What to Do When You Lose Your Job

What to Do When You Lose Your Job

Getting fired is the worst, even when you know it’s coming, and if it hits you out of nowhere, that can knock your entire life off the rails. Picking yourself back up again can feel impossible.

But for your own sake and the sake of everyone you care about and everyone who cares about you, you’ll have to find some way to overcome it. And we’re here to help. We spoke with some experts to give you a roadmap to get back on track!

Don’t wait until you’re fired.

If you’re reading this because you were just fired, feel free to skip to the next section. But if you came across this while you still have a job and are concerned that you might be getting fired or laid off, the time to start preparing for that possibility is now.

Career coach Jeff Altman (@TheBigGameHuntr) put it this way:

“The ideal set of circumstances is to have a plan in place in case you lose your job. It is something that you can keep in your desk drawer that can be created in a time when your mind is more peaceful and not when you are experiencing the stress/fear of job loss.

“However, if you have not done that, one of the first things I encourage people to do is to review their expenses to see which can be proactively reduced, and in what sequence. After all, one of the most important assets a job hunter has is capital, in the more that you have the more financial staying power you have if your search lasts longer than you hope it will.

“Thus, proactively looking at your expenses and taking action NOW is the smart approach to take.

“For example, contacting your bank about deferring principal payments on your mortgage or payments altogether about your mortgage will bide time for you in case your job search runs longer. The same is true if your children are in private school. Speak with them and create a plan for deferring payments now while you face this challenge.

“Look at your bills, particularly your credit card. Your expenses are not frivolous, but some are more important than others. Take action now to eliminate the less important ones because every dollar saved buys you additional time for your search to avoid going into debt and stressing you out for your interviews.

“If you wait until the money is starting to run out, your fear and desperation will leak out on interviews. You are far better to be proactive than reactive.”

But assuming you came across this article because you were Googling what to do after you lost your job, you might need to save that advice for next time. In case you weren’t prepared, here’s what you should do right now…

Avoid getting down.

The very first step is holding yourself together. Losing your job is one of the most stressful things the average American can go through, and it’s all the worse if it comes as a surprise. While you get your finances in line, you need to make sure you’ve got your day to day life in order.

“It is very easy to sink into a depression after you have been fired or lost your job,” explained marriage counselor Caroline Madden, PhD (@CMaddenMFT). “This is due to not having a schedule and not seeing other people during the day.”

Madden went on to explain how you can protect yourself from depression:

“Wake up, shower, have coffee by 8 am. Make sure every day you have to get out of the house and see someone. Not that you are just going to leave the house to do an errand (if you’re procrastinating running an errand when you literally have nothing else to do, you will feel bad about yourself). Meet up with another human being. This is a great time to meet that friend for lunch across town now that you have the time. Network.

“By having to see someone you structure your day. When you are just home alone, Mondays mesh into Tuesdays that mesh into Wednesday. You can’t tell one day from another.”

And if you live with a significant other?

“Also, if you have a spouse… do yourself and your marriage a favor. Get up when your spouse does. Make the coffee/breakfast, maybe jump into the shower with them. Even the most understanding of spouses begins to get resentful if they have to go to work and you are sleeping in until noon.”

You’ll also need to keep a close eye on your expenses. Accredited financial counselor Roslyn Lash (@RosLash) has been through it before: “I lost my job in 2015 so I am personally familiar with these steps!” First, Lash suggests you “Prepare a budget and reduce debt. Powerpay.org is an excellent resource that allows you to strategically reduce debt.”

Next up? “Eliminating all unnecessary expenses i.e. downgrade your cable or phone package, take your lunch to work, prepare home cooked meals.”

And Lash knows losing your job doesn’t just impact your financial life: “Exercise! Starting a workout regimen that will help you to reduce stress. In addition, you’ll meet new people!”

But of course, while you’re getting your home and financial life in order, you also need to actually start looking for a new job.

Figure out how you can take what you know and apply it to what you’ll do.

However long you’ve been working, you’ve developed some skills now, so you have something you can show to potential employers.

