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What to do immediately after losing your job

So you just lost your job. Do not panic. It happens to everyone from the mail clerk to the CEO. You are not alone and your life is not over. In fact, your future is just now beginning. But, to move forward, you must stop thinking about what you have lost, and focus on what is next. You can dramatically reduce the stress of job loss and even enjoy your job search by following the dos and don’ts below.


Do take the necessary time to get over your job loss

Before you head back out into the workplace and start looking for your next job, you must take the time to grieve and deal with the loss of your job. Losing a job is hard for everyone - especially if you liked your old job or had been at the company for a long time. If you start searching for a new job when you are not over the loss of your last job, your anger and disappointment will affect your judgement in deciding which job to apply for next. The time it takes to let go of the old and be ready for the new is different for everyone. You must have dealt with the job loss before you can truly succeed in finding your new job. When you decide that your future will be brighter than your past, you're ready.

Do take account of your financial situation

When you lose your job, one of the first things you must do is take an honest account of your financial situation. Finding your next job could take months depending upon your field, experience, and level. You need to ensure that money does not add to the stress you already feel in having to search for a new job. Review every expenditure and decide if it is really necessary at the time. You can always re-enroll your child in ballet lessons after you have started your new job. Apply for unemployment immediately. Put your credit cards away. It is too easy to run up credit card debt which carries very high interest rates. Do not cash out your 401K. You will pay high penalties for early withdrawals. If you are short on cash, talk to your bank, and take out a loan. Personal loans have much lower interest rates. Also consider a part time job or short term consulting. This will bring in some money while you look for your next permanent job and give you something to feel good about while you conduct your job search.

Do immediately ask your former colleagues for professional references

The best time to ask colleagues for professional references is immediately after you lose your job. Most people will feel for you and will remember all the good things you did in your former job as well as for them. Ask them immediately for a reference on your Linkedin profile or a written reference that you can provide to future employers. 

Do have a lawyer or someone help you with your termination papers

Probably the last thing you want to do is read through all the paperwork your former company provided at the exit interview or sent you in the weeks after you left. However, it is imperative that you understand all the conditions of your severance package before you sign anything. It is often very cost effective to hire an employment lawyer to review the severance paperwork and discuss your situation. If you can’t afford/don’t want to hire a lawyer, ask a trusted friend or even your spouse to read all the paperwork, just to make sure there are no surprises and to understand what the company is offering in terms of support while you transition to your next job.

Do take care of yourself

Far too often after a job loss, people under stress will develop bad habits including overeating, drinking, and so on. Avoid all these temptations. When you lose a job, it is natural to feel like you have lost control of your life and your future. A job loss is actually the best time to take control of yourself, your life, and your future. No one is now telling you what to do during working hours. There are no more crazy deadlines, no long commute, no late nights working on last minute deliverables and assignments, and no more boss breathing down your neck. So become your own boss. Organize yourself and your time, using your work hours to conduct your job search, and finally take that time to get some exercise, enjoy the book or movie you never had time for, volunteer, or better yet, spend some quality time with your wife and kids. Taking care of yourself is the best way to take back control of your life, and be ready and excited to move forward.


Do not become negative or lose your confidence

A job loss is very personal. For many of us, a job is more than a paycheck. It’s often our identity and, let’s face it, the reason we get up in the morning, do our thing, and then come home at night. It occupies at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, with two days off to catch up on the work we did not get done during the week. Today, through electronic devices, we are always connected to our work and we only really turn off when we go to sleep. Now that is all gone. It can produce a feeling of intense loss, instill fear, generate depression and negative feeling about ourselves and others, and can reduce our self-confidence. Stop! There is no reason to do this to yourself. What has truly happened? The company has simply informed you that they would not like you to work there anymore. They have not said you're a horrible person. Or that you do not have skills. Or that you’re not worthy of a better job at a more exciting company. Treat your dismissal as your former company encouraging you to find a better job than the one you just lost. If your company provided severance, then they are even paying you to find your new job. So what are you waiting for? No one is stopping you other than yourself. Get up, get going and don’t look back. The world is a big place and it’s waiting for you. 

Do not wait to update your resume

Producing a resume is one of the most difficult and unnatural acts that you will ever have to do. Few of us know what a good resume looks like, what we should include and exclude, and what will help us present our best self to new employers and recruiters. We often procrastinate, but you must not wait to create or update your resume. Let’s start simple. Start by writing down all the jobs you have had in sequential order starting with your most recent job. For each job write four bullet points. One bullet should describe in plain English your responsibilities. Two bullets should identify activities that you completed that you are most proud. The last bullet should describe the results you produced as a result of your activities. Once you have completed this for all jobs, then go back and add more bullets on what you did and what results you generated. Minimize the use of “we” and focus on “I”. Then share your resume with friends, former colleagues, and resume professionals and ask for help. Meet them for coffee and allow them to go through your resume and ask clarifying questions. Ask them to interview you to extract more valuable information than what you have put on your resume so far. Listen to all suggestions then edit your resume and repeat the process with other people. Keep your resume short and to the point. Remember a resume is not your life story, but a synopsis of your professional career and the accomplishments that you are most proud of and wish for future employers and recruiters to know. It is not a gimmick, nor should it be boring, it should represent who you are and what you have to offer to your next company. The new company is lucky to have you. Let your resume illustrate this to them. Now go write your resume! 

Do not wait to network

Before you have completed your resume, but after you have had time to deal with your job loss, start networking. What does this mean? Pick up the phone, email, and video chat. Communicate with people who know you and like you and ask for their help in your job search. Many jobs are not advertised and are awarded to people who are referred by people the employer trusts. Networking provides a support support system, helps boost self confidence, provides feedback on resumes, and connects you with new people who have jobs and are looking for someone just like you. 

Do not be afraid to reach out to professional recruiters who can help you

There are more than 300,000 professional recruiters in the United States who are looking to fill jobs with professionals just like you. Search for professional recruiters in your location and take a look at their website and their areas of focus. Then, reach out through email or a Linkedin connection. Do not be disheartened if they do not respond immediately or at all. Professional recruiters are often looking for specific candidates so if you're not a match, they will often not waste your time. Don’t give up. Keep trying. When you find someone who is looking for someone like you, a recruiter will move heaven and earth to have you meet with prospective employers and help you through the entire hiring and onboarding process.

Jumping cartoon

The loss of a job is not the end but a new beginning. Take the necessary time to grieve, regroup, organize, and be positive about your future. Move boldly forward with confidence and the understanding that there is a job and company waiting for you to knock on their door. Aim for a job and company that is better than the one you just lost. Network, network, network with a resume that makes you proud. Proactively reach out to professionals who can help you. Try not to stress too much and enjoy your job search. Accept that your life is a journey and it’s up to you to make the most of it.

More expert advice about Finding a New Job

Photo Credits: Flazingo Photos by Scrabble - Resume via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Gina PeckmanFounder

Is Gina Peckman the real-life superhero of executive recruitment? Well, more than a quarter-century of fulfilling engagements has honed those spidey senses to dizzying levels. Instinctively, she appreciates that the intangibles are what make a p...

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