You Lost Your Job. Now What?

Last updated: Jan 17, 2023

The sudden loss of a job is a body blow, but life and financial obligations don’t stop because you’re unemployed. How do you respond while still reeling from the impact? Simple. Be indomitable. The Online Etymology Dictionary says “indomitable” means “unyielding, persistent, resolute.” Per this blog and per your finances and employment, the “what” – “You lost your job. Now what?” – is to be unyielding, persistent, and resolute in bringing clarity to your circumstances and maximizing the return on your job-hunting skills, strategy, and tactics.

First, It’s Time for Clarity

You need to know where you stand to determine where you’re going.


Were you furloughed? Fired? Laid off? How you became unemployed makes a difference when it comes to financial assistance. It depends on whether:


You were fired. In most cases, you won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits, but there are exceptions. For instance, if you were fired for refusing work under dangerous circumstances (and can prove it), you probably can get benefits.


You quit. You won’t be able to get benefits unless you can prove that you left for safety or health reasons. For instance, the job exposed you to the coronavirus without adequate safety precautions.


You were furloughed or laid off. Furloughed employees often retain health care benefits. In either case, you’ll be eligible for unemployment benefits and for extension of health insurance coverage under COBRA (more on that later). Basically, if you’re sidelined through no fault of your own, you’ll be eligible.


To be clear:

  • Being furloughed means you’re still an employee, but you aren’t being paid or aren’t receiving full pay. Employee benefits such as health insurance typically remain active, but the terms and extent of the benefits may be affected, depending on laws in your state. Another downside: If the employer doesn’t drop health benefits, you still have to cover the cost of health insurance that was being deducted from your paycheck.
  • Being laid off means losing the job and benefits, though there’s a chance you’ll be rehired.
  • Laws governing unemployment benefits, including the amount received, can vary by state.
  • Severance pay typically is for people who are fired or laid off, but it’s iffy. Your employer has a lot of discretion, according to an article in The Muse.

woman sitting at a table with paperwork and using a calculator to plan a budget

Second, Regain Your Balance

There’s a lot of empirical data on the psychological effects of losing a job. BBC addresses the topic in a story headlined “Unemployment during coronavirus: The psychology of job loss.” Here are the BBC bullet points on processing the loss:

  • For some, the event is on par emotionally with losing a loved one.
  • Emotions can match the trajectory of the grief cycle, “from shock and denial, through to anger and bargaining, and eventually to acceptance and hope.”
  • Unusual circumstances such as job losses due to the Great Recession or the coronavirus provide a scapegoat, which can reduce guilt and self-deprecation.
  • The key under any circumstances is to recognize what you can and can’t control and focus on what you can affect.


Finally, Think Strategically – and Execute

Unless you’re independently wealthy or old enough for Social Security benefits, you need to start a job hunt. There are other unemployment-related issues to address, too, so we’ll tackle those first.


Health Care

If your circumstances have ended your insurance coverage, you have options. says you can:

  • Shop for an affordable Marketplace insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
  • Apply for Medicaid.
  • Apply for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers children and, sometimes, pregnant women in families unable to afford private insurance but too well off to qualify for Medicaid.
  • Use the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) to continue coverage under your employer’s plan “for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events.” This can be costly – up to 102 percent of the plan’s cost.


If these options don’t work for you, consider turning to community health centers for low-cost care.


Sitting it out because your job is coming back? Unemployment benefits only flow if you’re job hunting, though there are exceptions in most states for people axed under circumstances such as a pandemic or idled by furloughs.


Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment insurance is a federal-state program administered by states. The enrollment process and amount paid depend on each state. If you lost your job through no fault of your own, it’s likely you’re eligible. Click here to learn how to file for benefits in your state.


Special circumstances might apply. For instance, people who lost jobs to the COVID-19 pandemic were eligible for state benefits and an extra $600 weekly through the federal government. Click here for details.


The Brookings Institute is another good source for information on unemployment insurance, particularly in respect to the coronavirus pandemic.


And if you’re unlucky enough to exhaust your benefits, you can apply through your state for an extension of payments. Lengths vary.

woman sitting at a desk looking at a laptop and jotting notes in a notebook

Revamp Your Budget

When your income stream changes, it’s time to tweak or create a budget. You can go old school or digital. How doesn’t matter, but doing it does. Tracking your money reduces waste and makes planning your life a bit simpler. A little more control also means a bit less stress.


Personal Maintenance

Do what it takes to find a job, but don’t short-change your physical or mental health in the process.

  • Set aside time to relax.
  • Eat and rest properly.
  • Stay connected with friends and family. Sharing your hopes and fears will help.
  • Get professional help if needed.


The Job Hunt

Finding a job takes a strategy and tactics. The strategy is your overall plan for finding a job, and you need one with a daily and long-term approach.


What you want to accomplish defines your strategy. You want a job making widgets? Decide where you want to make widgets, how much you want to make for doing it (basement and ceiling), and acceptable options to widget-making.


The tactics are the moving parts, or tools, and are roughly the same for each strategy:


Yes, use job boards, but networking is your best bet for job leads; and the resulting ability to name-drop in a cover letter or interview never hurts.


Yes, you can turn to recruiters/headhunters, too.


Take it one day at a time. And make good use of your time by having a daily checklist, with goals for each day and every week you’re in the hunt. You’re reinventing yourself, and you’re likely to be impressed with the final product.

man sitting on a couch typing on a laptop looking for career opportunities.

USF Can Help You Change or Advance Your Career

Sometimes reinventing yourself takes an assist. USF’s Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education is here for you. Want to supercharge your résumé with certification or explore another career path? Check out our programs.