Not all of us are on a job search deliberately. This post is for the people who have lost their jobs – whether it’s pandemic related or the many reasons beyond that a role ends – to provide them a bit of guidance to get through the first few days, the preparation required so that you’re in the best position to kick off a new job search.
File a Claim for Unemployment Benefits
Grab all of the paperwork your employer gave you yesterday – your last check, your year to date salary – and let’s file your claim for unemployment benefits. Do this online – it’s very easy and faster than calling. Google your states name with ‘unemployment benefits’ (eg. ‘unemployment benefits california’) and find the proper link. The instructions are well spelled out for anyone to understand, and all information you need should be available.
If you need to contact unemployment…
- Make sure you fill it out correctly! They will hold it up and you’re at their mercy then.
- Keep everything consistent.
- They may schedule a phone interview. Don’t miss it.
- If you need to contact them, do it by email.
Gather all contact numbers of your utilities.
While you’re online, make a list of the contact numbers for your gas, electric, cable, cell phone, home phone, internet, car insurance, and renters insurance (if applicable).
Print out two months of your online banking.
Simple enough. Go to your checking accounts, print out all deposits, withdrawals, and transactions for the past sixty days. Do the same for your savings accounts and all credit cards.
Sign up for COBRA Health Insurance
If you had health insurance coverage provided by your company, the first thing to do is sign up for COBRA for continued coverage. As long as you had health insurance, you will continue to be actively covered by your company until the end of the current month. After that, if you opt to have it, you will be responsible for your COBRA payment. COBRA is very expensive, and to continue to receive it you must pay your monthly premiums consecutively. However, COBRA allows a 30 day grace period, meaning you have the option of the entire month to pay your premium, so if you do not have the money on the first of the month, you have thirty days to pay it and anything you accrue that month will be covered. You always have the option of letting it lapse, but plan on paying for it for the first month at least.
Try This! Google to see if there are any supplemental options available when you are filing for COBRA.
If you don’t have COBRA, get a pad of paper and brainstorm every time you’ve been to the doctor for the past five years – yes, FIVE YEARS! It’s a lot of things to remember! You’ll have to know the doctor’s name, address, phone number, any prescriptions you’ve gotten and what it was for and when you took it and when you stopped. If you are applying for single coverage, they will have all of this information on their system when they evaluate your application, so do your best not to leave anything out! You can apply online another day (it takes a long time to do this and should be done in one sitting).
Get a full understanding of your benefits package
This is very important. When signing up for your benefits package, this is your time to ask questions. Go over all aspects of your coverage. Have you already fulfilled your deductible for the year, and what will your deductible be in the new year? What are your copays for doctor visits? Find out exactly what your COBRA insurance will cover. Are you HMO or PPO? Are your doctors within their network? Does it cover chiropractic visits? What about physical therapy or psychiatrists? How many visits? Generic versus brand prescription medications? All of this information will be available online and you will most likely receive written materials in the mail, but this is still a good time to become comfortable with your insurance coverage for potentially the next 18 months.
Contact your landlord.
It will take a minimum of three weeks to get your first check (even more if you are scheduled for a phone interview), so depending on what part of the month rent is due for you, you may be late. Contact your landlord and explain that there is a chance that you will be late with this month’s rent. Your landlord knows that this is always a possibility, so rather than calling him at the end of the month, giving the head up to your landlord will allow him or her to prepare as well for their own bills.
Take yourself out to your favorite meal.
Whether it’s by yourself or with friends, it’s going to be a few weeks before you have this opportunity again without feeling like you should be spending your money on other things. Keep it in check and reasonable, and enjoy yourself.
Prepare for tomorrow.
Tomorrow is the first day of changing your life! Here’s what I suggest you do to prepare:
- Charge your laptop (if you have one)
- Get the book you’re reading or always planned to read
- Move a TV into the bedroom
- Sign up for a (free) Hulu.com account
- Stop by 7-11 and get some fun snack foods and drinks (Cherry Coke and Pizza Rolls)
- Fill up your ice trays
Turn off your alarm and turn off your cell phone.
The simplest task of the day, and a wonderful thing to recognize: you have nowhere to be early tomorrow morning and you have no one to answer to.
Welcome to Unemployment. Let’s make the most of it.
More to come,