How to talk to a friend who’s been laid off

Being laid off used to be taboo. But not anymore. And most of us have thought through some sort of plan for if it happens to us. Gone are the days when people pretend this is not happening.

One of the things my ex-husband and I did well, as did our peers, was learn to tag-team in the layoff department. We both got laid off pretty much all the time throughout the 90s. And somehow, we got a sort of routine, and it became a normal way of life.

Today there is a generation of us in the workforce, totally familiar with layoffs, and totally unfamiliar with the idea that a job is secure. Ever. The good news about this is that there is not a huge difference between someone laid off and someone not laid off in that all of us feel vulnerable and scared.

Which means the etiquette is different than it used to be for talking to someone who's been laid off.

1. Don’t ask “how’s the job hunt?”
Do you know how many times a day someone hears this if he is unemployed? Ten. And even if it’s not ten really, it’s ten in his head. He asks himself that, and he imagines other people asking that, and he stresses about the answer. Because the job hunt doesn’t change much from day to day, but it’s demoralizing to report that.

So trust that someone who is laid off who has something great to report will volunteer it without you asking.

2. Ask about extracurriculars.
At this point, we have a generation that is accustomed to changing jobs often and thinking in terms of the in-between time with jobs. In between jobs is the best time for real vacations and often the best time for gaining deep knowledge of something totally new. This trend is becoming more pronounced during the current downturn. People are focusing on hobbies, kids, and their health — all interesting topics to talk about.

Those of you who are employed might find a little inspiration here. We all know that it doesn’t make sense to only do this stuff during the in-between time. So find out what changes your unemployed friends made to refocus themselves, and see if you can do it now. Before you get laid off.

3. Ask about health insurance.
There needs to be more collective knowledge on how to deal with health insurance during stints of unemployment. For most people, COBRA is about as cost-effective as a penthouse in New York City. So ask about how people are solving the insurance problem because the more we share information, the smarter we are at solving the problem when it hits us.

(What I learned from my last conversation: Move to Massachusetts. Everyone is covered there. )

4. Talk about industry news.
One of the hardest things about being laid off is keeping up in one’s industry. If you’re at the office each day, you keep up, sort of, through osmosis. But if you are not working in your field, you have to try a lot harder to keep up. Just hearing it first hand from someone who's still employed is helpful.

So tell the person what you’re working on. Trends you’re hearing about. Personnel shifts you’ve seen. Also, gossip counts as news. Workplace gossip is a positive way to bond. The laid-off worker is cut out of this positive gossip loop, unless you supply some. So forget what your mom told you about gossip being bad karma. In this case, gossip equals good karma.

5. Offer up one good contact.
You do not need to pretend that connecting in LinkedIn is going to help this person. I mean, they should have been building their network long before the layoff loomed. But you could offer up one person you know well who could talk with the person laid off.

The truth is that we all know someone who is out of work. And we all know that the next person could be us. Anyone who is feeling smug about having a job has no grip on reality. Sure, some of it is your own doing, your own talent. But some of it is luck. Anyone could be laid off at any time.

This is why almost anyone you ask will help a friend who is laid off. Once. Giving five minutes of help is a reasonable request. So you can make it for a friend. If the friend is not smart enough to turn that five minutes into something bigger, that is not your problem.

6. Acknowledge trouble with the significant other.
More men are getting laid off than women, which puts women in a bad spot because most women choose a husband thinking he’ll earn more than she will (yes, even smarty-pants Stanford women). It used to be that we could not openly discuss the testosterone hit that comes with being laid off. But today it’s fair game, and even compassionate to acknowledge.

Not that women are picking up all the slack. They’re not. Some are in support groups to cope with their boyfriends losing their seven-figure bonuses. Other women lost their jobs right along side their partner.

But the important thing here is that men and women are talking about the relationship dynamic that goes along with a layoff, so you should tread down this conversational path as well.

7. Don’t be shy about gratitude
Tell a co-worker who's been laid off that you miss him or her. And what you miss. It’s hard to keep up morale when you’re looking for a job. And so often we forget what we are talented at because rejection makes us feel totally un-talented.

The act of telling someone what you miss about them reminds them that they are valuable in the workplace. And it also gives you a little boost, because practicing gratitude increases your happiness by 25%. In fact, being grateful for what you have makes you happier than any job could, which is something you can remember when you’re the one who is laid off.

