Whether your department was cut, you were laid off as a result of a global pandemic, or you were simply fired, losing your job is tough. Unemployment is difficult at the best of times, and it is even more stressful when you didn’t leave on your own accord. This is no time to wallow in your misfortune, however. With a productive routine and the right preparation, you will be back at work with a new job in no time.
Be polite and professional when you get the news that you have been let go. Even if you are being fired unceremoniously, this is not the time to tell your least favourite manager what you really think of them. Be understanding of their decision, and be graceful as you make your exit. Your first reaction might be one of anger or betrayal, but it is important to keep your relationships with the company and your coworkers intact.
Though you will no longer be working with these particular people, you will likely see them again in the future, whether at a different company in the same field or at industry events. If you remain on good terms as you are let go, they may even be able to provide you with a positive reference for your job search. The best thing for your career is to leave everyone with as good an impression of you as the situation permits.
Once the shock of being let go has worn off, it is important to take stock of what you are owed and what you are eligible for. Take the time to collect your final paycheck, and see if you are owed a severance package of some kind. Gather any records of your employment that may be useful. Then, check to see if you qualify for unemployment benefits in your state. The details of unemployment insurance and other unemployment options are different in different countries and states, so it is important to figure out what you are eligible for.
Sometimes a change is needed, even if it wasn’t a change you expected. Now that you are looking for a new job anyway, you have a perfect opportunity to take stock of your life and career. Are you pleased with your career trajectory? Were you happy in the job you just lost? Were you fired because you weren’t a good fit for the company culture, or because you were ill-suited for the role? Does the fact that your department was downsized mean that the industry will be seeing a downturn? Why did you take this job in the first place?
Think about your values and goals, how they influence your career choices, and whether a change is in order. Now that the opportunity has arrived you can use this moment to change careers, whether it’s to find a job you can do from home, learn new skills, or even relocate to a new city where the opportunities are different.
To make your job search as painless as possible, you will need a great resume. It isn’t enough to just add your latest position to the top of your old resume and call it a day. Take the time to revise your resume so you are sure it is perfect for your career growth. The skills and achievements you highlight throughout should be impressive to employers, and the resume design should suit your industry.
Further, keep in mind that this won’t be the last resume you write during your job search. To score an interview you need to customize your resume for every job you apply for. The best resume for one job may not work for another, so make sure that you tailor your resume to the specific job posting each time you write an application.
Beyond the content of the resume, it is also important to make sure your application materials are well-suited for the modern job market. For example, if you will be applying online through an applicant tracking system, be sure to optimize your new resume for ATS. If you are looking for a role that requires a strong online presence, create an online profile that showcases your work history or portfolio. If all you need is a simple PDF resume, make sure it is well-formatted and easy to read.
Unfortunately, you can’t just ignore the fact that it wasn’t your decision to leave your last job. This is a question that interviewers are sure to ask and it is important that you have a good answer prepared. If you were fired and the details are unsavoury, do your best to put a positive spin on the situation. Take responsibility if necessary, and show that you learned from the experience. You may have learned something specific about the job, but the lesson may also have been about yourself. Maybe you learned that you were in the wrong industry, or that you work best in a particular environment. Maybe you found that the company culture was a bad fit for you, or that the role was not well-suited for your education. Whatever you do, do not trash-talk your previous employer, and importantly, never lie. Lying in an interview is far worse than having been fired, and all it takes is a phone call to the previous employer for your lie to be exposed.
The best way to get a job is through your professional network, and the best way to let people in your network know that you are looking for a job is to tell them. Losing your job might be embarrassing at first, but you shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that you are searching for new work. Tell everyone who will listen that you are looking for a job. You may need to deploy your prepared answer for why you were let go from your last position, but it is important to let people know that you are on the lookout for a new position so that they can help you. If people know that you are looking for work, they will be able to recommend you if an opportunity arises at their company, or let you know if they saw a promising opening. Leveraging connections like this is an integral part of finding a new job.
An important part of networking in the twenty-first century is social media. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, and be sure that it is set so that employers and recruiters can find you. If you have other social media such as Twitter or Facebook, you can also use these tools to find a job. Post your online resume on social media, and follow thought leaders and recruiters in your industry who might discuss new opportunities or events that you can attend.
It’s fine to take a week or two off if you can afford it, but when you’re ready to apply for jobs it’s time to get to work. Treat your job search like it’s a job rather than a vacation. By designating hours of each day for the application process as though they were shifts at work, you can ensure that you stay on task and don’t get lost in all your newfound free time.
Setting clear goals each day can help to make the job search process more efficient. For example: you could set the goal to apply for 5 jobs each day, or to spend 4 hours of each day job searching. If you are truly dedicated, make that 8 hours. You can even schedule specific times of day for certain things: scroll job boards in the morning, reach out to people in your network after lunch, and keep current with industry news in the evening. With the right mindset, unemployment can be a lot of work.
Unemployment is difficult at the best of times, and this is all the more true if your industry is making cutbacks or if you’ve been fired and feel that this will damage future prospects. To keep up your good spirits, it is important to ensure that you are still focusing on your health as well as your career. Getting a job won’t be any easier if you are stressed the whole time. Particularly if you live alone, you might be spending hours of your day in solitude where you once spent them with colleagues, and this transition might be difficult. Healthy habits like making a point of reaching out to friends, scheduling regular breaks, and maintaining your fitness can all make the job search more bearable. Stay diligent, but stay healthy too. With the right routine you might come out of unemployment even happier than when you started.
Ben is a writer and customer support specialist with 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume and the power of coffee.
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