06/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

5 Steps to Take After a Layoff

Losing your job can be a major blow to your ego, not to mention your bank account. But once you recover from the initial shock of the news, you'll want to take these steps to help ensure a smooth transition into the next chapter of your life.

1. Make sure you have health coverage. Thanks to the new COBRA subsidies, most terminated employees are eligible for a 65% subsidy of their health insurance for nine months. You'll need to discuss the details with your company's benefits person and make sure you file the enrollment paperwork within 60 days. Depending on your situation, it may make more financial sense to use a spouse's health insurance or buy your own through a group plan. Just make sure you're covered, because the last thing you need is to pay emergency medical costs out of pocket.

2. Ask about references. Before you leave your office for the last time, be sure to find out their policy on giving job references. If you can, get a letter stating that your termination was based on budgeting constraints and not work performance. Also, exchange contact information with other pink-slipped co-workers so you can keep in touch after you leave the company. Maybe one of them is willing to be a reference or share job leads later on.

3. Let people know you're looking.
Once you've tied up loose ends at your office, it's time to reach out to your support network. Friends and former classmates or colleagues will prove invaluable as you navigate this transition, both personally and professionally. Don't be shy about letting people know that you're back on the job market. The more specific you can be, the better. "I'd love to meet with art directors at midsize ad firms" is more useful than "Anyone need a graphic designer?"

4. Consider your living costs. Hopefully you've already saved up several months of living expenses. If not, now's the time to think about where you can cut costs. Maybe you can downgrade your cable TV or freeze your gym membership (though many gyms are offering more flexible rates to the unemployed). Try to live within your means, but don't deny yourself occasional treats like a glass of wine during girls' night or a blow-out before an important interview. Web sites like and can help you prioritize.

5. Pursue your passion. Nobody needs to job hunt 24/7 (and frankly we wouldn't recommend it), so give yourself time to explore new interests or rediscover hobbies you didn't have time for while you were working. Some people take a trip of self-discovery after a layoff. Not everyone can afford to bankroll an around-the-world adventure, but you could enroll in a cooking class or start a blog to show off your writing. You might even discover a new career path in the process.