Posted in Networking, No image, Office politics
78 comments on “How to talk to a friend who’s been laid off
  1. Courtney says:

    “For most people, COBRA is about as cost-effective as a penthouse in New York City.”

    THANK YOU for saying this. There is an article on the AP right now, lecturing people about the necessity of maintaining their health insurance, and talking about COBRA as though it’s going to HELP someone with their budget.

    Clearly none of these people have had to deal with COBRA.

    • Jason Alba says:

      Totally agree… when I got laid off I was offered COBRA for over $700 a month (I have heard of others who would have had to pay over $1,200/month). My health insurance SUCKED in the first place, and now I was supposed to pay almost as much as a mortgage payment for crappy insurance?

      A buddy was laid off and then started contracting… which prompted him to get his own family health insurance. This proved to be very beneficial down the road, and was better and cheaper than what his future employer offered him. I think he still has it.

      Of all the “benefits” an employer offers, I think health insurance is the one that we most want and need, but there are definitely alternatives, and COBRA, IMHO, is a slap-in-the-face alternative proposed by out-of-touch politicians.

      (just a rant, I don’t have any ideas for you on what is better out there, sorry)

  2. Grace says:

    My close friend and co-worker got laid off and I didn’t know how to talk about it, so I just sort of stopped talking to her. The friendship ended, but the regret hasn’t.

  3. Ann-Marie says:

    Thanks for this, I think you nailed it. As someone who was laid off in the past year, I am thankful for my friends who offered to pass along my resume to people they know and for those who didn’t have any contacts, I was happy to hear a few kinds words of encouragement. It’s tough to get laid off, especially if you’ve never experienced it before, but it’s definitely not insurmountable.

    For the 20-somethings that are laid off, consider getting Blue Cross’s Young Adult Blue. It’s super basic coverage for about $50/month. I know it’s hard to think about health insurance – especially the cost – when you may be barely scraping by, but if something happens to you or you get sick when you’re uninsured, you could be looking at long-term financial stress. It’s not worth it.

  4. Lola says:

    As someone who graduated and could not find a job in her field I cannot tell you how painful to have people constantly asking you if you’ve found a job yet. As if I wouldn’t shot it from the rooftops! Then they ask all the obvious blaming questions, did you try campus career services, did you try Monster.com, did you interview on campus, blah unhelpful blah blah.

    • Alan Wilensky says:

      If another person says to me, “…blah Monster, blah Careerbuilder, blah recruiter….”, they will die, at night, in their bed, when the least expect it.

      I also have all manner of recruiters calling me with stuff I cant use; I ask them if they read my CV, and they said, “no…..I didn’t, you were on a search list”.

      “You mean a spam list, you don’t hire anyome?”

      “wel….”

      “may be you should read a CV before you call”.

      • Jim C. says:

        This comment is a look into a deeply dysfunctional organization, and it’s easy to see why everyone was laid off. Three months’ notice, with pay and benefits, a great opportunity to hunt for a better job — or any job — and most people coasted.
        Alan appears to have been almost the only intelligent person in the group, and the only one with any initiative. He tried to help, and no one accepted his help.

  5. Rob says:

    Thank you for the interesting article. Very informative.

    I was recently laid off for the second time in my career, our whole department was given working notice for 3 months. If it’s awkward getting escorted off the premises right after receiving your notice, imagine milling around the offices for 3 months with little to no work. Personally, I was confident that I was going to land on my feet as I ventured into my own business and took advantage of the those 3 months to build the business. Because of my senior position I offered help in resume writing and workshops on putting together a killer portfolio. No one took me up on it, instead they took their 3 months as an opportunity to coast. When the end of the 3 months drew near, the sentiment changed to wallowing and moping which translated into lunch hours at the bar, and late nights. It was an icky environment, that didn’t do anyone any good.

    What I think some of these people need, are a bit of a kick to the pants. Not so much in a nagging manner, but an encouraging manner. When you get laid off, it’s not the end of the world, it’s an opportunity to redefine yourself and improve your career or change your career altogether. Think of it as a second chance. The right attitude always prevails… so if YOU are laid off, the more you mope, the less you accomplish.

  6. Alan Wilensky says:

    I am self employed, a contract analyst for marketing support, and my existing contracts have been shortened or cut. It’s just like being laid off. And I haven’t been laid period for a looong time. I guess Im not manly enough.

