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You're Laid Off... What now?

What to do when you're faced with a lay off!

Lay offs are a sad fact of life in today's economy. Companies are tightening their belts and cutting their work forces in order to boost profits or even stay in business. Unfortunately, jobs that once appeared to provide lifetime security often end in a lay off. What should you do if you're laid off?

First of all, you needn't feel alone in being laid off. America has suffered a net loss of 2.5 million jobs since March 2001. The average jobless stint is now approximately five months. Lots of workers are leaving the unemployment statistic not because they have found work, but because they feel the situation is hopeless and have simply dropped out of the work force.

Where did all of those jobs go? Mexico, where the average hourly pay rate is only $2.17, compared to $15.45 in the U.S.? 

Actually, Mexico herself is losing jobs to developing countries like Vietnam, where the average pay is $0.37 per hour, Pakistan $0.34, or China at $0.24 per hour!

While the US economy has been stagnant for the past few years, China's has experienced a whopping 9% annual growth rate. The US now has a $20 billion trade deficit with China. 

China alone, with a population of 1.3 billion (compared to 250 million for the US), can easily provide more dirt cheap labor than the planet earth can ever absorb.

To make matters worse, some jobs are simply being automated out of existence. Remember when a gas station attendant pumped gas into your car? Remember when a banking transaction required the services of a human teller? Many of those jobs are now gone due to cutbacks and layoffs.

Now we have self-checkout machines at discount stores, grocery stores, and even at the library. This translates into millions of clerk jobs lost due to lay offs.

The popular buzz word for modern American business is productivity, which means to produce the same amount (or more) of products or services with ever fewer workers.

Many companies have increased productivity by more than 33% in just the last four years. And this is only the first wave of massive productivity increases. Millions more workers will be laid off as technology and automation reduce the need for human workers. Lay offs: The new American way.

If you have been laid off (or you will be laid off), what should you do?

As previously stated, the average time required to find a new job today after being laid off is approximately five months! And if you're laid off from an industry whose jobs are being exported or automated out of existence, your job search will most likely take a lot longer. You must develop a plan in order to survive financially for an extended period of time. 

Now that you're faced with a lay off, if your income is less than your expenses, you'll need to adjust your standard of living downward a bit.

People who are accustomed to making regular purchases without giving it a thought sometimes find it hard to adjust their spending habits.

You may find it necessary to dip into your savings or sell some assets in order to remain financially viable. You may need to swap your car for an older model in order to lower or eliminate the payments. You may even need to sell your home to raise emergency cash and rent a small apartment until the economy improves and/or you find another job.

But don't let your layoff get you down. Be sure to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Stick to a regular exercise program. Get involved in outdoor sports. You need to look sharp when you go to job interviews. Make an effort to keep up with current events, especially business news. You need to know which geographic areas and economic sectors are ready to provide employment opportunities.

Don't spend your days lounging around on the couch, in front of the TV, and snacking on junk food. Whether you get a regular pay check or not, you need to be productively engaged in the economy. Even if your chance of actually getting another job in today's economy is slim, you need to stay out there, making contacts, ready to take advantage of an opportunity when it arises (and it will eventually).

Now that you're laid off, it's a great time to further your education or training. Your former employer may even pay for it. Ask the human resources department or the state unemployment office if any assistance is available.

And you don't have to train for a specific career. Any business or technology related training will give you a distinct  advantage over others who have also been laid off. Even seemingly non-related training, such as art classes, will get you out of the house and out making valuable contacts that might result in a new job.

Be willing to take most any available job to put food on the table and get your foot back into the business world.

It isn't at all unusual for someone who starts out cleaning cages at the local dog pound to end up keeping the books or moving into management, or at the very least get experience that results in a higher paying job at a company. The secret to success is being reliable and willing to take on more responsibility than the other workers. 

As contradictory as it may sound, the depths of a recession is an excellent time to start a new business. If you handle the situation properly, you may find that your lay off was a blessing in disguise!

During recessions, loans to start new businesses are affordable and readily available. Surplus and new business equipment is available at low prices. Unemployed skilled workers are plentiful and wages are reasonable.

As the economy begins to pick up, established businesses are slow to gear back up to meet the increased demand. That leaves their clients looking for new sources of products and services. If you're interested in starting your own business, contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) or your local community college for assistance.

Do everything you can to stay on your feet financially after you have been laid off. Stay in shape physically and mentally, and take advantage of any and all educational opportunities that you may have available to you.

Make contacts in the business world and let it be known that you're looking for employment. You just may find that your next job is better than the last one!

Stephen Bucaro is the owner of Bucaro TecHelp. Visit him at http://bucarotechelp.com.

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