Losing your job because you've been laid off or fired is very stressful. There are lots of things to consider and decisions to make.

Here's a checklist of some of the steps to take after a job loss:

Leaving Your Job and Your Workplace

  • Leave your workplace as soon as possible. However, you may have to continue working until a certain time to transfer projects.
  • Find out if you can take work samples so you can build a portfolio to show future employers.
  • If you have an exit interview or have to work past your notification date, be polite and don't burn any bridges. You never know if someone you worked with could be a source of a new position in or out of the company.
  • Tie up lose ends to collect any money the company owes you, such as submitting expense reports.
  • Request a meeting with your company's HR representative to find out if you're entitled to severance pay, unused vacation or personal days and how to continue your benefits and roll over your 401(k). You'll usually get this notification early on, but there may be additional issues to follow up on such as tuition reimbursement or unused flexible benefits money.

Moving on Financially

  • Review your financial situation.
  • File for unemployment compensation right away. It's better to file first and learn you may not be eligible, and sometimes if you wait too long to file, you could lose out.
  • Take advantage of any outplacement services your employer offers. They provide a lot of networking opportunities and it'll give you someplace to go and something to do with your time.
  • Review your health-insurance options and if you can't join your spouse's employer-sponsored health plan (you have up to 30 days), consider either extending your previous coverage through COBRA or buying an individual policy. The recently enacted stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, provides extended COBRA coverage and assistance to certain employees who have lost their jobs.
  • Find out if extended benefits or subsidized training are available to you through a government program called Trade Adjustment Assistance.

Start Your Job Search

  • Tell family and friends. There's no shame in being laid off and you never know who can help. Plus, your friends and family will be able to provide support.
  • Update your resume and start sending it out to potential employers.
  • Learn new skills while you're searching for a new job.
  • Contact your creditors to find out if you can change payment plans to ensure you keep paying your bills and not have to file bankruptcy.

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