    The best tip is, “offer one good lead”. That is gold, Penelope, Gold.

    Otherwise, everyone should shut up.

  7. Leslie says:

    Hobbies are great! Connect with people on their hobbies – antique collecting, steam punk, painting, visiting open houses, photography – whatever. Most people have passions that they don’t bring with them to work and sometimes you have to coax it out of them. I am working on developing some hobbies so I will not be disappointed with my life if I lose my job.

  8. Mark W. says:

    These ideas are all good. I think it is also critical to listen – listen hard and carefully to what is really being said. It’s not necessary to have answers at the ready. Just let them know that you’ll be there for them if and whenever necessary. That’s what friends are for.

  9. Dave Atkins says:

    I was laid off on New Year’s Eve. I’ve posted a couple of items specific to the unemployment and health insurance maze in Massachusetts on my blog, DaveWrites, describing What I’ve Learned About Unemployment in Massachusetts and Health Care When You Lose Your Job

    For health care, Massachusetts has an individual mandate which means you will be fined (through taxes) for each month you do not purchase health insurance.

  10. foo says:

    seven-DIGIT bonuses.

  11. Mark f.. says:

    Penelope, just talking and listening is a good start to a friend who is out…tell them to stay involved in networking and exercise to burn anxiety and stress too…being unemployed is not a deadly disease!
    M

  12. VEH says:

    ITA with your point #7. When I lost my job a couple of years ago, several of my now-former coworkers called or sent cards. Even though it was tough, make that IMPOSSIBLE, to talk on the phone without crying, I am eternally grateful that they did call and express their outrage (I was well regarded by subordinates and peers, it was upper management politics that got me–lesson learned) and sympathy.

    And I’d add to Lola’s comment to NEVER EVER tell someone that when a door closes a window opens. That made my fingers itch for the knife…

  13. Elsje Zwart says:

    I AM laid off right now and for me the challenge is 3-fold. 1)being OK for the time being with this new status, in fact even enjoying this newfound freedom to explore and plan for the next move; 2)structuring my own time so that I feel I have accomplished something at the end of each day that I can feel good about; and, 3)trying to figure out a less expensive health insurance option. Linking in and reviving old networks takes time and will, eventually lead to some new connections. Cheers to everyone in the same boat!

  14. GenerationXpert says:

    Good post.

  15. David says:

    I just got laid off and keeping a positive attitude really helps. One thing people do that is not helpful is to make predictions about my next job. It comes in two form:

    1) “You may need to take a job you’re going to hate.” I KNOW this, and if that’s what it comes to, of course I’ll do it. But thinking about it is depressing and takes away a lot of motivation for finding a new place to work.

    2) “You’re next job will be even better than the one you had”. That puts a lot of pressure on me, and if I have to resort to a low-paid job in an abusive corporate environment, I’ll feel like even more of a failure.

    A person who is laid off is going to do what’s best for themselves – there’s no need to predict what that might be.

  16. sifi says:

    The last time I was laid off was in the 90’s. I worked in a consulting firm in LA that was brutal. (They are now gone.) The boss kept telling us we were not worth keeping and one by one people started dropping. I lasted a few years, till I realized I am not really a masochist. So I walked into his office and told him I was sick of hearing about it every month and why not just get rid of me now? Within 2 weeks he did just that! I was so relieved and scared at once. But I landed on my feet, eventually.
    The greatest thing that helped me was my housemate. He owned our house. We had become great friends. I had been cooking for him for years, just because I love to cook and can’t stand the idea of not sharing. He said, “Look, you have been cooking all this time and not asking for anything. Just pay your utilities and I will cover your rent till you get back to f/t work.” Needless to say, I was very touched by his act of kindness. It helped me to feel safe while I looked for work.

  17. Heather says:

    This reminds me of the last time I was laid off — back in the dot com crash of the late 90’s. I had a hard time (harder than many of my former co-workers) finding a job.

    We’d have gatherings of former co-workers and always someone would get that awkward tone of voice and ask, “So….what are you doing now?” Most people had enough tact not to explicitly reference the job hunt, but it was obvious that was the underlying query behind the spoken question.

