The Illinois unemployment rate was 7.6 percent as of December 2008, which was higher than the national average of 7.2 percent and two percentage points higher than the rate the previous December, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In November and December of 2008, Illinois lost a combined 73,600 jobs. That is the largest two-month decline since 1990, the first year that data was collected. Also in December, the total number of unemployed persons in Illinois was 505,300, exceeding 500,000 for the first time since February 1992.

With daily headlines similar to these and frequent discussion of significant layoffs across many industries, what should you do if you receive the notice that you are being laid off from your employer?  Here are some practical tips and resources to help ensure you take the necessary steps to rebound in this suffering economy.

  • You are not alone and shouldn’t be ashamed.  At some point you will experience the range of emotions from sadness to anger and it is important to allow yourself to do so.  Processing these feelings is necessary so you can begin to move on without the bitterness from the past holding you back from new career opportunities.  If you seem stuck in these feelings and unable to move on, you may want to consider short-term therapy sessions to help you move on.

  • Discuss the situation with your family.  Your family must adjust to the reality of its temporary financial crisis.  Discussing creative ways to reduce your spending is important so your spouse and children take ownership in finding a solution.  This will also allow you to discuss potential income opportunities like a spouse working overtime or older children contributing to household income.

  • Review your financial situation.  Every household should have a budget that is reviewed on a regular basis – at least every six months.  When you have experienced a job loss, it is important to make some significant but temporary changes.  Take a look at things you normally consider a necessity and see if they're not luxuries – cable packages, cell phone features and entertainment expenses are usually easy places to start when looking for quick money saving ideas.

  • Meet with your company’s HR representative.  There is important information you will need to find out before moving on:

    • Will you receive severance pay?

    • Will you receive payment for unused vacation or personal days?

    • What information will you need to roll over your 401k plan?

    • Are you vested in your pension plan (if applicable)?

    • How do you continue insurance benefits using COBRA?

    • Does your company provide any outplacement services to aid in your job search?

  • File for unemployment.  Illinois gives you the ability to apply for unemployment benefits online at  If you choose to do so, you may still want to make an appointment to visit your local IDES office to inquire about any additional resources available to you.  IDES offers resume workshops and can provide you with access to technology to assist you in your job search.

  • Reassess your financial situation.  You now have a new set of rules for your budget to consider – new income (unemployment) as well as additional expenses (COBRA insurance, new clothing for interviews, etc.)  Now you will have a more accurate reflection of your financial situation during this transition period.  If you think you may struggle with payments to creditors, be sure to contact them right away to advise them of your situations and to set up alternative payment arrangements.  If you begin to struggle with your mortgage payments, visit our website at for tips on avoiding foreclosure.

Now that you’ve taken care of requirements related to your job loss, it is time to move forward with securing a new position.  Consider the following recommendations:

  • Update your resume.  If you haven’t been doing so continuously, now is the time to update your resume.  It is imperative that you stand out among the pool of qualified candidates.  Make sure to have your resume proofread by someone – typos on a resume can eliminate your chances of even getting an interview.

  • Consider a career change.  What skills have you developed that could be transferred to a new career?  Consider broadening the scope of your search and utilize career counselors or even online assessments to determine what fields may be of interest to you.

  • Mobilize your resources.  Make a list of all the people you know, especially those within the industry you would like to work.  Consider enlisting the help of others by creating a personal board of directors to assist with everything from career goals to interviewing skills.  Think through what you would like to ask of these contacts prior to making contact – it is important that you communicate your situation appropriately.

  • Invest in yourself.  When you’ve identified a potential career path, evaluate your current skill set and identify any areas you’re lacking.  Do you need to attend a class or two in order to update your skills?  Now is the time to do so.

  • Be creative in your job search.  It is said that the majority of positions to be filled cannot be found in newspaper classified or career websites.  And remember:  most people looking for employment will be viewing the same open opportunities, which will decrease your chances of securing these positions.  Be willing to think creatively and inquire with companies you would like to work for that might not advertise openings.  Use a company’s website to search career opportunities rather than relying solely on search engines.

  • Make it a job.  Don’t allow yourself the luxury of pursuing a new position casually; rather, treat your search as a job in itself with committed time – eight hours per day, five days per week.  Set up a home office where you can focus uninterrupted on your search. Be sure you have a supply of resume paper, envelopes and postage.  Remember to keep receipts for anything purchased that can be attributed to your job search – in many cases these can be deducted from your taxes.

  • Prepare your interview skills.  Not only is it important to consider how you will respond to interview questions, it is equally important to sharpen your conversational skills.  Attend any sort of networking event that can provide you with the opportunity to practice selling your positive qualities and ensure you don’t focus responses on the negativity of losing your job.

  • Take care of your appearance.  In a society gradually transitioning to casual business attire, make sure you appear professional when hitting the street for interviews and even when dropping off resumes.  There are four levels of attire:  business formal, traditional business, business casual and casual.  Be sure to dress at least one level above that required of the desired position – if you’re looking for business casual, traditional business attire is best, which means at least a tie and dress shirt for men and a tailored pantsuit or businesslike dress for women.

Additional Resources:

Dealing with unwanted change:
Illinois unemployment benefits:
COBRA insurance coverage:
Illinois Department of Labor resources:

Illinois workNet:

Search engines:

I-Cash allows you to search the state's unclaimed property database for money or property that belongs to you.
College Savings offers ways to save and earn tax-free money with Illinois' 529 College Savings Program.
Ag Invest helps farmers offset the rising cost of farming and encourages green business development.
Money Market Fund allows local government entities to pool their investments to gain a higher rate of return for their residents.
Online bill paying gives people with busy schedules a quick and convenient way to pay government bills and fees.