Somewhere someone is reading this right now and thinking “Not me. My job isn’t in jeopardy. I’m never going to be fired.” Yet right now, someone is getting canned. Maybe they sucked at their job. Maybe their boss was a jerk. Maybe they even saw it coming. Whatever the circumstances, losing a job sucks. It crumbles the self-esteem, and no matter how many times it happens, it never gets easier.
We are told that we can expect to change jobs five to seven times in our lives. I’ve changed mine 15 times in 20 years. And that even includes a six year stint. I don’t even bother trying to explain to my parents anymore when I move to or from a new opportunity. Unlike their generation, none of us are indispensable. We can and will all be replaced. It’s no longer a question of if we will lose our job, but rather when. Here’s what you need to know for when the inevitable happens:
- Get your documentation in order. This will vary depending on where you live. For example, here in Canada you need to collect a Record of Employment (ROE). You cannot apply for unemployment benefits (assuming you are eligible) unless this documentation gets filed. You’re now ex-employer may file this electronically, or they may send it in the mail. Either way, make sure you know before you leave your exit meeting how this document will be filed. Also, confirm that your ex-employer has your current mailing address on file in case anything needs to be mailed to you.
- Return any company belongings. Keys, laptops, elevator passes–hand it all over as soon as you can. This will also prevent you from needing to return to your former place of employment and enduring awkward looks and conversation.
- Change social media passwords. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram–or whatever you use–do yourself a favor and change your passwords as soon as you can. If you are unable to return to your work computer, change your passwords when you get home. Not that we ever expect anything to happen, but you never know. At the very least it will give you peace of mind.
- Verify final pay. Does your final pay add up? Does it include vacation pay? A LOT of employers will cut corners (either purposely or accidentally). Take some time to understand the exact breakdown of your final pay, and when you can expect it. Depending on the laws in your area, employers may be obligated to send final payment within a certain time frame.
- Let former colleagues come to you. Even if you were office besties, resist the urge to immediately reach out to former colleagues. Their first priority is likely their own job, not yours. Let them come to you, and you will discover quickly enough who was really a friend and who wasn’t.
- Don’t sign anything right away. Your employer will likely request you to sign some paperwork right away. Don’t. As tempting as it may be to get it over and sign it, you likely don’t have the mental acuity to think or read clearly during this moment. Take the paperwork home and sign it on your pace.
Consult a professional. Finally, get a second opinion. Most employers are completely clueless on employment law. Even if your dismissal appears legit, it’s still worthwhile to check with a legal expert to be sure. In Canada, we have a program called Lawyer Referral. For $25 you can speak to a lawyer for 30 minutes. It’s a great opportunity to understand your rights and determine if you have a case for wrongful dismissal. It’s also important to consult a legal expert if you’ve been denied unemployment benefits. The law usually leans towards the unemployed job seeker, rather than the employer.
If you are considering legal action of some sort, think long and hard about what you hope to gain. Suing a former employer can be a very long and costly road. For some, the legal costs incurred may never be recovered. And yet for others it may be worth every cent.