Must-Follow Steps When You’re Out of a Job

These days, it’s practically inevitable that you or someone close to you will face a period of unemployment. Consider these practical tips while dealing with the financial and emotional toll of leaving one job and searching for another.

Don’t Take It Personally

Losing a job can cause shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. You may feel depressed and lose your confidence. Yes, it’s a very stressful time, but don’t take it personally. Thousands and thousands of people have lost their jobs in this pandemic. Don’t hibernate; be good to yourself. If you need it, seek emotional counseling. Let your friends and family be there for you.

Remember time heals. This, too, will pass.

Collect Your Benefits

You may have unemployment benefits, a lump-sum payout from your ex-employer, a severance package, and options regarding health insurance. Find out exactly what you qualify for and the limitations and rules regarding each benefit.

The U.S. Department of Labor website has a handy list of all unemployment offices in each state. Some states now allow you to apply online or over the phone. Generally, it takes two to three weeks from the time you file your claim to receive your first benefit check.


Don’t be too quick to pack your things and leave. Ask for help with finding a new job. Can you set up shop in a spare office for the next few weeks while you job-hunt? This gives you the use of phones, computers, and other equipment. Be sure to ask for a letter of recommendation, too.

Hoard the Cash

You may be tempted to pay off debt with your severance check or savings. Don’t do it. While you’re unemployed, pay only the minimum payments required. If you’ve been prepaying your mortgage principal, pull back to only what’s required. This might be a good time to pare down and sell stuff to raise cash.

Slam the Brakes on Spending

If it’s not essential, forget it. Tell your family how and why things will be changing for a while, and outline ways everyone can participate in this time of transition. Make do. Look for every possible way you can avoid spending money.

Figure Out Health Insurance

Once you leave your job for any reason, you basically have five choices:

  • Continue on your current group plan, and pay the premiums yourself.
  • Enroll in your spouse’s plan.
  • Buy individual insurance.
  • Use a state-sponsored plan.
  • Go without (the worst of all worlds).

Many people take advantage of their employer’s COBRA, or Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, plan, in which you have 60 days from termination to decide whether or not to accept the benefit. If you accept it within those 60 days, you cannot be denied health insurance.

If the COBRA plan is too expensive, at least consider catastrophic-only coverage, which you can research on the internet. This will only cover the big, expensive stuff, but the premium is fairly low.

Every state also has a low-cost health insurance plan for children. If you have kids under 18, find out if you’re eligible. Insure Kids Now has a toll-free national number, 877-KIDS-NOW, which connects you with the program in your state.

3 Tips to Make You Indispensable at Your Job

No. 1: Improve Your Value

Even if you believe it’s not particularly noticed or appreciated, find ways to do more than what’s expected and make yourself more available to your employer.

No. 2: Project Positivity

People who bring negativity to work and then use it to stir the rumor mill are more likely to wind up on the to-go list. Start thinking like your employer, and then become the employee they dream about.

No. 3: Be a Team Player

Commit yourself to be cooperative, flexible, and willing to go the extra mile. If you are a joy to be around because you encourage others and make them feel good about who they are, your job security goes up.

Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021

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Mary Hunt
Author: Mary Hunt

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