I Just Lost My Job. Now What?

iStockphoto.com |  wildpixel

iStockphoto.com | wildpixel

Life just threw you one of its trickiest curve balls. You’ve been told by your boss you are out of a job. Regardless of the reason, you feel overwhelmed by conflicting emotions, economic pressures, and the uncertainty of your future.

Stop. Take a deep breath. You’re not alone, and a little knowledge is a lot of power in your inevitable climb back into the workforce.

It’s natural to feel lost, scared, and discouraged. In this day and age of an increased focus on corporate profitability and shortening career tenures, the experience of losing your job – either through layoff or getting fired – is increasingly common.

Time to refocus. Effectively managing the situation and preparing for your next step can often enhance your success in getting prepared to reenter the job hunt. Many others have successfully navigated such situations, and so will you. Even if this unfamiliar territory, having a good map and the right tools can get you to your destination. To paraphrase an old Irish saying the road will rise up to meet you.

Step 1 – Identify What Happened: The how, when, what, and why you lost your job directly impacts your approach to finding a new position. You’ll likely face more difficult questioning if you lost your job for performance issues than if your position was eliminated as a result of a merger or acquisition. Then think about the professional skills you’ve acquired and how they’ll impact your positioning in the market, the roles you’ll pursue, and the value you’ll add to your next employer.

Step 2 – Assess Your State of Mind: Losing a job can be traumatic, so be honest with yourself – are you ready to go back into the job market? Maybe you live paycheck–to–paycheck, and you do not have the luxury to wait until you are truly ready, but any extra time you are able to devote to yourself will ultimately be helpful in your job search. Perhaps you have severance, or savings, or a whole lot of travel points you can use to give yourself the necessary time to assess, decompress, and rejuvenate. If you need time to get right, and you can make the financials work, it may be worth consideration.

Step 3 – Craft Your Story: Conventional wisdom is that it is easier to find a job while you’re still employed than when you are unemployed. When you are unemployed, you are subject to an extra level of scrutiny, and even those who suddenly find themselves out of work due to no fault of their own can find themselves on defense during the hiring process. You’ll need to open any conversation with a potential employer by explaining what happened that caused the separation from your past employer. Here’s why – if you can set the tone and deal with the tricky parts first, you’ll be able to move onto more important topics. Write down and polish your version of what happened, massage it, and practice it like you’re going on an audition for the biggest starring role in town. The “What happened” question will come up in every interview, so be prepared.

Step 4Build Your Toolbox: You’ve determined you’re ready to get moving on the job hunt. Time to actively evaluate and upgrade the essential job hunting tools. You’ll need to look at your:

Resume: Is it updated with your last position and all the accomplishments, skills, and experiences you’ve acquired there? Is it Applicant Tracking System (ATS) ready, so that it has a chance of making it through to the recruiter? And is it clean, accurate, and free of errors?

 LinkedIn Profile: Recruiters comb LinkedIn to find talent, so you need to be ready. Just like your resume, have you updated your profile to reflect your latest experience? Is it robust and detailed, with a detailed job history? Have you uploaded a recent profile photo? And work on getting some recommendations for your profile from former peers and clients – employers look at these and place value in them.

 Job Boards: Have you uploaded your latest resume to Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder?

 References: If you’ve been let go from a job, these are going to be even more important that you may anticipate. Your last boss may or may not be willing to speak favorably about the quality of your work. Find peers, past supervisors, internal customers, or other individuals at your last company who are willing to sing your praises. It’ll help reassure a potential employer that you’re a good risk. It bears saying, make sure you choose co-workers or supervisors you know will provide favorable feedback – I’m just saying, vet your references. I’ve seen people get burned by inadvertently providing poor references.

 Wardrobe: Don’t forget to get modern, appropriate outfits and shoes for interviews. Get your best professional attire dry cleaned and ready for action. And Buy a new pair of shoes that are for interviews only.

Step 5 – Tap Into Your Network: There is no reason to go it alone. You likely have a professional and personal support network, and generally speaking, people are willing to help. Assess your network and determine your best options. Bear in mind, your network is a matrix with multiple degrees of separation. Don’t be afraid to give your resume to friends – networks are large and often unpredictable, and your resume may land on a hiring manager’s desk and you’re a perfect fit. It happens, and a lot more than you may be willing to believe. But people can’t help you if they don’t know you need help!

Step 6 ­– Consider Alternative Employment. Temporary or contract work can do a fantastic job of paying the bills while you’re looking for a full-time role. A temp job may also become permanent, or you might learn of another opening that’s even better through that temp job. Contract positions have the added benefit of expanding your network of people, affiliations, and skill sets.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.