One of the worst things that can happen from a career perspective is to lose your job. That’s especially true when it’s unexpected and not your fault. On the flip side, one of the best things that can happen from a career perspective is to lose your job, even when it doesn’t feel like anything remotely positive at the moment.
Even though it hurt at the time, for me, unexpectedly losing my job gave me the push I needed to move my career down a different path. I might not have done it that soon, or at all, without the impetus I got from hearing that I had lost my job.
It’s emotional and traumatic to be laid off, and even worse to be fired. You’re out of work, you’re out of a paycheck, and you will lose the bond you have with your co-workers because it won’t ever really be the same again even though you’ll promise to stay in touch. It’s painful.
Give yourself some time to mourn a bit, especially if you loved your job. It’s a loss and giving yourself some time and space to grieve will help. Then you need to get practical and get over it. The quicker you get a job search up and running, the faster you’ll be thinking about your new job instead of the one you lost. Here’s what to do next.
What To Do When You Lose Your Job
File for unemployment. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you should be eligible for unemployment. Depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible even if you were fired. Here’s what you need to know about filing for unemployment.
Check on health insurance options. Check with your manager or your Human Resources department on options for continuing health insurance coverage or investigate options for getting a new policy to cover you while you’re out of work.
Figure out what to do with your retirement plan. What happens to your retirement plan varies on the type of plan you have. Here’s information on what happens to your pension plan and what happens to a 401(k) when you leave your job.
Work on a personal budget. Your unemployment check is going to be less than your paycheck, so think about how you can save some money. It’s also going to last for a much shorter time because many states have cut back the number of weeks of unemployment they provide.
Sign up for 30 Days to a New Job. If finances are an issue, and they are for many unemployed workers, you are going to need to hustle a bit. Get the 30 Days to a New Job program online, via email or download the free app. It will help you stay motivated and keep your job search on track.
Google yourself. Search for your name on Google to see what potential employers are going to view when they check you out. Make sure everything that comes up in the search results is appropriate. The “grandma rule” applies here. You don’t want hiring managers or recruiters to see anything that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.
Clean up your social media accounts. Your social media pages are probably going to be on the list of what shows up when you search for yourself. Be sure that all your posts are fit for the public to see. If not, clean them up and adjust your privacy settings.
Revamp your resume. Before you start applying for jobs, take the time to update your resume. Your resume is going to be read by the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that employers use as well as by hiring managers. Be sure to include your most relevant skills and match your qualifications to the job. That will give you the best shot at getting selected for an interview.
Update your LinkedIn profile. If you’re applying for professional positions you’re going to be checked out on LinkedIn. Update your LinkedIn profile, making sure all the information matches what is on your resume. Here are nice simple steps for making a better LinkedIn profile, and tips for using SEO to get your profile noticed.
Connect with your network. This is a good time to connect with your network. Use LinkedIn, your college alumni network, and your professional and personal networks to help your job search. Ask your connections to let you know if they come across jobs that would be a good fit.
Get references. While you’re connecting with your network, consider who would be good to use for a reference. That’s especially important if you were fired. Line up a few references now, so they can expect a call when you start interviewing. Here’s who and how to ask for an employment reference.
Check job listings. Now that you’ve got many of the pieces of the job search puzzle in place, start checking out job listings and applying for jobs. Use job search engines like Indeed.com to get job postings from many different online sources with just a few clicks.
Focus your job search. Use the advanced search options to focus on job listings that are a match for your interests and skills, and in a location where you want to work. Don’t waste your time applying for jobs that aren’t a good fit. This is a competitive job market and if you’re not qualified you aren’t going to be considered.
Write targeted cover letters. Don’t skimp when it comes to your job applications. Your cover letters need to make a compelling case as to why you should be hired. Use your cover letters to show the reader, at a glance, why you are the best qualified person for the job. Here are tips for writing interview winning cover letters.
Find out what you’re worth. You’re going to be asked about salary when you interview. Your salary history is important, and so are your salary expectations. Do you have a minimum amount that you need to get by? What should be you be earning? Use salary reports, like those offered by PayScale.com, so you don’t sell yourself short if an employer is looking to hire cheap.
Get an interview outfit (or two) ready. Expect to have at least a couple of interviews for every job you apply for. Some may be on the phone. Others will be on-site, so be prepared to dress appropriately for the job and company you’re interviewing with. Here’s how to choose an interview outfit that’s a good match.
Practice interviewing. The best way to prepare for an interview is to practice, practice again and then practice some more. Review the most common interview questions employers ask, so you’re prepared to answer. Check out these tips for how to rehearse at home and for how to prepare for a job interview so you make the best impression. Be prepared to answer interview questions about why you left your job.
Say thank you and follow up. Manners matter. In fact, they can make a difference in whether you get a second interview or even a job offer. Take the time to follow up and thank your interviewers. Here are sample thank you notes and email messages you can tailor to fit your own circumstances.
Don’t get discouraged. You are probably going to not hear back from more employers than you expected. Unfortunately, many companies don’t bother to notify applicants who weren’t selected. The interview process may be much longer than you anticipated. You may be asked to interview three or four, or even more times, before a hiring decision is made. Expect this to take a while, and try not to feel down if you don’t get hired right away. It’s not you – the employer is looking for the candidate who is the best fit. It’s better, even though it may not feel that way, not to get hired than to have a job that doesn’t work out.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Finally, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family will be glad to assist, but they can’t if they don’t know that you need assistance. Whether you need a loan, a ride, a babysitter, someone to proof your job application materials, or an outfit to borrow to wear to an interview don’t hesitate to ask.