1. Sign up for your EI benefits
You've been paying into the program for years, so file a claim for the Employment Insurance (EI) benefits you're entitled to.
Although payments are subject to a two-week waiting period, you can – and should – file your claim immediately. (You don't need your Record of Employment at this stage, although you'll have to mail it in or drop them off at a Service Canada Centre soon afterwards.) Waiting more than four weeks after your last day of work to file can result in a loss of benefits.
2. Assess the job market – and your place in it
One of the first things to consider if you got laid off or downsized is if you have a future in your current industry. If not, you may need to consider taking your transferrable skills (possibly adding to them during your period of unemployment) and moving your career in a new direction.
What industries are growing? The service sector (retail especially), IT, the healthcare field (nurses, medical record assistants, physiotherapists, technicians, dental hygienists), as well as the relatively new "green sector," with careers that run the gamut from engineers to geologists to biologists and communications officers.
Switching career gears often requires getting more education or training – or both. For this you may have to dip into your savings, get a bank loan or line or credit, or combine school with part-time employment.
Page 1 of 2 – Discover two more effective tips to cope with unexpected job loss on page 2.
4. Cut your expenses
We don't need to tell you that surviving on a drastically reduced household income is going to present your family with some challenges. Sit down with your spouse and come up with a monthly budget based on your family's new financial circumstances. Prioritize expenses and think of ways to cut back.
You can involve your kids too, but don't alarm them with too much information. You can tell them Mom and Dad are looking at ways to reduce the family's expenses and ask them for their co-operation. Reassure them saving money doesn't mean cutting back on fun. For instance, there may be fewer movie nights out – but more at home with homemade popcorn and sleeping bags in the living room!
5. Get help
Don't be too proud to get assistance. That's why it exists: To help good people who've encountered bad luck. Don't be too embarrassed to get the support you need so you can go on supporting the people who need you.
Job loss shakes many of us to our core: Our sense of self worth and self identity are tied to our jobs. If you're depressed, talk to your doctor. If you think you may be suicidal or are worried you may lose control, call a 24-hour crisis or distress centre.
If you can't afford this week's groceries, go to a food bank. Google "food bank" and your city name to find one near you. Be prepared to bring proof of ID, address, monthly income and monthly expenditures (e.g., hydro, rent or mortgage, etc). Going to a food bank or soup kitchen is a humbling experience, but one that increasing numbers of middle-class families have experienced.
Remember: Your unemployment won't last forever. You may be accessing our social safety net today, but come tomorrow, you'll be happily contributing back into it.
Page 2 of 2 – Learn how to cope when you've lost your job: Find two great tips on page 1.