Marc A. Hebert's Money Sense: So you got fired. Now what do you do?
By MARC A. HEBERT
Sometimes life throws you a curve, and perhaps you have just had a big one thrown at you - you've been fired. Before panic sets in, here are some pointers to help you move on to a brighter future.
First, keep calm. It is important to maintain a professional attitude and good relations with your now former employer. Doing this could even help you stay employed. There might be another job in the company that better suits your profile or under a supervisor who you can better work with. Your former employer will also help you with a reference, as future employers may call your prior company.
Speaking of references: Ask how your former employer will respond to such calls. Are they simply verifying that you worked there and for how long? Are they going to discuss your departure? You will need to line up other references. This could take the form of colleagues or other professionals who know your work. Be certain to contact them to secure approval to use their names.
Attain a clear understanding of why you were fired. This information could possibly be useful to you to do a self-evaluation so you can better position yourself for your next job. It will also be useful in keeping a positive attitude. Don't obsess over the why. Instead, change what needs to be changed, decide your future goals, and move on. This will help boost your confidence in finding a job that is right for you.
Don't forget to apply for unemployment benefits, as they may be available depending on the reason you were fired. It may take a while to actually receive benefits, so apply as soon as possible. Consider working part time to enhance your income. Review the effect part-time income may have on your unemployment benefits.
Hopefully you already have an emergency reserve to tide you through the unemployment period. It is also time to look at your budget. Are there expenses that you could cut back on during this time? Maybe there are less expensive options for the items and services you use.
If you are offered a severance package, review it carefully. Are there points you would like to negotiate? What is the industry standard? Should you have your lawyer look at it? Are you going to get paid for unused vacation or sick days?
Review your health coverage and retirement benefit options. Inquire about what the company offers for COBRA. You may also want to start shopping on healthcare.gov for an individual policy. As you know, the unexpected can happen and maintaining health protection is a priority.
Generally, retirement benefits such as 401(k) s can be left in the old employer's plan, rolled into a new employer's plan, rolled into an IRA, or cashed out. Cashing out isn't recommended as it puts you behind in saving for retirement and can potentially cost you in taxes and penalties in certain circumstances.
To move on, focus on your strengths. Polish your resume, network with other professionals, and post your resume on online job boards. If you need new skills, go out and acquire them. Consider emphasizing soft skills such as communication and leadership, and be sure to always provide specific examples of your experiences. Don't forget to clean up your social media profiles.
Probably the most nervous point in an interview will be when a prospective employer asks why you left your prior job or why a gap between jobs exists. Decide what you will say in advance. Be honest, brief, and positive. Never bad mouth your former employer. Stay focused on the future and how you can contribute to a brighter version of it.
Remember, every time a door closes another one opens. Take some time to reflect upon your recent work experiences, evaluate your skills, and get back out there. Many new industries require experienced workers, even if that experience was gained in a slightly different field. Most importantly, take care of yourself. Losing your job doesn't have to derail your career.
Marc A. Hebert, M.S., CFP, is a senior member and president of the wealth management and financial planning firm The Harbor Group of Bedford. Email questions to Marc at email@example.com. Your question and his response might appear in a future column.