There’s no way around it — losing your job can be painful. Not only is it a blow to your ego, but unexpected unemployment gives you plenty of free time to brood about the situation and fret about the future.
But as with any setback, the best way to heal is by moving forward. Here’s how to recover your morale, adjust your priorities and rethink your future after a job loss.
DON’T KEEP IT A SECRET
Many people feel ashamed when they lose their job, especially if they were fired. That shame can lead to them to keeping their job status a secret. It’s an understandable reaction, but here’s the thing — doing that can, perhaps counterintuitively, hurt your employment prospects in the long run.
That’s because, even with the advent of technology and digital job boards, more than 70 percent of people say they found their current job through networking. Many jobs never even make it to a job board; instead, some new openings spread via word of mouth.
Make a list of everyone you’ve worked with or people you know who work in similar industries. Every day, send at least five of them a personalized message describing your situation and offer to buy them lunch or coffee.
“As soon as you start to do that, you will be amazed at what opportunities will follow,” Human resources professional Lori Rassas says.
AVOID INDULGING BAD HABITS
It’s normal to feel sad when you lose your job; after all, your job not only pays the bills, it also nourishes your mental well-being. A job is a significant source of social interaction, external validation and intellectual stimulation.
In the weeks and months after a job loss, it’s all too easy to develop bad habits. Gorging on junk food, skipping workouts, drinking alcohol more often, ignoring people’s phone calls or texts can all feel like balms for that stinging loss. But indulging in bad habits won’t make the job search any less painful.
Instead of filling out applications for a job like the one you just lost, take a few days to think about what you really want to do.
Rather than lounging all day in your sweats, put your newfound free-time to good use. Indulge in those hobbies or self-development activities you couldn’t find time for while you were working. Try writing in a journal, odd jobs around the house or simply taking long hikes under the sun.
It could take several months to find a new job, depending on the position you’re applying for. And even when you find one, it’ll take an average of 28 days from submitting your application to the offer, according to a 2017 analysis from Jobvite. You’re going to have down time, which begs an important question: How do you explain a gap in employment if your job search goes into extra innings? Well, turn your down time into a compelling story to tell a potential employer.
Volunteer for your favorite non-profit, join a professional networking group, seek a leadership role in your neighborhood association, take on some pro-bono consulting work, land a couple freelance gigs.
There’s no reason to fear that classic interview question, “What did you do while you were unemployed?”
LOOK AT ALL YOUR OPTIONS
Former Johnson & Johnson human resources executive Steve Garguilo says being unemployed is the perfect time to reassess your career. Instead of filling out applications for a job like the one you just lost, take a few days to think about what you really want to do. Are you happy with where your career is going, or do you want to pivot? Did you hate certain aspects of your old job? What was missing?
You can also sign up for online classes and brush up on skills that may have atrophied while you were at your last job. There’s no reason your professional development needs to take a hiatus while you’re unemployed.
When my father was laid off from his 10-year IT position, he used it as an opportunity to teach himself software languages he had missed out on while being employed. Three weeks later, he passed a test on the new skills and landed an even better gig.
Once you identify the kind of role you’d like to have, make a list of organizations that might have opportunities that fit what you’re looking for.
IMPROVE YOUR RESUME
The first thing most people do when they lose a job is update their resume with their most recent position. While you’re doing that, Garguilo says to make sure your resume shows quantifiable results you brought to your employer.
“Don't just tell us what your job was; tell us what you accomplished,” he says.
You weren’t, for example, in charge of purchasing; instead, you decreased waste by 15 percent. You weren’t a social media manager; instead, you doubled your Instagram audience. Specificity gives potential employers a clear sense of what you bring to the table and showcases a results-driven work ethic.
Once you’ve done that, have a friend or former coworker look over resume for typos, diction and other problems. A miniscule typo can be the difference that sets you apart from the competition.