What Should You Do with Your 401k After a Layoff

By Nancy Opiela, Monster Contributing Writer

vbnIf you’re among the millions of people who have lost their jobs since the recession started in December 2007, you’re facing some daunting financial questions. One may be: What should I do with my 401k?

While raiding your 401k to pad your bank account during your time of transition may seem appealing, doing so could sabotage your chances of a financially secure retirement. Generally, if you tap your 401k account before age 59½, you’re subject both to ordinary income taxes and a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty. However, if you lose your job and are 55 or older, most plans allow you to access your funds without an early withdrawal penalty, but you’ll still owe taxes and forfeit what could be decades more of tax-deferred growth.

Check with your 401k plan administrator to determine how to keep your retirement nest egg intact. Generally, you have three choices, each with pros and cons: You can leave your 401k plan with your former employer, roll over your account into an individual retirement account (IRA) or transfer your old 401k into a new company’s plan.

Option 1: Leave Your 401k

The Layoff Survival Kit

phkThis article offers general information on legal and financial matters relating to employment. For specific information relating to your situation, please consult an attorney, financial planner or appropriate government agency.

Now that you’ve lost your job, you need to hurry up and find a new one, right? Wrong. You’ve got to buck up and tie up loose ends with your ex-employer in order to secure your finances and insure your health. Add these items to your to-do list for your first week out of work.

Salary and Accrued Vacation Time

Hopefully, as you walked out the door with that box full of personal possessions, your boss slipped a check in your pocket that covered your salary through the last day, pay for unused vacation and so on. But what can you do if your former employer can’t — or won’t — pay you in full?

First, be sure you and your ex are on the same page regarding what you are owed. Contact the human resources director and synchronize your records. Then call your state labor board and make sure you understand what the law mandates.

Look for Work in Troubled Times

Look for Work in Troubled TimesIt’s hard enough to job hunt in a thriving economy, but now, even the heartiest job seeker may be inclined to roll over and catch a few more z’s rather than hit the streets.

Don’t quit looking before you start. Job hunting requires you to pull out all the stops and take the basics to a new level. You truly have to work it.

Ironically, the challenge of a tighter job market may work for many job seekers by forcing them to think of new approaches. It all boils down to attitude, stresses executive recruiter Diane Barowsky, president of Barowsky Search Partners Ltd. in Olympia Fields, Illinois. “We underestimate the importance of that positive attitude, but that’s what gets you through the day,” she says.

Gain confidence by asking yourself, “What do I have to lose?”

“It’s easier to take a risk and call that intimidating contact when you feel [this way],” says Barowsky. “On the flip side, when things are going well, you don’t need to do anything to keep your job going.”

Barowsky also offers the following job search advice:

Expand Your Search

If you’re a general administrative

How to setup your CV to make an impression in the interview

Being a new college graduate thrust into the real world can be tough. Finding a job is already hard enough and having to deal with recruitment websites and agencies can be time consuming and stressful. Even more stressful is finding credible websites and agencies that will individualize you’re process and CV. One bad website or company can ruin recruitment for you in general which isn’t a good thing for you, or the websites and agencies that care about you and your person experience. So how do you tell the difference and how do you go in unbiased towards all recruitment sites and agencies? Well here are some simple ways to pick out the bad apples.

Ratings and Reviews

It is easy to come across a website that seems too good to be true. The first thing that one can look at to find a credible website is to look at ratings and reviews. This is a technique that many people use for many websites so it is something that is simple that everyone knows how to do. Although there might always be a few

These 3 Career Skills Will Make You Invaluable to Your Employer

Employers have raised the bar on what they expect from new employees. It may be due to the increasing number of college graduates. Or it may have something to do with the overqualified candidates who filled lower-level jobs after the recession. As long as companies can find candidates with the mix of hybrid skills they are looking for, you’ll continue to see these demanding job requirements.

The hybrid skills companies are requesting were once isolated to a specific department or role, such as social media skills as part of the responsibilities of human resources and marketing. But in fact, 71 percent of in-demand skills are required across two or more job categories, according to analysis by Bentley University and labor market analytics firm Burning Glass, which identified skills with the highest demand. This reinforces the cross-functional need and that employees “must demonstrate deeper and broader competencies to be marketable” said Susan Brennan, associate vice president of university career services at Bentley University, in an interview with Fast Company

1. Business development skills. So what are business development skills exactly? Bentley University listed strategy, sales and relationship-building skills as the most important elements of

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Job Change

The Clash summed up the fear many potential job seekers feel. “Should I stay or should I go now? If I go, there will be trouble. And if I stay, there will be double.” Clearly knowing that there would be double the trouble if you stay in your current role makes a move very compelling. However, career decisions are rarely that cut-and-dried. So, how do you decide if it is time to make a change? Consider these factors.

