What to do when you lose your job
So, you have lost your job?
The first few days….
Most of us don’t plan to lose our jobs. And, while many of us spend a significant amount of time complaining about our workplace, the prospect of actually losing your job is terror inducing. There isn’t an instruction manual for when you lose your job.
In today’s world of re-structure, re-organisation, re-alignment and economic volatility it is likely that you will be faced with an unexpected job termination at some point in your career. Be it through redundancy, a walk out or straight termination, unexpectedly finding yourself out of work seldom feels like a positive experience.
It can be traumatic to lose a job and highly emotional. And that is just day one. Unexpectedly losing your job (particularly if you were fired) can have significant impact on our self-worth and our sense of inclusion and purpose. Not to mention the financial pressure that comes with the lack of pay cheque. What can you do if you lose your job, and can you turn a terrible situation into a positive experience?
What you can do if you have lost your job?
This is not an exhaustive list and it certainly does not guarantee a fairy tale outcome. I have been involved in many terminations of employment. It is a part of the job that is dreadful. But I digress. Having been involved in many terminations, I can say that many folks move on to bigger and better things. It is never guaranteed, but there can be good that comes from bad.
Below is my list of what to do in the immediate aftermath, when you lose your job.
What to do in the first few days after you have lost your job
Number 1 thing to do – what to do when you lose your job
Stay Calm. OK, this is a slightly ridiculous point to start off with. It is unlikely that you will stay calm, and if you do, it’s probably only on the outside. Perhaps what I should suggest is don’t panic. If you are in a panicked state, you are unlikely to make good decisions or good impressions.
A fellow I knew lost his job and literally as he was walking from the building sent a text to his entire contact list. The text went along the lines of “just lost my job, anyone know who is looking for an engineer?” In hindsight he recognised that potentially this was not the best way to approach his network. When he sent the text, he was operating from blind panic, and it may have cost him opportunities in his future.
It is completely normal to panic when you first lose your job. I would suggest though, if you are in the grip of panic it is a terrible time to be making major career decisions or putting yourself out there. Give yourself some time (just a day may suffice) to allow your heart and head to still, before making big announcements or taking action.
Number 2 thing to do – what to do when you lose your job
Take Stock. This is an incredibly important point. If you have just lost your job you absolutely need to know where you are with things. Financial things. How much money do you have, how long can you live with what you have? Are you receiving a payout, how long can you live on that? Is there any expenditure that you can immediately cut back on?
Know what state your finances are in and what that means for your financial obligations. Some redundancy payouts can be very generous. It is very easy to forget that a redundancy is not a windfall, but rather money that provides a cushion to allow you time to seek alternate employment. Consider using it to cover your costs while you are out of work, rather than say, buy a jet ski (seen it happen).
I will add here, if you are in financial dire straits from day one, get help from day one. Ignoring a dire financial situation when you have just lost your job does not help your stress levels and will likely move you back into panic. In Australia, try the National debt helpline, click here for their website. This is a free government provided service of amazing financial counsellors that can help. Speak to them early, they have great strategies.
Number 3 thing to do – what to do when you lose your job
Work out your narrative. It is tricky working out what you are going to tell people when you lose your job. Further, it’s not easy. Even if we have done nothing to precipitate the loss of employment, working out how to talk about unemployment is complex.
The good thing is that you get to control this piece. You get to own the language you put to your termination and you can control your message. There are some great sites that talk about what to say when you have been terminated, click here and here to take a look.
I would advocate sticking as closely as you can to the truth. Sometimes the job doesn’t work out, the company moves in a different direction or the job requirements are misaligned with your skillset. However you want to phrase it, take control of your message and think about what you want to say, before anyone asks.
Finally, on this point, I would strongly advise against trying to hide it or bitterly blaming your workplace. It’s absolutely fine to rant and rave at home about what a miserly bastard the boss was. However, that should only be shared with a trusted few. Industries tend to be small worlds, the last thing you want is to draw attention to yourself for the wrong reasons.
Number 4 thing to do – what to do when you lose your job
Get going on the admin. Update your resume and your LinkedIn profiles. Write a list of folks in your network that you would be keen to connect with. Email a couple of recruitment agencies. Email a few key contacts to let them know to keep their ears to the ground on your behalf.
Google yourself. Make sure that the information that is online is how you want to present yourself. Check your privacy settings on your Facebook and other social media. Anything that is not locked down is fair game for a potential new workplace.
You don’t need to be in full blown job seeker mode at this stage (unless you do due to number 2). This is just about getting your ducks in a row and starting to let your network know that you are back on the market.
Number 5 thing to do – what to do when you lose your job
Think about your priorities. Rather than rushing headlong into a mad jobseeking frenzy, try pausing and thinking about what you want.
Is it a good time to try something new? Can you take a job on a smaller pay packet, can you adjust your lifestyle to fit? Do you want to work in a particular sector or for a particular type of organisation? Ask yourself the questions that will lead to a better chance of success in your next position. Question your priorities and your (and your family’s) needs versus wants. Put a little bit of planning into your next steps before you take them.
One last point – what to do when you lose your job
Ask for help. If you are feeling emotional, panicked or shamed about being suddenly unemployed it is unlikely that your first instinct will be to reach out for help. I am telling you, it can change things for you. Take advantage of any counselling offered, find a trusted confident, seek out a work mentor. It is natural to want to hide away if you have lost your job, but you can’t be helped if it isn’t known that you need it.
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