Ugh! We hear it daily in the news and from our friends and family. Now it’s happened to you—you got laid off! There’s no doubt that this is a stressful situation and it’s not a lot of fun. Whether you loved your job or not, there is a grieving process that most people go through. One’s job is often a large part of their identity and is a source for the majority of our day-to-day relationships. As tough as it can be, there are many steps you can take to minimize the impact on your life.

Decompress   Take a day or so to get your head around things. Whether your response to losing your job is tears, fear, relief or you take it on the chin like a man, take a step back and take a deep breath. This way you won’t make rash decisions. Take a day or two to sleep in, watch a “Law and Order” marathon and catch up with some friends over cocktails. Now it’s time to hit it!

Sign Up for Unemployment   Don’t be too proud to enroll. You’ve paid into the system and you are entitled to this money. No need to dread going to a governmental office and waiting in line—you can enroll online! For Illinois residents, go to: http://www.ides.state.il.us/ (Outside of Illinois, Google your state name and ‘unemployment’ to find the link.) Also, a new law took effect which extends benefits from 13 weeks to 33 weeks for eligible individuals.

Sign up for COBRA   COBRA (It’s called State Continuation for companies with less than 20 employees)provides employees who are laid off the opportunity to enroll in the temporary continuation of their former employer’s health coverage. COBRA is important because it protects you physically and financially in the event of a medical crisis. Also, continuous medical insurance coverage is important if you have a preexisting condition or develop any conditions that future insurers could classify as preexisting. While COBRA is expensive, there is some great news to come out of the Stimulus Plan. The new law subsidizes the cost of COBRA, reducing the cost to you by up to 65% for the near future.

Don’t Burn Bridges   Reach out to your former managers and co-workers. Let them know how much you learned while working together and that it was a great experience. You want to keep these individuals in your corner for future references. Also, you never know, you might work with them again!

If your exit was less than graceful, then try to stem the damage. Employers don’t enjoy laying people off and it is often a very difficult process for them. Most are empathetic about what you’re going through and understand an emotional response. If, by chance, you crossed a line and said some ‘less than professional’ statements, apologize. Most people will forgive you if you offer a prompt and sincere apology.

Don’t be a ‘Sad Sack’   Losing your job is tough stuff on a multitude of levels. However, you don’t want to come off as defeated to potential employers. While they empathize, they don’t want to hire someone whose confidence is blown. If you are struggling, talk to close family and friends. For some, it may not be a bad idea to look into some short term professional counseling.

Set Job Search Goals   While it is often said that looking for a job is a full time job, the reality of this is daunting. Set goals for the week and then break them down into daily tasks. Spending eight hours a day on a job search can be overwhelming. So, commit to a solid number of hours a day or a number of contacts you’ll make. Then go and have a little fun! Otherwise you may find yourself procrastinating for the entire day.

Network   As we’ve mentioned in other posts, tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a job. People want to help and you never know who knows who. This sounds so obvious, but others can’t help you if they don’t know you’re looking. Also, don’t just rely on industry-related events to network. Social activities and other groups in which you are involved are a great way to get new leads!

Exercise   First you now have the time! No more excuses! Second, exercise produces endorphins, reduces stress and gives you energy. These are all important while coping with your job search. Third, you’ll feel more confident both emotionally and physically and it will show in interviews!

Enjoy the Break   Take this time to do things you enjoy and things you don’t always have time for. Explore your city and visit museums you’ve always meant to go to (one candidate told me you can check out passes to local museums from the library). Take up a new hobby or pick up an old one. Clean out your closets. Volunteer. Read. Take a class.

While being laid off isn’t fun, it can be a productive ‘sabbatical’. It can be a great time to refocus your life and your career. Most importantly, please remember you will work again!