    I took to proactively redirecting the conversation by answering that I was training for my first half marathon and that I was beginning to develop a yoga practice. It immediately caused that connection on extracurriculars. It made me feel as though I did have something cool and interesting to offer to the conversation and it gave me a lifeline to offer to my friends who were obviously struggling with not knowing how to talk to me.

    And although that wasn’t the most pleasant period in my life, it was a really valuable one in terms of reminding me of what my priorities really were. And I’m still running half marathons and practicing yoga.

  18. John E. says:

    Great article, Penelope and thanks for pointing these out; I winced when I read of mistakes I’d made in this situation and am grateful for some clues on how be a better friend. Good intentions are a first step, but skillful empathy really makes a difference.

  19. Jeff says:

    Freaking great post.

    COBRA sucks. No one can afford it, let alone the recently laid off. Some sort of E-insurance with a high deduct is the only thing one can afford in that bind.

    After I got laid off 5 years ago, I would get the same questions of how is the job going with those damn patroninzing eyes for over 3 years.

  20. JC says:

    The best advice you’ve ever given on your blog, P. You’re right, Gen X/Yers are not used to this situation, and no one’s giving us advice.

    Lost a third of the people on my floor in a massive “cost save” operation last week, so this is timely. Cheers.

  21. Teresa says:

    This post is magical, Penelope. Thank you for posting these suggestions! There’s so much information out there about how to cope with a layoff for those who’ve been laid off, but very little for the colleagues and peers left standing.

    When you get laid off it’s easy to forget that it can be just as hard on your colleagues as it is on you — and sometimes harder. At least you already went through it! They’re still on the chopping block AND they just lost some of their closest work confidantes and assistants.

    I was recently laid off and have found that the best way to handle awkward moments is to show in some way that I’m okay and that I have faith I’ll be okay – that I’m not defined by my unemployment.

  22. rennie says:

    Question for those laid off: Is it helpful when people send job opportunity ads? For example, a relative is laid off in another state, and I’m sending him ads from my state.

    He’s so nice, he would never tell me to knock it off if it bothered him.

    • ML says:

      Yes. Keep sending stuff. It’s not annoying by any means. I’m so thankful for the former co-workers who care about my job search. Even if the job is not a fit, it’s nice to know you haven’t been forgotten.

  23. Ron Graham says:

    Penelope, I just started following you. You rock. :-)

    I have been laid off more often than not during the last ten years, including now. Here are the four worst things I have experienced during those periods:

    (1) The absolute necessity of having to take the first job offered, however sh*tty it may be. And I can tell you, nearly all the jobs I’ve had in the last ten years have been sh*tty. Because I haven’t been on my feet long enough to be selective.
    (2) People asking me if I’m searching for jobs online. Penelope, it’s a good bet I’ve been on the Internet longer than anyone YOU know, let alone anyone THEY know. That question nearly makes me blow my top. Yet I hear it a couple times a month.
    (3) Seeing others laid off around me, sometimes with me. One year I worked at a high school, which laid off five math teachers (I was one) at the end of the year, one-fifth of their math department, because we were all “alternate route” teachers rather than having graduated with education degrees, and the system was having a non-education major purge. I want to commiserate with these people, but they’re all so sad too. And they associate me with their problems, even though I’m in the same boat! (And this is why I will probably never teach in a public school again. I won’t have that in my life.)

    And here’s the worst of all:

    (4) Having working friends not want to associate with me, either because they don’t know what to say, or because they are afraid I’ll but the bite on ‘em for contacts, or because I’ll just be fricken bitter and they don’t want to deal with it.

    I appreciate the sensitivity you bring to this subject. I only hope that, next time I find myself in a position to offer a little comfort, I do it as well as you do here.

  24. goodhart says:

    Thank you! My recently laid-off friend seems on edge this week and I needed a few tips to make sure I wasn’t adding to her stress. I’ve been there, so I like to think I knew all of this already, but it’s really nice to hear it from someone else.

    Oh, and Massachusetts deserves a round of applause.

  25. Bobbi says:

    Thanks. Crap. I’ve made some taboos, but now I’ll keep this cheat sheet in my pocket from now on. What you say makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

  26. Chandlee Bryan says:

    Thank you! Helping people know what to say is so very important; I am reappropriating your advice and providing it to job seekers as well. (If you’ve been laid off and miss a friend from your previous work, why not send the post and say “let’s get back in touch, see #5–I really miss you.” This way you’ve also addressed a potential elephant in the room–perhaps they don’t know how to talk about it!)

