Like most events in life, what happens to us is not nearly as important as how we respond to what happens to us. Sometimes, despite our best efforts we find ourselves in difficult situations. One of life’s biggest disappointments is losing a job and many currently in the workforce are more familiar with a market with low unemployment and abundant opportunities. Suddenly, the world has changed. If you find yourself in that situation, don’t let discouragement overwhelm you. It’s time to find another job. While it may be painful at the time, it is just another step on your path in navigating what’s next.
At the moment that you are informed of your termination, the first thing you want to do is ask good questions to understand the why behind the decision. Understanding your organization’s big picture situation will help it feel less personal to you. Hopefully, it does not come as a complete surprise, but if it does, don’t freeze and don’t panic. Try to learn something from the experience that can help you moving forward. Here are some more steps you can take:
- Request a letter of reference from your employer. If your reason for termination is a layoff due to restructuring or a poor job fit, it is more likely they will provide you a reference letter. Also, talk to specific peers and supervisors to ask them if they will be willing to provide a reference for you in the future.
- Ask your employer to provide outplacement services as part of your severance. Generally, they can be expensive, but the help will be invaluable in helping you make a career transition in the face of a termination. If you have health benefits, negotiate to continue those for a period of time. Severance pay is typically one to two weeks for every year worked, but can be more. The general practice is to try to negotiate four weeks of severance pay for each year worked. Middle managers and executives usually receive a higher amount.
- Once you have left your job, be still for a little while and take a break. Give the news a few days to settle in and then start making a plan for moving forward. You want to be clear-headed as you approach the job market. This is a great opportunity to think about what you want in your next job. What did you love about your previous job and what did you dislike?
- If you feel stuck, ask for help. There are companies that specialize in career transition to help you find your way to your next role. Job and career websites such as Monster.com, Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn can help you locate those resources. Update your on-line profiles that let people know you are available. Reach out to your networks that you have built during your career to see who is looking for talent. Post termination is a good time to attend industry conferences and local chapter meetings of your membership networks to help you network for a job. During this time of social distancing, look for virtual opportunities.
- Try to stay active with others during your job search. It is easy to feel isolated after unexpectedly losing a job. You might consider volunteer work as a way of staying connected with people while you pursue finding a new job. Spending time with others and staying physically active will help you alleviate some of the discouragement that is likely after being terminated from a job. Discouragement will prevent you from performing at your best and projecting a positive outlook as you interview for a new job.
- Consider also taking temporary or contract positions to keep you active in the job market while you search for a permanent position. Do everything you can to exceed expectations in your temporary role to create a positive reference to use in your job search.
The most important thing to remember is that you will get through it and, hopefully, find a new job that is fulfilling and supports your career growth. In his book, You’ll Get Through this by Max Lucado, he writes, “You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime, don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help, you’ll get through this.” There are a lot of things we have to “get through” in our lives and losing a job is a difficult one. However, it is just a setback and you can overcome it, find and keep a new job and grow a career.