[See: How to Quit Your Job Like a Class Act.]

1. What long-term impact will an immediate change make? People often make job changes because it makes sense in the short term. However, your career is not a sprint. It is a marathon. This means that eating a hamburger in the first mile may taste good at the time, but is likely to haunt you for many miles after. The same is true for decisions made based on immediate gratification. If you build a track record as a “job-hopper,” or someone who always chases money, your resume is likely to repel future employers. Most candidates never get a chance to explain their logic for moving – a resume

Gaps in Your Resume Here’s What You Need to Know

When Marian Haggerty was laid off from her job in San Francisco in 2008, she expected to find another position immediately. It was nearly a year before the experienced administrative assistant found another position, and then, it was temporary. After several more temp gigs, she moved to Southern California to try her hand in the Los Angeles market, where she continues to work temp or temp-to-permanent positions. And like many job seekers in the post-financial-collapse job market, her resume shows the scars and the gaps of her spotty employment.

“I’m asked about my gaps in employment during job interviews, and I’m just honest. I tell them it’s the economy,” Haggerty says. “And most people get it.”

The days when an employee would stay with one company for the length of his or her career are so long gone that the idea is nearly mythical to today’s job seeker. Whether they’re taking time off to care for a parent or children, go back to school, take a gap year or recover from a layoff, many people will have some downtime in their employment history. But it doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker when the

5 Tips for a More Successful Online Job Search

Before the rise of the Internet, the first place you would go to find out what jobs were available was your local newspaper’s classified ads. Now, of course, you can see all manner of jobs, from any kind of employer, with a simple search on job boards like Monster or aggregation sites, such as Indeed and SimplyHired. And, with some quick clicking, you can apply to scores of jobs in an evening.

Unfortunately, many people feel that this is the way you are supposed to conduct a job search to the exclusion of everything else. When you approach it this way, you are in for a long and frustrating experience with diminished chances for success.

Recently, a person complained that he’s been diligently applying to jobs on Indeed. He claimed to be selective and, over the last several months, sent out more than 80 applications. “So, what’s your response been to all this activity?” he was asked.

“Nada. Zilch. Zero … not a single interview,” he reported with a marked sense of exasperation.

People often don’t realize how great the odds are stacked

6 Signs You Need to Improve Your Writing Skills

Whether you’re interviewing a new employee or you’re trying to spot some of the better writers on your team, being able to identify weak writing skills is a key skill you should work to refine. Think about it: You don’t want an important writing assignment to land in the hands of a poor writer, because then you’ll spend hours fixing his or her sub-par work.

So how can you spot a writer that needs help? It’s typically not too difficult. Here are some of the more common errors that indicate when someone needs remedial writing training.

1. Not Varying Syntax

No one likes to read the same sentence structure over and over again–it makes the material uninteresting very quickly. Unvaried syntax is a red flag that indicates writing skills in need of some work, so be sure to consistently switch up the way you frame your sentences throughout your writing. Prepositions are your friends

.2. Misusing Words
Poor writers often struggle with using the right adjective, and make the unfortunate mistake of using a word that sounds right–but means something completely different than what they’re trying to say. That might look like using ‘diligent’ in place of ‘delicate’ or ‘discreet’ in lieu of ‘discrete.


7 Common Characteristics of Unproductive Employees

When it comes to a business setting, you can think of “unproductive” in three different ways. First, an employee can be so outgoing and bubbly in the office that you actually miss the fact that he/she has never really actually been productive. Second, you can see that an employee’s work is starting to fade or decline and realize that the employee has become unproductive. Or lastly, and employee may just plain be unproductive and everyone knows it.

However, in all three situations, the characteristics of someone being unproductive are the same. How they got there or why they’re there might be a different story, but as an employer it all starts with being able to recognize some of these characteristics. If you can recognize that an employee is unproductive that’s the first step in making changes.

It doesn’t matter why someone is complaining or whom he/she is complaining to (or about), complaints often show that someone is not willing to put in the work to make a change. It’s a time waster, and it’s almost always easier to complain than to be productive. As John Brandon mentioned in a past article, “The really productive people don’t dwell

8 Things to Know if Your Job Search Skills Are Rusty

If you’re gearing up for a job search but haven’t pulled out your resume much in the last decade, brace yourself for some changes. Job searching has changed in some significant ways in the last 10 years, both in terms of what the experience is like for candidates and which strategies are effective and which have fallen out of favor.

Here are eight of the biggest changes you should be prepared for if your job hunting skills are rusty.

1. Hiring often takes longer than it used to. If you’re used to companies placing an ad, interviewing candidates and making a hire all in the space of, say, a month, you might be in for a shock. Companies increasingly are taking months to hire. Some companies still move quickly, but don’t be surprised if you hear back from companies months after you initially applied, or if weeks go by before you hear back after an interview.