    Since April 2008, I have been running a Manhattan-based MeetUp group for job seekers (www.meetupcom.com/nycjobseekers). In recent months, our discussions have increasingly turned to the psychology of being unemployed as well as job search strategy.

    I am posting this information on our forum message board with a suggestion that our “laid off” members share your post with friends and family.

    • Rob says:

      I dunno… sounds to me like there’s so much sensitivity that we forget that the real support is in encouragement. Feelings aside, someone needs a job — and while I’d hate to hurt their feelings, I’d rather role up my sleeves and help that person get back on their feet.

  27. Steven Pofcher says:

    When someone is laid off, DO NOT ever say:
    – “You know that things happen for a reason”
    – “When one door closes, another opens”

  28. Betsy says:

    Fantastic post Penelope. Being in the agency world I’ve watched as my friends fall victim to the ax and never quite know what to say. I recently got together with a couple of them and felt compelled to buy a few rounds cause I still had a job – that is until one of my buds stopped me and said “it’s ok, I can still buy a beer”. These are troubling times for everyone in every industry. Your post put alot of things in perspective. Thanks

  29. Randy says:

    The COBRA comment was hilarious and spot on. When I got let go from my previous job, my COBRA payment was going to be $1,200 per month. About 2/3 of my net 2-week severance. I looked at the HR rep and said “You’re joking, right?”

    I felt bad for her that she had to be the bearer of such crappy news. Our country definitely needs to work on some sort of affordable, realistic gap insurance solution.

  30. Taylor at Household Management 101 says:

    Penelope,

    I am glad to see you mentioned COBRA and how extremely expensive it is. I am also glad to see that so many people in the comments have noted the same thing.

    I have no idea why in this country both the right and left seem to take it as a given that employer based health insurance is the only way to go. The problems with COBRA and with so many people losing their coverage with all these layoffs are going to be much more evident right now. That would be the only bright side to this recession and massive layoffs, in my opinion, is that it might make policymakers take notice of how employer based health care is NOT good. Although, I sure wish policymakers could figure this out soon, and also that we didn’t have to have this recession and layoffs to finally start figuring it out.

  31. rainie says:

    I was laid off in November, after assurances that I would be one of the last to go. Trusting my intuition, my resume was up to date and I was mentally as prepared as a person can be. I was able to get out of the building without crying in front of my staff, I was able to be reassuring to them, and offer to provide them references if they needed them. Our company had begun layoffs a couple weeks before and we were just all waiting around like cattle in line at the slaughterhouse. So, as someone else said, it was actually a relief to be let go. It was excruciating to hear people get their call to come to HR, the gasp and the muffled tears, sometimes open weeping. The prospect of going through that for months was much worse than getting the axe. Once I lost my job, I felt more in control.

    The nicest things former coworkers and friends have said is that they miss me, that their work has been harder without me, and that they want to be a reference if I need one.

    Oh, and you could not be more right about COBRA. I laughed and threw my letter away. It’s just not possible. Even half the cost of COBRA is out of my reach.

    I just keep reminding myself that during the Great Depression, somewhere between 25% and 30% of the workforce was unemployed. That means that 70% to 75% were working. Those are decent odds.

  32. Tracy says:

    Regarding paragraph #6…I always feel like such a weirdo when I read this stuff. I start to wonder if I’m the only woman in American who never had any expectation that my husband would earn as much as I do. But then I read this article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080213133337.htm

    …and now I feel a little less weird.

  33. Toni says:

    Penelope,

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been laid off since the Summer. Your article and all the other comments have been so dead on.

    Another thing I hear a lot of is “You know, there are others in worse situations/it can always get worse.”

    I feel like yelling “I know that Captain Obvious!” ala John “Look upon me, I’ll show you the life of the mind!” Goodman in Barton Fink.

    I’m not unsympathetic to others’ woes. I only have control over my own.

  34. gregcnorca*AT*aim says:

    RE COBRA
    I think in the wake of people losing their healthcare in the blink of an eye, insurnace & HMOs tripling yearly rates for some individuals or families carte blanche, there needs to be a new paradigmn in pay and benefit negotiations.

    But that doesnt fix the problem entirely, the problem is that healthcare costs amount to yet another Bubble, just like dot coms and housing.

