Cutbacks, layoffs, downsizing, and bankruptcy—you can't watch the news or turn a corner without hearing these words. If you’ve just been laid off, or you’re nervous a pink slip may be in the near future, you should be prepared to handle the situation. Robert Hellman, a career coach at The Five O’Clock Club, filled us in on the top five things to do as soon as you are let go.

1. Assess your financial situation. Cutting expenses to the bone, how much money do you need to break even, and do you have any savings to rely on while you search? What kind of time frame do you have before you go dangerously into the red? Use this knowledge to adjust your lifestyle, right away. There may be opportunity to negotiate a more favorable severance package—don’t ignore this possibility! And play to the humanity and sympathy of your former employers in addition to making the rational case for increased severance.

2. Develop clearly defined job targets. This is a crucial step for two reasons. First, people will find it much easier to help you if you can clearly tell them what you are going for. Never say, “Well, I’m just looking for a job.” Second, you need to concentrate your efforts on specific job targets, to make your search as efficient and effective as possible.

3. Develop your promotional materials. That includes your résumé, basic cover letter, and Two-Minute Pitch (plus a 30 second version). When these are well done, they leave no doubt about what your job target is and why you would be great at it.

4. Develop your marketing plan. Yes, YOUR marketing plan, which most job hunters don’t have. The plan lists specific companies you are interested in working for in each of your job targets. This is the roadmap for your job search: be sure to follow it.

5. Assess your network—and be expansive. Include co-workers, former colleagues, your family, friends, people you haven’t spoken to in five years but who would be happy to hear from you, and so forth. Additional sources of contacts are professional and alumni associations, clubs, on-line networking such as LinkedIn, and so forth.

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Robert is Associate Director of the Five O’Clock Club Guild of Career Coaches. He’s also a Guild member himself with a substantial private practice, and teaches Career Development at NYU. Rob has over 20 years of experience in Marketing and Organizational Development through organizations such as JP Morgan Chase, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and American Express. In addition, Rob founded his own successful marketing/multimedia production company where he has worked with clients such as the Audubon Society and 1-800-flowers. His educational background includes a BS in Economics from Binghamton University and an MBA in Finance/Marketing from Fordham University .

You can contact Rob through the Five O’Clock Club at 212-286-4500, or by sending an e-mail to guild@fiveoclockclub.com