“From a job-seeking perspective, it is important to have some type of continuity in your career,” Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish, owner of Feather Communications (@Feathercomm), told us. “It’s always easier to find a new job when you are already employed. To find a new job as soon as possible, it’s vital that you identify transferable skills that can be utilized toward a new career opportunity. Be sure to update your resume and emphasize achievements that align with future career positions. Use numbers, percentages, sales amounts, and quantifiable information whenever available. Network with professionals in your line of work and develop relationships that can lead to future offerings. There is an old saying that says ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,’ and it’s true.”

Self-reflection may also be necessary. “If you’ve lost your job, take a moment to put aside your anger and make an honest assessment of why this happened,” suggested leadership coach Elizabeth McCourt (@ecmccourt). “This will help you possibly address your issue and come up with how to appropriately address it in your interview process.  Anger or bad mouthing a prior firm will not make you attractive.”

You should also consider looking into new skills. According to Lash: “Now is the time to learn a new skill! There are many online classes, and classes offered at local universities or technical schools. Enrolling in a certification program can lead you to your new career.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Everyone needs help sometimes, and one of those times is definitely after losing your job. And you should be willing to seek whatever assistance you need, be it governmental and friend or network-wise. As career coach Jessica Sweet (@wishingwellgift) advised: “If you have just lost your job, apply for unemployment if you qualify. To get a job as soon as possible, let people know you’re looking for work. Don’t hide in shame. Your best chance of getting a job quickly is to get out there and network. Don’t sit behind your computer sending out resumes. Actually go into the world and meet people.”

Lash also suggests networking and applying for aid if necessary: “Network! Let everyone that you meet know that you’re looking for a new opportunity. Apply for Subsidies. Many organizations offer services on a sliding scale such as child care, YMCA, etc.”

And McCourt echoed the call to start making moves: “Network and ask for help getting your resume out there.  Sitting home and sending resumes is a passive strategy.”

It won’t be easy. It might be one of the toughest things you’ll ever have to do. But we know you’ll be able to do it, and you’ll come out stronger than ever!

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Jeff Altman (@TheBigGameHuntr) is a career coach who has helped organizations achieve their objectives by hunting down leaders and staff as employees or consultants since 1971.
Roslyn Lash (@RosLash) is an Accredited Financial Counselor. She specializes in financial education, adult coaching, and works virtually with adults helping them to navigate through their personal finances i.e. budgeting, debt, and credit repair. She is also the founder of Youth Smart Financial Education Services. Her advice has been featured in national publications such as USA Today, TIME, Huffington Post, NASDAQ, Los Angeles Times, and a host of other media outlets.
Caroline Madden, PhD (@CMaddenMFT) is a Marriage Therapist and author of several books on relationships including, “How to Go From Soul Mates to Roommates in 10 Easy Steps” For more information, please visit CarolineMadden.com or follow her on Twitter: @CMaddenMFT
Elizabeth McCourt, JD, MFA, CPCC, ACC (@ecmccourt) is the President of McCourt Leadership Group.  She has been a financial services recruiter for 17 years and is also an executive coach, certified by the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), in addition to certifications in the Hogan Leadership Assessment and in Systemic Team Coaching. She works with high level individuals looking for both a practical and holistic approach to advancing their communication and leadership capabilities.
Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish (@Feathercomm) has a BBA in management from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, an MBA from Lakeland College, and a Ph.D. in Organization and Management from Capella University. She LOVES helping people position themselves for today’s job market. She can help boost your confidence by creating a resume that helps you land your DREAM JOB.
Jessica Sweet (@wishingwellgift) is a career coach and a licensed therapist. She helps creative, ambitious midlife professionals and executives figure out what work they truly care about and want to be doing – and then helps them land or create those positions. She is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and a contributor at Forbes.com and The Huffington Post. Her work has also been featured in places like CNBC, Business Insider and HayHouse Radio. You can get her free resources here and visit her website at wishingwellcoach.com. When Jess is not coaching, you can often find her giggling with her two little girls.

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