2. You may be asked to interview more times than in the past. Many employers are adding additional steps to their hiring process – phone interviews before meeting in person, multiple interview rounds with a wider range of interviewers, including peers and managers several levels up, requests

Energy, Healthcare, Other Stimulus Initiatives Expected to Spur Technology Job Creation

Coders, systems architects and other IT professionals are hoping that technology jobs lost in the economic crisis will be regained as Recovery Act funding is invested in information technology projects such as a smart power grid and other sustainability initiatives, healthcare information technology and beyond.

Even for financial IT specialists, there is hope. “The finance industry won’t be so high-flying, but a lot of IT skills will be transportable to other industries,” says Laurence Shatkin, senior product developer with JIST Publishing and author of Great Jobs in the President’s Stimulus Plan.

Some even see a boom ahead in certain areas of IT, as the federal government pours billions into strategic initiatives aimed at bringing structural change to the American economy.

“Healthcare and sustainable-energy technologies will be to the IT job market what financial services was in the 1990s, but more so,” says Jason Hill, managing partner for search and staffing firm Sound Advice Consulting Services.

Putting the Smart in Smart Grid

President Barack Obama’s approach to energy can be summed up this way: “Smarter energy, not more.” Putting dollars behind that thought, the stimulus makes major investments in energy, including $30 billion for a smart electric power grid.

What will be so smart about the next-generation

Energy Careers

Energy Careers Overview

Energy careers in the 21st Century lean toward “green” energies such as solar and wind power. Energy jobs can include engineers, researchers and developers. Depending on what type of job you take you might find yourself working in an office, a lab or even an industrial plant.

Energy Careers Education

You can prepare for energy careers by furthering your education past high school. If you have your eye on an engineering job you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that careers in energy are leaning toward requiring master’s or doctoral degrees more and more. This is already true for researchers in the energy industry, as a doctoral degree is a must. However, developers can sometimes land jobs with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Energy Careers Job Market

Renewable, clean energy is the lynchpin in the green energy economy, so energy careers are expected to grow, especially as the public consumes more and more energy. Even so, the BLS doesn’t have hard data or specific projections on how many energy jobs there currently are or how many there are expected to be by a certain point in the future. It does go so

Stimulus Creating Self Employment Opportunities

Entrepreneurs looking for a slice of the stimulus pie may want to target one of three areas: industries boosted by stimulus spending, large companies benefiting from stimulus spending or the federal government itself, suggests Victor Cheng, author of The Recession-Proof Business: Lessons from the Greatest Recession Success Stories of All Time.

Starting a business in certain areas supported by the stimulus, like healthcare or education information technology, can cost relatively little. The Recovery Act provides $19 billion in healthcare information technology funding, including provisions to help healthcare providers make the transition to electronic medical records. Similar provisions support expanded use of databases in education. If you have expertise in either of these areas, starting an IT consulting company could be a good move for you.

Other stimulus dollars are headed for the green energy field, an area where small business options abound, says Glenn Croston, author of 75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference.

If you have a construction background, consider starting an energy-auditing business in which you evaluate the energy efficiency of homes or commercial buildings. You could focus on simply pointing out needed improvements, or take the next step and get licensed to carry out

Is Starting Your Own Business the Answer

Scott Stropkay decided to start his own business soon after leaving a good position for what seemed to be an even better one. After rumors that the division he was hired into would be sold, Stropkay was laid off, and his career path was left at a crossroads.

Having always been interested in pursuing his own business, Stropkay took the entrepreneurial plunge and started Essential Creativity, a Boston product design and consulting company. “The way I see it, the best chance at job security I can have is to work for myself,” he says.

Whether starting your own business is something you’ve always dreamed of or it’s one option after an unexpected layoff, there are several points to consider before striking out on your own. Jan Norman, small-business newspaper columnist and author of What No One Ever Tells You About Starting Your Own Business, offers wisdom gathered from the 101 successful entrepreneurs she’s interviewed.

A New Business Is Like a New Baby

If you’re a parent, you know how your baby changed your life in ways you never anticipated. You may have envisioned parenthood one way, only to learn how different reality can be. The same principle applies to your startup. Your new “baby”

Bouncing Back After Being Laid Off

You’ve just received the awful news: Effective today, your services are no longer needed. You know you’re not alone, but somehow that doesn’t make you feel any better. Your mind tells you to put together your resume right away, but your body won’t move. Here are some tips to help get your mind and body working together.

Grieving Time

Before you bounce into job-search mode, take some time to grieve. There’s no denying your loss. And while you may be thinking your employer will call you back on Monday, it’s highly unlikely. So go ahead and mourn, and then prepare yourself for the new life ahead of you.

