Don't sign any termination papers until you're sure you've made the best deal you can.
Step 1: Understand that, legally, your company doesn't have give you severance pay unless you have a contract stating otherwise.
Step 2: Don't sign anything immediately, even if it means holding up your final check. Say that you'll review the package and get back to them.
TIP: Per federal anti-age discrimination laws, workers age 40 and older have 21 days to review their severance package, 45 days if they were part of a massive layoff, and seven days to change their mind after signing a waiver.
Step 3: Ask to speak to someone at the company who is in a position to sweeten the deal Human Resources is offering, whether that is your immediate boss or the CEO.
Step 4: If you're asked to leave immediately, suggest that you stay on long enough to complete current projects. Emphasize that this is in the best interest of the company.
Step 5: If you're offered severance, provide a compelling argument as to why you deserve more than the company's standard payout, like if you were hired away from another firm, or you relocated to take the job.
Step 6: Ask the company to keep paying your health benefits for a few months. This concession may be worth more to you than cash if you or someone in your family has large medical bills.
TIP: In many cases, terminated employees are kept on the company health plan until the end of the month, so ask for coverage beyond that.
Step 7: If you are just shy of receiving a year-end bonus or being fully vested in stock options, ask the company to fast-track those perks. If there's a deadline for exercising stock options, request that they extend it.
Step 8: Consider consulting an employment attorney before signing off on any package.
FACT: According to a recent survey, 31 percent of employers offer one week's salary per year of service, and 20 percent offer two.