1. Unemployment Benefits: The second you become unemployed—before you go home to wallow, or even look for another job—apply for unemployment benefits, even if there’s no guarantee you’ll get them. The first check takes a couple of weeks to reach your doorstep, and any delay in starting the process will only mean you’ll have to dip into your savings sooner and more frequently.
2. Evaluate Your Finances: After you’ve applied for unemployment, sit down and make a chart of your hard (car, house) and liquid (checking/savings accounts, cash, investments); what your essential (rent/mortgage, food, healthcare) and non-essential (clothes allowance, entertainment) expenses will be for the next 3 to 6 months; how long benefits from your last job (if any) will last; and if you have anything of value ($500 or more) that can be put up in case of an emergency. Check your assets against your liabilities (including things like student loan payments, insurance payments, car payments, or anything other money you have to pay to another party), and calculate carefully how long you can manage without a job.
3. Hit the Job Market: Even though you may feel sucker punched from the reality of losing your job, there’s still no time to rest. Not only will letting yourself get caught up in the situation make you feel worse, but each day you spend not looking for a job is more money down the drain. Brush up your resume so it’s completely up-to-date, check in on your contacts, take refresher courses if you have to, and apply, apply, apply. With 2.9 unemployed people applying for every job opening and the odds of landing a job after 6 months of unemployment only 12%, you need to act fast.
4. Volunteer: There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find a new job in the next week or month, but you need to be able to fill your time—and resume—and volunteering is a great way to go about it. Not only does it keep your day structured, but you could meet a contact that could lead to a job.
5. Downsize: Until you’re steadily employed again, you have to start living within your current means. It’ll hurt, but things like canceling your cable (you can watching TV online), riding the bus instead of driving, taking in a boarder or roommate, and entertaining in instead of going out can be temporary—if you act right and with foresight.
6. Constantly Reevaluate: If you’ve updated your resume, applied to dozens of jobs, and still haven’t gotten any interviews or offers, carefully look at yourself and uncover what you’re not doing that successful people are. While job prospects are relatively thin, they haven’t disappeared completely, as people are becoming employed, albeit at a lower rate than before. If you’re not one of them, change your approach until you are. And above all else, never give up because the second you do, it’s game over for you.