So you lost your job… now what?

In these economic times, finding a job can be a hard thing. The unemployment rate is growing as well as the underemployed (those who have skills and experience that should demand a higher salary but are unable to get the work). And lay offs are slicing departments into half.

Imagine this: You never thought it would happen to you. You and your co-workers are over worked and under paid. You were just called into your boss’ office and you know that it is not to discuss a raise. And then it happens. Pink slipped. Let go.

Your initial response might be to tear through the office, delete all of your files and run through the office yelling, “You can’t fire me! I quit!” After those urges settle down and you get over the initial shock of losing your job, it is time to get busy.

1. Start looking for a new job immediately. (Or this might be a perfect chance to retire if you can.) Most companies will offer a severance package to employees who are laid off. Use this money (and your savings) as a buffer while you job search. Tap into any network you have: friends, co-workers and other industry connections. Networking sites like Linked-in are made for moments like this.

2. Get your money in order. File for unemployment to help supplement your income while you job search. You can file online or in person with your state employment office. You also need to figure out health insurance. If you had insurance through your work, you won’t be completely down on your luck. You have 60 days to enroll in COBRA health insurance, an insurance option that will cover you for 18 months. Pricey? Sure. But it might be the best option for you if you are in need of some serious coverage. If that is too expensive and you need less coverage, you can find cheaper private insurance. {Enter in your ZIP code in the box above to compare health insurance rates in your area.}

3. Get with friends. A vast majority of jobs are found by word of mouth and are never advertised. The only way to find out about those jobs is to let people know  you are looking. Tell your friends, Facebook friends and Linked-in connections about your predicament. This is also a great time to start attending industry events to continue (or begin) the networking process, which often lands leads to new jobs.

4. Don’t panic. Job searching is awful. It is dismal and depressing. For those who have to search for months on end, it can seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. While job searching is a full time job, it is important to take breaks will you are searching to do something you enjoy. Spend time with family, read a book, anything. Just get your mind off the job search until you are ready to start looking again.

In this recession it seems like no job is recession proof. If you do get laid off, be prepared and don’t panic.