My Worst Worry: What if I Get Laid Off?

October 15, 2009 at 3:55 am | Posted in Finances, Resources, Work Life | Leave a comment

For me, there's something especially poignant about packing up the few little items that made your office seem like home.

For me, there's something especially poignant about packing up the few little items that made your office seem like home.

The times being what they are, I fear being laid off. In fact, you could say that I’ve developed a morbid anxiety about the subject. Two nights ago I spent an hour staring out into space worrying with my cuticles and fretting about whether, like about half of my friends, I will be let go. A part of me feels like this would truly be the end of my life. So much of my identity is wrapped up in my work that losing it would feel like losing everything. So what to do?

As usual, it’s list-making to the rescue. Here are strategies that anyone can apply:

1. My first concern would be paying my mortgage, but the same step holds true if you rent: get a roommate. I am lucky enough to have a two-bedroom condo, but during a bad recession (so bad that it might even be a depression) it’s not a bad idea to try even if you can only rent out the living room. I did that as an undergraduate, and it can work. Sure, it’s uncomfortable and it will affect your privacy, but it will also halve the amount you pay for housing. Before you start advertising, though, make sure that your landlord or homeowners’ association approves; otherwise you and your new roomie could end up in hot water.

2. Register for unemployment payments immediately. As I’ve said before in this space, unemployment is not a form of welfare — it’s insurance for which both you and your employer pay premiums. Many people are reluctant to collect, but it’s something to which you are entitled if you should be fired or laid off. It’s important to register right away, since there may be a waiting period. Also, you will be required to hunt for a job actively while collecting it, so dust off your resume and make a plan.

3. Contact all of your creditors, explain your situation, and see if you can get some sort of temporary relief from payments. It’s best to start this process early since, in my experience, qualifying can involve a lot of red tape.

4. Once money starts to run low, sell everything nonessential. Have a big yard sale and either prepay your bills or apply the money towards debt reduction.

5. If you are a homeowner and the situation is truly dire, you can rent out your place and move in with friends or family. This would dramatically lower your costs; of course, it would also represent a serious blow to your quality of life.

6. Register for whatever mental health plan your state offers as a part of Medicaid. If your state has a program through which you can be declared Seriously Mentally Ill, apply for it and be prepared to document your situation and past treatment thoroughly.

7. Start volunteering. Choose activities that play to strengths that you’d like to use in your next job, and spend at least a couple days a week doing them. For instance, if I were laid off tomorrow, I would offer to work on my church’s newsletter and website.

8. Sign up with temporary employment agencies and work at getting a permanent job that way. This has worked well for me in the past. I got my current, excellent job by temping and impressing my boss, and this isn’t the first time that’s happened. At the end of a recession, employers will often begin hiring by taking on temporary employees, seeing how they work out, and then making them permanent. Remember, though, that you should never have to pay a fee to any agency to find a job; the employer should be paying all fees.

9. Take classes online or at a community college on Excel, PowerPoint, and other commonly used software. Learning a new skill always pays off, sometimes in cold, hard cash, sometimes in your ability to find a job at all. I would take a class in web design, since most people who sell their writing skills are now expected to be able to maintain, if not create, company websites.

10. Most importantly, don’t blame yourself, and don’t dwell on anything that you might have done wrong in the months leading up to your layoff. Instead, make lists of the ways you succeeded at your last job. What skills did you pick up that you would like to use in your next job? You must have done well on some projects; list them. Remember, no job or relationship is a failure just because it comes to an end.

The moral is, I wouldn’t drop dead if I got laid off — I probably wouldn’t even starve or go homeless. The same goes for you if you’re working right now. Bipolar disorder makes it harder to find a job, and much more difficult to go without employer-provided insurance, but it’s still possible to survive these times.

And now for a change in topic: I’ve mentioned my programmable thermostat several times in this space. I’d just like to send a shout out to my dad for installing it when my feeble efforts ground to a halt. Next: programming that sucker. I’m sure I’ll be turning the air blue with curses.

Love to all.

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