  35. Christine says:

    I just forwarded this link to about 50 people, and I never am one to forward things to groups of people, but this is so, so relevant. Thank you, Penelope!

  36. Will says:

    Thank you for the post — it is very timely. I have been unemployed since summer but it is now the 4th time in my career. There is the psychological dimension to all of this which is not addressed — depression occurs for many individuals, especially those who are out for the first time. Also, job seekers are drilled to look five days a week, 8 hours a day again neglecting the emotional waves that hit in the process. Some days or even weeks you have to step away from the process to clear your head — we are not machines. One thing that helped was a job support group to discuss where one is emotionally and how everything is going including the search process itself not the support group where one discusses how many resumes, interviews and contacts were made which is the norm. Some areas of the country such as Chicago have more support programs but being in Los Angeles — there is almost nothing given the large population. Cobra is joke — I love when everyone tells you that Cobra is so important and I want to say so now I’m unemployed and my premiums are quadrupling as my income deflates the opposite way. Best to everyone in their search!

  37. wat says:

    heard you on CFRB today.

  38. Carla says:

    Penelope,

    This is wonderful advice, and right on the money. I am a bitter Gen Xer who has been between jobs more often than not, and have been feeling a bit smug about watching the younger workers experience my pain for the first time.

    Today there is a generation of us in the workforce, totally familiar with layoffs, and totally unfamiliar with the idea that a job is secure. Ever.

    And here in Canada, the layoff situation isn’t as bad as you have it south of the border. But still, shame on me for not being more human about it until now. You’ve changed my attitude. I even blogged about it today after I read your column (http://40-nowwhat.blogspot.com/2009/02/being-without-job-is-new-to-gen-y.html).

    Carla

  39. Natalie says:

    I have never met one person (including myself) that getting laid off didn’t lead them to something great that they wouldn’t have otherwise arrived at. Career-centric or otherwise.

    This is my firm and genuine belief and I like to think of it as positive not rose-tinted.

    Is sharing this kind of sentiment likely to earn me either a punch in the face or a friend retching into a bucket?

    Maybe if it’s coupled with a One-Good-Lead, it would go down ok?

    • RedEye says:

      I had the same experience. In my case, I didn’t realize that a) I had developed a truly useful set of skills in the last 6 years (I fell into corporate America out of the arts) and b) that I had a network of folks who had found jobs who would bring me in to consult. I had always held (a rather neurotic) assumption that being laid off was going to mean total disaster. In fact, it was the opposite.

      That said, I can’t assume that other people will be having the experience I had. I view my experience as having a lot to do with luck (that I made – see Wiseman’s “The Luck Factor”) and good fortune (that I can take no credit for.)

  40. Karl says:

    The Learning Annex offers an adult education class on “How to Marry a Millionaire.” The tagline is “The Rich Are Going to Marry Someone…Why Not You?”

  41. Danielle Keister says:

    Regarding healthcare between insurance and jobs, I just read about a new, innovative kind of medical practice that seems to be springing up in the private sector.

    These two articles talk about Qliance, which is based out of Seattle, but it might be worth looking for something similar in one’s own city or perhaps even calling this practice and seeing if they know of similar practices elsewhere.

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/extremely-great-and-and10incredibly-cheap/Content?oid=999929

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/doctors-orders/Content?oid=999839

  42. Jim C. says:

    I am surprised at the experiences many commenters have had with COBRA. I have used COBRA twice in the past 15 years — 1994 and 2006. In both cases the monthly premiums were just a few hundred bucks more than I had already been paying out of my paycheck after my former employer’s contribution.

    When you are laid off, you are under a lot of stress. Stress leads to illness — you will probably get sick more frequently. Get insurance. It doesn’t have to be the nice type of policy that comes with many jobs. You need coverage for catastrophic illnesses; you can deal with dental care or urgent-care visits out of your own pocket, or even skip them, but you NEED a safety net for the big stuff like appendicitis or broken bones, not to mention things like cancer.

  43. Recsi says:

    Thank you! I was laid off in December and …

    1. Ask “How’s the job hunt?” and you’re going to get a lie or a sob story. “This is the best thing that ever happened to me. I was getting too comfortable in my last job.” Blah, blah, blah. The job hunt is not going well and I’m scared to death.

