How do you recover after a job loss or career setback? How do you deal with the emotional, social and financial stress that comes with losing a job? The myriad of emotions one experiences after losing a job is similar to those after a death. In Career Comeback (Broadway Books, 2004), Bradley G. Richardson addresses this emotional roller coaster and defines the eight steps to bouncing back after your employment is terminated.
Step 1: Find Solid Ground. Stop to breathe, calm down, and examine what happened and where you go from here. Put things in perspective. It’s normal to be angry, sad, and show emotion, but don’t freak out or go into panic mode. Break the news to those closest to you as soon as possible. Don’t sign anything right away and always try to negotiate more from a severance package. Review and establish your safety net. Plan a budget and stick to it – identify your priorities and expenses and avoid debt and credit. And, weigh your insurance options – an alternative to COBRA can be less expensive.
Step 2: Find Out What Happened. Recognize what went wrong before you move on – you don’t want to repeat your mistakes or end up in the same situation. Ask yourself if your setback was beyond your control, like a layoff or business closure, or whether your actions could have played a role in the decision. Pinpoint behaviors that may have played a part in your exit. Richardson recommends writing a letter venting all of your feelings and then burning it to gain closure.
Step 3: Find Out What Others Need From You. Your situation doesn’t just affect you, but also those around you. Don’t be afraid to talk about what happened and communicate with the people close to you. Although your routine has been upset, you still need to respect those of your loved ones. Be optimistic but realistic when telling others what happened and stick to the facts. And don’t forget that life does continue and good things do happen – encourage loved ones to share good news with you.
Step 4: Find Your Support System. Don’t expect people to read your mind, they can’t help you unless you ask. Also, don’t assume people know what you do or want to do. Look to professional and social groups for networking and job search opportunities. Have faith – believe that things will get better but act to make them happen.
Step 5: Find Out What Matters to You. Being out of work is temporary and when you look back it will be a brief period in time. Be thankful for what you do have and what works in your life. Before your next move, now what motivates you and drives your decisions. Realize that you can steer your life in a direction that truly matters to you.
Step 6: Find Your Next Move. Your next move is up to you, and it depends on a variety of personal and external factors. Motivation for a career move usually comes from one of three needs: to maintain continuity, to assure survival, or to change direction or set a new course. While a graduate degree is beneficial, make sure your reason is not to escape a bad job market, Richardson advises – it can be counterproductive in the long run. Consider new careers that utilize your existing skills. Seek advice from friends, family and career counselors. And, don’t let irrational fears hold you back from pursuing that change.
Step 7: Find Your New Job. Use all of your available resources. Look at key terms in job descriptions and try to work them into your resume and cover letters. Focus on substance and stress results. Be persistent, but don’t call more than once a week and don’t give up after the first few. Engage your interviewer and ask questions.
Step 8: Find Your Stride and Get Back on Track. Let people know where you have landed and make sure to thank those who counseled, supported and referred you. Work to achieve results quickly at your new job, you’re the new kid in town and will have to prove yourself. You have a clean slate and no baggage – know the traits of the kind of professional you want to become and work hard to achieve this. Ask for reviews and progress reports to stay on track.
Bradley Richardson is the author of JobSmarts for TwentySomethings and JobSmarts 50 Top Careers. He has shared his expertise with thousands of job seekers and career changers through his speaking, consulting, and media appearances including Good Morning America, USA TODAY, Fast Company and NPR.