Twenty Ways to Survive a Layoff

Editor's note: On Feb. 20, IT manager and Network World columnist Ron Nutter was called into his boss's office and told he was being let go -- that day. Once the initial shock wore off, Nutter launched an aggressive search for employment in the Kansas City area. Over the next 76 days, Nutter applied for 85 jobs, and had 16 interviews before landing a new position. He chronicled the job search in a daily blog. Now that he has had some time to reflect on the experience, Nutter offers these 20 tips for surviving a layoff.

1. As you're being laid off, take notes

This can be difficult to do, because losing a job can be a very emotional experience. Nevertheless, while everything is still fresh in your mind, write down all the details you can remember. For example, I was told I would be paid for the full two-week pay period plus my remaining vacation and sick time. When my last check arrived, there were discrepancies. Having written notes helped me when I went back and reminded my former boss and the Human Resources folks of their commitment.

2. Take some time for yourself

Take a few days for yourself. A traumatic event has just happened to you, and you need to get over the initial shock before you jump into the fray to search for a new job.

3. Review the paperwork from the company that laid you off

You need to attend to several important things rather quickly. One is finding out how to file for unemployment. Another is determining how long your company-paid health insurance will be in force before you have to consider paying for COBRA insurance.

4. Update your résumé

This is something we should all do, but it doesn't always get the attention it should. I was told a long time ago that a résumé should be more than two pages with a maximum of three bullet points per employer. That may work in some cases, but not in all.

I have found that some recruiters and employers use software that counts how many times a particular word, such as Cisco, or a word describing a certain type of experience appears in a résumé. I can attest this is happening to a degree. During a previous job search, a recruiter had me rewrite my résumé just about completely to list specifically all the different types of Cisco hardware I had worked with. It was interesting to note how the callbacks increased after I did that.

You may find it necessary to keep more than one type of résumé, each tailored to the type of job you are pursuing.

5. Get a handle on monthly bills

Although I had a little money put by for a rainy day, I went through my recurring bills to see if there was any room for saving more. I found that by shopping around for automobile and homeowners insurance, I could keep the same coverage and reduce both bills. I had been thinking about doing this for a variety of reasons, but being unemployed helped push it to the top of the list.

6. Cut food costs

If you live by yourself, this will be easier to do. If you have a family, everyone will need to sit down and understand they will all have to help out until you can get another job. Not that I ate out a lot while I had a job, but I did eat out sometimes. When I was laid off, that stopped. The one treat I allowed myself each week was to stop by a local pizza place that made the pizza but you took it home to cook in your own oven. I made sure to take a coupon with me each week to take a couple dollars off the cost of the pizza.

I also shopped at my local Costco and bought the food I needed in bulk so I had to shop only once a month. Having a freezer make this easier to do. For example, I would buy a 3 to 5 pound tray of fish, which I would portion out into individual meals using a vacuum-sealing machine. Another suggestion: Buy several gallons of milk at one time and put them in the freezer. Pull one gallon out at a time, and it will still be good. I have been doing this for more than a year and have yet to notice a difference in the taste.

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