    2. Yes, please ask about extracurriculars. Since getting laid off, I feel guilty for doing things I enjoy because I’m on a limited budget and unemployment. Give me some ideas of things going on or what you would do if you had time off. It will make me feel better about doing things for myself once in awhile.

    3. Yes, please ask about health insurance. Cobra is so ridiculously expensive, I constantly need to be reminded why I need it and what my options are.

    4. I love seeing my former coworkers and we had a little happy hour last week. It was nice to hear a little company gossip. I guess misery loves company.

    5. Offer one good contact, but don’t be fake. It’s like when a married person says to a single friend, “I know someone who’d be perfect for you!” and then never delivers. Do offer to take a look at my resume and keep an eye out for opportunities.

    6. I’m female and dating, but I feel like a pretty worthless girlfriend right now. What do I have to offer anyone? My boyfriend has been very supportive, but I can’t imagine how he really feels about this situation. I would love if someone offered to talk about this with me instead of asking how the job hunt is going.

    7. Even if layoffs are not performance-based, it is pretty hard not to imagine is was performance-based. And what a nice boost for both the employed and unemployed parties to express and receive some gratitude.

  44. Rhayader says:

    Ugh, there is nothing worse than the constant “how’s the job search going?” questions. Unbearable.

    100% correct on the COBRA too. Yeah, because another car payment is exactly what I’m looking for when I get laid off.

  45. ML says:

    I don’t mind the “How is the job search going?” question. It’s the “You haven’t found a job yet?!?!” that gets to me. But, it’s only been eight weeks, so I could see how it could get old fast if this goes on for several more months.

  46. Another Seeker says:

    For some of us, COBRA will be our only option once severance runs out. My wife is a cancer survivor. Do you think we’ll have any shot whatsoever at obtaining coverage elsewhere?

    Highly unlikely.

    $800/month including dental for a family of six?

    I better find a job soon…

    • Angie says:

      If your state has a risk pool, you may be able to get your wife insurance through that. However, it might be just as expensive as COBRA. I live in Texas, and there is a risk pool here. My friend is a self-employed cancer survivor who is insured through the risk pool. His monthly premium is approx. $500. So… it’s a lot, but could be worth researching. COBRA might be more than that, depending on what your employer carried.

  47. Brian Johnson says:

    Great post. This is extremely insightful and helpful. I love how self-evident all of these tips are yet they are things I’ve never really stopped to think about. And I’ve already violated #1 several times. Thanks for this. Very timely and useful information.

  48. Will says:

    New York Times
    by Ron Lieber
    Published: February 12, 2009

    YOUR MONEY
    What's in the Bill for You

    HEALTH INSURANCE If you get fired, your company is required, thanks to a law known as Cobra, to allow you to pay to keep your health insurance, generally for up to 18 months.

    The problem is, it can cost you $1,000 a month or more to keep the coverage.

    Now, the federal government will subsidize 65 percent of the premium for up to nine months. To be eligible, you need to have been forced out of your job between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009. Also, your income in the year you receive the subsidy cannot be more than $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for married couples filing their taxes jointly.

    If you lost your job after Sept. 1, 2008, and declined Cobra coverage, you'll now get another chance. Call your former company in the next two months to find out how this will work.

    You need not keep an eye on the mail for a subsidy check from the government, according Kathryn Bakich, senior vice president in Washington of the Segal Company, a benefits consulting firm. Instead, your former employer will collect the money from the government.

  49. Patrick Erwin says:

    Hi Penelope, these are all great ideas and suggestions.

    I’ve been laid off before, too, but there’s something different about this layoff (I was let go in December).

    I’ve worked hard to capitalize on everything I possibly could, because I had several helpful, friendly contacts offer to pitch in re: #5.

    I tried everything I could – getting my name in the press, getting in contact with as many people as I could – and still nada. I know it may be timing and luck, but it’s still frightening as hell.

    I’d add a #8: Allow your friend or former co-worker the space to be SCARED. Acknowledge it, and sometimes, just listen. Sometimes, we don’t need the cure for cancer or the solution in 30 seconds or less. We just need someone to really, truly HEAR our worry and fear.

  50. Allison says:

    I lost a friend after I became despondent after my layoff and didn’t give her the attention she was used to getting. She took it personally and called me selfish, even after I apologized and told her I was depressed lately. I miss the friendship, but I guess she wasn’t much of a friend in the first place.

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