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I Just Got Laid Off -- Now What?

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By Suzie McCarthy

On Nov. 1, I answered a call from my boss and 90 seconds later hung up in a daze. I had just been laid off. I'm an Type-A personality who always has a plan, a back-up and sometimes a back-up to the back-up. But I had absolutely no idea that this was coming down the pipe and therefore found myself plan-less. To say I was in a state of shock is an understatement. It took a case of hard cider, a Bridget Jones marathon and a good cry before I finally felt like I could face this new reality. Armed with my trusty yellow pad and favorite Lamy pen I searched the Internet for as much information as possible about what I should be doing next. There wasn't much there -- I found a few message boards on navigating unemployment, some resume templates, and a few tidbits on writing cover letters, but I had to fill in a lot of blanks by soliciting advice from friends and colleagues who had been in a similar situation.

Milennials are particularly susceptible to being laid off in this poor economy. It's important to know what to do when you get laid off and, as I found out, to make sure that you're adequately prepared beforehand even if it seems unthinkable. In our current financial circumstances any business, even if it is "too big to fail," is susceptible to sudden layoffs due to mergers, bad investments, or simply a drop off in sales.

Here are five things you should do before you send out that first job application:
  1. Immediately apply for unemployment. It's a royal pain but well worth it. To prepare for this make sure you keep your last two years of paystubs on hand as well as your W-2s. I was laid off after a mere five months and had to send in paystubs from my last job to prove that I qualified. Also make sure that you receive some type of official document from your employer stating that you were laid off. In a small business you may have to ask them for this.
  2. If you have student loans, call your bff Sallie Mae. If you're unemployed you qualify for a six-month forbearance. You will still accumulate interest, but that's one less bill to worry about each month.
  3. Update your resume! This doesn't mean simply adding your prior job. Resumes no longer have to be boring. Think of them as a sample of your work -- a way that you can differentiate yourself from the crowd. Think about creating a personal website for yourself. For less than $20 a month I purchased a domain through WordPress as a way to feature my writing, my social media outlets (I'm a social strategist so this is an essential component for me), and give a bit more information about myself.
  4. Use LinkedIn. Seriously. LinkedIn is an amazing tool when you are looking for a job. It's most valuable when you've been keeping it updated as you go. Anytime you make a new business contact, particularly outside of your company, connect with them on LinkedIn. I recently heard Porter Gale give a keynote based on her book Your Network is Your Net Worth. While I'm not usually a fan of business books, this concept really hit home for me. All of my current leads are coming from my network and LinkedIn is a way that I've kept track of all of them. Anytime I'm applying for a position, I look through my contacts to see who I know who either works for the company I'm applying to or who could make an introduction to someone who works for that company. That's the power of LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is constantly updated based on your resume and if possible include samples of your work.
  5. Let the world know that you're looking for a job. Send out emails to your contacts letting them know what's going on and asking them to let you know if they hear of any openings. Don't be embarrassed -- layoffs happen and you'll be surprised how many of your contacts want to help you out. You never know, they may actually have a position open! Post your resume to as many job search sites as you can just so it's out there. You never know what might turn up and it's a painless way to generate leads.

I sincerely hope that none of you have to go through this but if you do, know that you're not alone. Shit happens and everyone knows that. Also know that you don't need to throw your applications to the wind. You can harness your network as a source of support and inspiration. Also don't be afraid to think outside of the box. Think about doing some freelance work while you're looking for a fulltime position. It's a way to get out of the "I'm unemployed" mindset and can also be a way to prime the pump in your job search.

You can Tweet Suzie @suzimcc

Literally, Darling is an online magazine by and for twenty-something women, which features the personal, provocative, awkward, pop-filled and pressing issues of our gender and generation. This is an exact representation of our exaggerated selves.