(ARA) - As the economy struggles to recover, many American workers continue to fear being laid off. And with good reason - with millions of Americans still out of work from one of the worst recessions in U.S. history, the competition to find jobs is fierce.
Regardless of your age, gender or the work you do, it pays to prepare yourself in the event that you are laid off. It's critical to understand what you should do in the minutes, days and weeks after being told that your job has been eliminated.
Here are some tips from FindLaw.com, the No. 1 website on the Internet for legal advice
and information, on what you should do to increase your odds of getting back to work in the event of a layoff.
Don't wait. If layoff rumors are running rampant throughout your organization, don't wait to find out if you're part of the headcount or not. Instead, be proactive. Get your resume updated and in shape. Identify three to five people who might be good job references and invite them out for coffee to reignite your relationships. Start looking at various online job boards, attend local professional society meetings - do anything you can think of to kick-start your networking into high gear.
Negotiate your layoff package. Depending upon your position, you may have the opportunity to negotiate your layoff or early retirement package, including compensation, bonus, health-care benefits, stock options and other benefits. It's important to make sure you receive everything you are entitled to, including compensation for unused vacation. It may be useful to employ an attorney specializing in employment law to help you negotiate your package.
Leave on good terms. You may be angry that you've been laid off, but make sure to leave on good terms with your coworkers and even the manager who had to let you go. Any of these people could potentially steer you to a new employment opportunity, and could serve as a job reference.
Know your unemployment benefits. Don't feel ashamed about being laid off. File for unemployment immediately. Benefits vary by state; however, in order to receive unemployment compensation, workers must meet the unemployment eligibility requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period, according to Findlaw.com.
Take advantage of outplacement counseling. If your employer offers outplacement job counseling as part of your lay-off package, take advantage of it to fine tune your resume, practice interviewing and conduct research on potential employers.
Track job search costs. If you are currently seeking employment, it's crucial to keep track of your job search expenses. Some of these costs may be tax deductible. If you've been unemployed recently, you also will need to report your unemployment compensation as income. According to IRS Publication 529, you can deduct expenses such as employment and outplacement agency fees, resume fees, travel and transportation expenses, as well as phone calls.
Don't get scammed. People desperate to find work can be easy targets for scammers. Steer clear of websites and job interviews that come with a fee. Pay attention to where your emails are coming from, and whether or not the businesses sound legitimate. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Get digital. Set up a LinkedIn account that is focused strictly on your career. Executive search firms and corporate recruiters search for potential job candidates on LinkedIn based on keyword searches. LinkedIn and other online networking forums also can help you stay connected with former coworkers and others in your network of friends, family and colleagues.
Take contract and freelance work. In these tough times, consider contract or freelance employment for a set period of time. Depending on the job, these positions typically last anywhere from one month to a full year. Most contract employees are paid by the hour, instead of receiving a salary. You may or may not receive other benefits, such as health insurance, that are typically offered to salaried employees.
Step up and volunteer. It's important to stay positive when you've just been laid off. You need a positive attitude to project to a prospective employer. One of the best ways to re-build a positive attitude after being laid off is to volunteer your time or creativity to a non-profit cause.