try sending out five resumes per day, or apply to 30 jobs per week—the numbers are fluid, as long as you’re hitting your goals.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure you have an updated resume, that your social media accounts are scrubbed of any questionable content, and that you have references on standby, ready to vouch for you.

Then, tap your personal professional network, and start looking for leads. Sign up for Linkedin, or some other professional network that’s free. Consider setting up coffee dates with people who work in organizations that interest you, to find out if there are any job openings.

Remember, if you get laid off, finding a new job is your new job.

Keep saving and investing (what you can)

You may be tempted to dip into your savings or even cash out your investments. Tap your emergency fund first, because you set it up when times were flush for an occurrence such as a layoff.

You may also have socked money away in retirement accounts. During a layoff, it might be tempting to dip into these.

Don’t—or, at least, try not to touch those. Cashing out your 401(k) or IRA, for instance, can lead to big tax penalties, and set you behind on your path to saving for retirement. So, do your best to keep your savings intact, continue saving more, and, if possible, keep on investing for your future.

Sign up for the Stash newsletter for more advice and resources.

By Sam Becker
Sam Becker is Stash's financial writer.

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