Earlier this week, I boarded the same train out of Penn Station in New York that I got on ten years ago on that day when my last job in Brooklyn ended. It was the third time a job ended for me near the end of the year.
While the end-of-year holiday season is joyous, it’s also the time when too many jobs end. Businesses lose contracts. Employers do assessments and decide who they want on their team going forward. And sometimes, we reassess and decide we would rather be on another team next year.
So, it seems important to cover the practical steps you should take if you know, or suspect, your job is ending. Here’s my suggested “to do” list:
- Check your company benefits,
- Establish whether you have been laid off or fired,
- Arrange for references and recommendations,
- Gather your accomplishment details,
- Research eligibility for government benefits,
- Activate your network, and
- Start preparing your career marketing strategy.
Check your company benefits.
The first thing you should do when you are told to leave, according to the CFI blog, is establish the benefits you will receive from your company. Expect to receive your final paycheck along with payment for accrued vacation and sick time. Some states even require that companies give you the last check before you leave the office.
Health benefits are an important issue for many of us, too. Every company I was downsized from granted me 30 days of benefits after I left. Federal laws requires, in fact, that you be offered the opportunity to acquire health insurance as an individual. While individual healthcare coverage contracts can be prohibitively expensive, you should be aware that this option is available.
Next, start getting the information you need to move forward.
Determine whether you have been laid-off or fired.
Usually, it is clear whether you have been let go through no fault of your own, or if the employer has fired you for cause. Find out if you are not certain because this will impact your ability to collect certain benefits or move on to your next job.
You will be eligible for unemployment benefit payments through your state’s department of labor when you have been laid-off either individually or as part of a facility closing.
Normally, you will not be granted unemployment benefits when you are fired or when you voluntarily quit a job. Check with a legal expert, though, because it is sometimes possible to challenge claims that you were fired. An expert will also be able to advise you about situations where you should claim benefits although you quit.
Arrange for references and recommendations.
You will need co-workers to serve as references for you when you apply for new jobs. Speak with leaders, co-workers, and perhaps suppliers and customers you know well before you leave, if possible, to make certain they will be available, and to ensure you have their personal contact information.
Most places seem to have policies that employees should not provide reference requesters with information other than dates of employment, yet the same employers also ask applicants for references! In practice, those that have valued your work will answer reference checkers’ queries.
It’s a good idea to secure agreement from seven people to serve as references for you. This will allow you to rotate through the list when you apply for many jobs.
Also, ask for recommendations on LinkedIn. This will provide early “social proof” of your talent to your professional contacts and to hiring teams.
Gather your accomplishment details.
We noted in a previous post that the end of the calendar year is a great time to assess your business accomplishments. It’s even more important when you know you’ll have to find a job during the upcoming year. So, make certain you have copies of annual assessments or other reports that demonstrate your achievements in the past year.
Your career marketing strategy—the message you convey in your elevator pitch, resume, LinkedIn profile, job search letters, and interview talking points—will be based on your achievements. Those achievements will help you communicate the unique value you’ll bring to your next employer.
My clients have found it difficult to reconstruct their accomplishments if they did not collect their information at their last job. So, it is important to gather the information while it is fresh in your mind, and while you have access to the people and data you need to verify that the information is correct.
Research eligibility for government benefits.
The government calculates the amount of unemployment insurance you receive based on your income in the most recent calendar quarter. It can also take time for your first payment to be processed. Check your state’s department of labor website as soon as you know the job is ending.
Your state may also have training and education programs that assist, or “upskill” downsized workers. The director of a state workforce development program that trains unemployed workers told me his program runs “at the glacial speed of government.” So do your homework on government benefits and programs for unemployed workers now.
Activate your network.
Career advisors and coaches recommend that everyone maintain their network of contacts even when they do not need to use them. Many of us have had friends and co-workers that don’t seem to find our phone number or email address until they need a favor. There are some friends and colleagues we will assist no matter what, but in other cases we are less likely to help.
The reality is most of us need to “reactivate” our network, or build a network from scratch. Start right now, during the holidays, when it is natural to contact people you have not spoken to all year. And it is normal to have extra time off during the end-of-year holiday, so you may not have to explain right away why you have time off during the week to chat on Zoom or meet for coffee. Hopefully, those you contact have a break from their work, too! (Preferably they have a paid holiday or vacation time, though)
So, take this step now, even before you have fully developed your career marketing materials.
Start preparing your career marketing strategy.
Coaches and advisors also urge everyone to have their strategic marketing materials ready “just in case.” Most of the resumes and LinkedIn profiles I get from jobseekers are several years old, so I realize many people don’t keep their strategy current.
It’s unlikely that marketers would start making their sales or business development calls before their marketing materials are ready, so ideally, you should have your updated resume and profile ready to go before reaching out to contacts. Start a holiday greeting conversation with your contacts right now, and then let them know you will be back in touch to talk business after the holiday break. If all else fails, remember that they probably have not updated their career marketing strategy in several years either. The important thing is that you get some momentum going. Your job for now is to find a new employer.