No More Excuses

It can be easy to use work as an excuse for not being in great shape. After all, who has the time or energy for the gym after working a 12-hour day? Well, you’ve lost that excuse. And with the tightening of the economy, job searches are taking longer, so you will need to be in good physical shape to go the distance.

Now don’t plunk down your severance pay to join a gym, but it’s worth scheduling time for a run or a walk. If you exercise in the morning, you will be

Managing Your Layoff

You sit in your cubicle and watch your company’s head count go down month by month. You know it’s just a matter of time before layoffs affect your department.

Snap out of it! Instead of waiting to become a statistic, get yourself in position to manage your layoff.

Voluntary Layoffs

A number of companies are offering fairly attractive separation packages to employees who voluntarily leave their jobs. “Hmmm,” you might wonder. “Why would I want to consider such an option?”

There are several reasons:

  • Your company is obviously going through a slowdown. This means it may be awhile before you see a raise or promotion.
  • The atmosphere at work will probably be dismal for some time to come. Do you really want to work in such an atmosphere?
  • If you stay with your current employer and are laid off six months from now, will the job market be tighter for candidates with your skills? If it is, will you then be forced to take a significant salary cut?
  • The best separation packages are usually the first packages offered. If you hold out for the next separation offer, will it even come close to what you could get now?

When to Target a Lower Position

Does it ever make sense to take a step down the career ladder? If you can get past that nagging, inborn sense that “going lower” can only be a sign of downward career mobility, the answer is yes. Taking a lesser position can help move your career forward if the job fits into a larger long-term plan.

Read on to find out when a lower position might make sense, and how you can make such a transition successfully.

Know Why

What could drive you to consider a lower position? Here are some common circumstances:

  • Necessity: Economic conditions, your financial situation and lack of other alternatives may necessitate taking the best available option — even if it’s a step down. There’s no shame in this, but be honest about how you got into this situation in the first place. I see too many people making this kind of career decision out of what was avoidable necessity. They were forced to take a lower-level job, because they didn’t take charge of their careers. Do what you have to do, but learn from it.
  • To Change Careers: This is a completely valid reason to take a lower position,

Laid Off Six Steps to Manage Your Finances

No one is immune from layoffs. Whether you’re 22 or 52, odds are that sooner or later you will find yourself, often through no fault of your own, out of work. So it makes sense to plan ahead. Most financial advisers suggest saving the equivalent of six months’ salary to tide you over if you lose your job. You will probably need more, especially if you have a family and are the primary wage earner.

However, most of us do not think about that possibility until we are actually laid off. So what should you do if you haven’t prepared?

Here are six tips:

Determine How You Are Spending Your Money

When times are good, most people do not think about how they spend money. We know how much the mortgage or rent and monthly car payments are, but we don’t pay attention to daily spending. How much do we spend going out to eat? What is our weekly grocery bill? What about utilities and insurance? Being more aware of how you spend your money will cause you to spend it more carefully.

See Where You Can Cut Back

If you’re facing a layoff, you need to come up with a plan

Unemployment Insurance and You

If you’ve just been laid off, your first questions probably involve unemployment insurance. How does it work? How much will you collect? Where do you sign up?

The answers depend on where you live. Some unemployment insurance policies are set at the federal level, but states set most of the rules and run most of the programs, explains Rich Hobbie, executive director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, a trade association for unemployment insurance agencies.

Get Started

Your first step is to find your state’s workforce agency. Most states take claims via phone or Internet. You can also start at a One Stop Career Center or call the Department of Labor at (877) US2-JOBS to find your local unemployment insurance agency.

Who Gets It?

One way to tell if you’re covered is to find out whether you or your employer is paying unemployment insurance premiums to the state. But even that’s not a guarantee. Some self-employed people must pay unemployment insurance premiums even though they can’t lay themselves off and collect unemployment insurance benefits from the state.

Most states set a few additional rules regarding who can collect unemployment insurance. First, you have to have worked

Resume Dilemma Job Termination and Your Resume

Your employer just let you go. You need to find another job, but how should you handle your termination on your resume?

The days when you signed on with a company and stayed with it until retirement are gone. In today’s climate, employers are much more understanding when they see a less-than-perfect work chronology. Follow these tips regarding losing your job to ensure you’re creating the strongest resume to up your chances of being called in for an interview.

Don’t Mention It

No matter how sour your termination, do not explain the circumstances on your resume. You will have a much better chance of impressing hiring managers if you deal with this question in face-to-face interviews.

Be Honest

If you were recently let go, resist the urge to keep your position listed as “to present” on your resume, giving the appearance that you’re still employed. You will have to explain yourself later on, and potential employers might think you tried to mislead them.

Laid Off? Use Your Cover Letter

If your termination was due to a layoff rather than a performance-related issue, consider mentioning it in your post-layoff