If you are laid off, be sure you know how to protect yourself.

In today’s uncertain business world, continuous layoffs, dot-bombs, and technology shifts, one of our most common inquiries is asking what to expect when laid off. Whether you are a software programmer, a manufacturing worker, a high tech engineer, or a medical worker, no job is secure from outsourcing and insourcing.

When you are handed the proverbial pink-slip (when you are laid off), it is very important that you not go into panic mode. Stop, take a deep breath, think clearly, and start planning. Every step you take from the moment that you are laid off will protect you, your fellow Americans, and your financial future.

If you are not laid off yet, but you know that you will be laid off soon. We know.

Are you training a foreign replacement? Document! Document! Document!

Find out if your replacement will be working here in the U.S. or overseas in his home country. Find out what type of visa your replacement is using to work here in the U.S.

Document the qualifications of every worker in your group. In the event that you are laid off and you are replaced by foreign workers, you will need to know the qualifications, education and experience of every member of your group. Gather information about foreign visa workers – their full names, address, dates of hire, and the name of their original agency of hire. Any other information you can glean is always helpful.

Document the number of American workers laid off, the number of foreign workers laid off, and which positions they held. Document each worker’s pre-layoff job function and post-layoff job function. Document the job requirements and job descriptions.

Take home all personal possessions before the layoffs. Be discrete, as you do not want to give the impression that you are considering quitting. Many workers are laid off without being given a chance to clean out their desk, cubicle, or office.

If you believe you will be laid off in the future, start taking home your personal possessions today. Be as discreet as possible.

Put together a portfolio of your work. If you are laid off, you will be able to ask permission from your former boss to take it with you. This will help you secure jobs in the future.

Stay professional, keep your head up

When you are laid off, especially in a bad economy, you and your family will experience an emotional roller coaster. No matter what, keep your chin up, stay proud, and stay professional. People will always remember the one person who lost his/her head and acted unprofessionally on the day of the layoff. Perhaps everyone will even laugh about it and say “I wish I had the guts to say/do that!” But rest assured, the person who acts out will be the person without a reference and without a job tomorrow.

First ask for references

When you are laid off, before handling any other business, be sure to obtain references. Ask your boss for a letter of reference, and ask him what he will tell potential employers when they call. Ask permission to take your portfolio to future job interviews.

Also ask your colleagues and any management with whom you worked for references and letters. Be open to writing your own letters and asking others to sign them. When layoffs occur, many people are stressed, tired, or very busy, and they often prefer you to write your own. As long as you are well-liked and honest, most people will sign them.

Get contact information from references who are also being laid off.

Register at your state unemployment office

If you are laid off, whether or not you are eligible for unemployment compensation, it is important that you register as an unemployed worker.

COBRA Insurance

Get as much information about COBRA from your current employer – even if you don’t think that you will need it. You may be tempted to go without health insurance because it is expensive. Don’t! Not even for a few weeks!

Also note that if you are living with a domestic partner or spouse, you may be able to get health insurance through their benefit plan.

Negotiate severance documents and package

If you are laid off, do not sign your exit agreement without talking to a qualified attorney. If you need help, contact us.

Ask what type of financial, emotional, and career counseling the company is offering to laid off employees. Often companies only offer this to employees who request it. So if you don’t request it, you may be out of luck!

If you believe you are strong enough to get through this without emotional or financial counseling, think again.

Your spouse, children, and other family and friends will put pressure on you without even realizing it. Your spouse and children may also be affected emotionally, so they may need that extra support or counseling. Also, financial counseling can often offer alternatives to meeting those hefty payments that you may no longer be able to afford