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8 Ways To Move Forward If You Lost Your Job

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In the Spring of 2020, American job loss was spiraling towards levels that rivaled The Great Depression. Unemployment claims peaked at a record 14.8%. And a lot of people were left wondering, “what’s my next career move?”  If you’ve ever lost your job or your job status has changed suddenly, you understand it can be challenging to see past the uncertainty to the next step.

As someone who underwent a career transition in 2020, I feel the struggle of trying to figure out who you are outside of the confines of traditional employment. I left the Software as a Service space after eight years and decided to try and forge my own path instead of jumping in with another employer who could potentially leave me in a rough position.

Moving On Isn’t Always Easy

After first taking care of yourself and your family’s physical and mental health, it’s as important as ever to get back up and keep progressing forward. The following are tangible steps to keep you moving forward after you’ve lost your job.

Take a second to step back and work through what just happened

Any sudden and significant life change is a shock to your system.  Take a few days to work through the emotional changes that come with this new season.  If you need to cry, cry.  If you need to journal out your feelings or stay in bed for a day, do it.  Nobody is judging you, and you shouldn’t be judging yourself either.

You are experiencing a monumental change, and if you hit the ground running and don’t take a second to accept it, things may come back and hit you ten times harder a few weeks from now.

Assess your finances

The whole point of reviewing your finances right now is to consider how long you can sustain before absolutely needing some type of income.  If you’re eligible, take this opportunity to file for unemployment. Programs like unemployment exist for a reason. And if you’re in a tough place financially, you should utilize these benefits until you can get back on your feet.

You should also be sure to fully understand any severance package offered through your employer if applicable. If you had employer-provided health benefits, make sure to reach out to your Human Resources team if you need to make changes, or find alternate options.

If you have a fully-funded emergency fund, you may realize that you can be a bit more flexible and can potentially go 3-6 months, or more, without income.  Anyone who falls into this bucket could view this as an excellent opportunity to take a step back like I did. See if it could be time to pivot or move in a new career direction if it’s something you’ve been contemplating.

Make a list of everything you can do

When you’re in a job for a while, it’s easy to pigeon hole yourself into thinking that you only know how to do the same 3-5 types of duties. As you look towards your next opportunity, it’s a great time to think about your strengths and make a list of absolutely everything you know how to do. On your list, you’ll include things you might not consider, like drafting a great email, being a wizard at excel, or knowing exactly how to talk down a customer escalation.

This list not only prepares you for recognizing your qualifications when you look at jobs but serves as a helpful reminder that you’re capable of doing so much more than your previous title might indicate. Who knows. Making this list may ignite a passion you forgot you had and end up leading you down an unexpected road.

Update your resume and online presence

If you haven’t kept an up-to-date resume, this is the time to do it.  While everything is fresh in your mind, make sure your previous job descriptions accurately reflect your work ethic and contributions.  Consider using a service like Zety to help you design a resume that will be guaranteed to catch the eye of prospective employers.  You can also enlist the help of a professional on a site like Upwork to do a comprehensive resume review and make suggestions for improvement.

In addition to the updated resume, you’ll also want to make sure your online presence is what you want it to be. Quickly google yourself and see what results come up. If there’s anything you see that you don’t like, take steps to remediate it. On the other hand, consider what you would like a potential employer to see if they decide to search for you by name. Are there any platforms within your niche where potential employers might expect you to have a presence? Think of this as taking the time to review and rebuild your personal brand.

Reach out within your network and look to expand it

Once you’ve updated your resume and online presence, it’s a perfect time to reach out to your existing network. You should do this not only for job opportunities but also for potential recommendations and references.  If you’ve been in your industry a while, you’ve likely made many contacts whom you haven’t connected with recently. It’s never a bad idea to send a quick note on LinkedIn to rekindle some of those relationships that you think may lead to something more.

Pro Tip: As we are in a state where often in-person networking is not possible, consider Inviting someone for virtual coffee. It’s a great way to re-connect, and you can also use it to buff up your personal sales pitch as you prepare yourself to interview again.

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Create a routine

Without the walls that define traditional employment, it can be easy for many to slip into schedules that don’t even remotely resemble those which they had at work.  After you take a few days to mentally and emotionally reset, do your best to develop a routine that reflects that which you may have in your next job. Wake up at the same time every day, continue with your fitness regimen, and set a bedtime. Your body and mind will thank you on the first day with your new company.

Remember that you still have a purpose during this time. Right now, your job is to seek out new opportunities, make connections, and forge a path forward.

Look to expand your skills

Easier said than done, but do your best to look on the bright side and the opportunity that exists in your new free time. Time in between jobs is an excellent chance to utilize resources to either strengthen your existing skillset or build an entirely new one.  With so many online courses available and services like SkillShare where you can learn virtually anything, there’s no time like the present to make yourself more knowledgeable and valuable to future employers.

Explore the Gig Economy

Consider picking up some work as a freelance writer or developing a side hustle. If you’ve already been working on a passion project on the side, great!  Now is an opportunity to pour a little bit more of your time into it.

There are many opportunities available online, which led me to create this blog in the first place! Several online options I’ve had personal experience with, including Upwork, Fiverr*, Rover, and onlinebookclub.org.  There are also opportunities for jobs offline, such as shopping for Instacart or Shipt. You could also consider driving for Uber in a support capacity such as driving healthcare workers, feeding first responders, or supporting local restaurants.

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What should you say to someone who just lost a job?

All of us have been touched in some way by the extreme job loss that plagued the economy in 2020 and still is. It can be challenging to find the right balance of letting a friend or loved one know that you’re supporting them while also trying to make them feel better. Below is a list of suggestions for what to say to someone experiencing an unexpected career change.

  • How can I help you right now? Offering a friend tangible support is one of the best ways to let them know you care. If they have children, offer to have them over for a play date with your kids to give them time to focus on job hunting. Offer to bring over a meal if they’re feeling especially down in the dumps and haven’t been up for much of anything, let alone cooking.
  • How are you feeling? Sometimes all anyone needs is an opportunity to vent. Asking someone about how they’re doing is one of the most positive things you can do during a tough time. It allows them to share if they want, or offer up a “fine” which lets you know they’re not yet ready to talk.
  • Offer up your network. Are you in a similar field, or do you know someone who is? Offer to reach out to people in your network that may be part of or know someone at a great company. Always make sure to check with the job seeker first before doing an introduction. They might be going about the process of finding something on their own first and not yet be ready to meet with anyone.

The most important thing is to be supportive and keep things positive. Now is not the time to bash the employer that let someone go or tell them they were too good for that job anyway. Accept what happened, as the person suffering has had to do, and help them heal and move forward.

The Main Thing About What to do if You Lost Your Job

No matter what your next step ends up being, remember that you alone have the power to change your direction after you’ve lost your job. And that all starts with your attitude. You can choose to be the victim and feel that you were wronged, or you can seize the opportunity and move forward with conviction.  Whatever you decide and whichever actions you take today are getting you one step closer to getting back on track. Even if that track was something you never anticipated.

Have you experienced a recent job change and have advice to share with others in the same situation?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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