Freshly Unemployed? Start Here

Disclaimer: These suggestions are intended to help people who are out of work. As with all other content on this site, these suggestions are not to be taken as legal advice, and the author is not liable for any damages or losses you may incur from utilizing these suggestions and/or any resources listed here.

  1. Apply for unemployment insurance (UI) right now! Check this page for eligibiity requirements and links to state UI agencies. Even if you think you don’t qualify, apply anyway. You never know.
  2. Cut back on all non-essential expenses immediately! I can’t emphasize this enough. Conserve what savings you may have, and try to live on unemployment or part-time job earnings while you look for full-time work.
  3. Sign up immediately at your local One-Stop Career Center, which have tons of resources including coaches and workshops.
  4. At your local One-Stop Career Center, ask if you qualify for any government programs such as food stamps or health insurance. Then sign up for every single one you qualify for, even if it feels humiliating to do so (and it will) and is a huge hassle (it will be). You’ve worked all these years. This is your safety net, the one your taxes have paid for. You deserve it. Stick with the hassle. You’ll need every single resource you can get.
  5. Now, take a deep breath. Allow one or two weeks at most to grieve for your loss. Two days is best. Two months is too long.
  6. Then get back to work. Your job now is to get a job.
  7. Update your resume. Get help online, and/or from a workshop or career coach.
  8. Line up three job references preferably recent supervisors – if you know the reference will be good. If you can’t come up with three favorable recent supervisors, try favorable supervisors from past jobs. Still come up short? The next best thing is a colleague who supervised you on a job or on a project. As a last resort, include a co-worker who was a team member, and/or a reference from college (teacher, professor, etc.). Whoever is on your final list, ask permission from each of them to list him/her as a reference; in the process, you can get current contact information and preferred form of contact (phone or email), and get an idea of how supportive each reference might be.
  9. Develop a plan. Get help online (two good resources of many out there is 50 Plus Career Coach Camille Grabowski’s Web site) or from a One-Stop Career Center.
  10. Determine if you need to change careers. If yes, do not try to change both function (e.g., trainer) and industry (e.g., banking) at the same time. Change one or the other, but not both. It’s too hard to gain acceptance if you try an entirely new career in a new industry.
  11. Part of your plan is a targeted job search. You should have a list of five to ten companies and/or industries that fit your skills and background and values.
  12. Based on your targeted company/industry list, compile a list of online job boards used by your companies/industries and/or your career field. The list should include your companies’ career Web sites, industry association job boards, and professional job boards such as It should also include “aggregators” such as and, which collect job postings from across the Internet, including company sites and big job boards like
  13. Part of your plan is a skills assessment. If you need to update or fill in your skills, find a way to do so as inexpensively as possible. A community college course, or certificate, is much less expensive than a course or certificate from a university extension program, for example. Ask your local One-Stop Career Center about other low-cost options you might qualify for.
  14. Update your online skills. You will need to learn how to use online job board, both to search for jobs and to apply for them. You will need to know how to use email and the Web. You will need to learn how to use LinkedIn. Again, your local One-Stop Career Center is a good resource; most have computers you can use for your job search and to set up a free email account. has a job search tutorial that might be very useful. LinkedIn also has a tutorial.
  15. Begin networking. Join a local networking group ( has a good directory by state to get you started.) On LinkedIn, set up your profile and start making connections.
  16. Apply for at least five targeted jobs a week. If you can’t find that many, or run out of time, do what you can. The main thing is to aim for that many.
  17. Brush up on your interviewing skills. Here’s a nice overview, from Camille Grabowski. The other thing to nail down is a list of accomplishments, formatted as 2-minute “stories,” stating Situation, Action (you took), Results (accomplishment), also known as SARs (there are lots of variations on this theme, but you get the idea). Two minutes. Then stop talking!i
  18. Be prepared for a long, grueling hunt with lots of silence in response to your job applications. One way to keep up your spirits is to keep yourself busy: participate in your job network, take advantage of every opportunity to practice and get feedback on your resume and interview presentations, and take care of yourself.
  19. On that note, I leave you with Camille Grabowski’s 8 Things to Remember When You’re Laid Off and Looking For Work

    1. You have the right to feel bad, hurt, and angry.
    2. You will get over feeling bad, hurt, and angry.
    3. Don’t burn any bridges when you’re feeling bad, hurt, and angry.
    4. You are not alone. There are more than 25 million unemployed and underemployed out there.
    5. Connecting with people (unemployed and employed) will help you get over feeling bad, hurt, and angry.  It’s called “networking”.
    6. Networking is the best thing you can do to find your next job.
    7. You will get a more satisfying job than the one you lost.
    8. You will become a stronger, better, and happier person because meeting tough challenges does that to you.


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