Finding yourself newly out of work is stressful.
Often, when a person has been fired from their job, they experience low self-esteem and a drop in confidence. If this is your situation, you may want to read about What it means when you’ve been fired.
Many times, these individuals are counselled by their friends and relatives to take some time off to relax. This would seem difficult to do, however, because you likely feel overwhelmed by your new status as a job hunter and don’t know what story to put out.
I often counsel my clients faced with unemployment to follow five simple steps in the early days, after they’ve lost a job. Once they’ve completed these steps, they usually feel they can relax because they’ve done something to improve their situation. They also feel better equipped to look for work.
Decide what public story you what to disclose.
Right from the onset, it’s important to decide what story you want to make public. You know you had no choice in the matter if you were terminated, but many employers will allow you to say you quit if you ask them to.
What kind of story do you feel comfortable disclosing? Your public story will need to match what you tell potential employers during job interviews, so look after this topic and make some quick decisions. Will you say you were terminated, that it was a joint decision, or that you left by choice? The decision is largely up to you.
Create a financial survival plan.
It can be scary to lose your income. A surprising number of people don’t know what their monthly expenses are, and how much of that is discretionary. It’s important to look at your finances to determine how much money you will need each month to cover your costs. It’s equally important to know what your discretionary spending can be.
Look at how much room you have on your Line of Credit and your credit cards, and how much money you need to have to cover your regular monthly costs. Get it all down in a spreadsheet so you can see the big picture. Plan for the next four to six months, while you will possibly be unemployed and looking for work. Decide whether this will be enough time. Will you need eight months, or maybe 12 months?
If you have enough money, this step will help you immediately relax. If you won’t be able to make ends meet, this step will help you determine what the shortfall will be. Even if you’re scared, you need to know the numbers.
Write the first draft of your updated resume.
It might seem counter intuitive but updating your resume can help you relax immediately. This is because you will see what your strengths are, and what kind of work you are qualified to look for. You’ll be in better shape to move when you see an opportunity if you have this step completed, so get on it right away, even if you’re intimidated.
Don’t gloss over this step. Updating your resume properly can take more than 50 hours of real effort. You’re looking for a job that you will have for the next five to ten years. If your annual income will be $100,000 a year, you’re going to ask an employer to give you $500,000 to $1,000,000. Treat your resume like it’s worth that amount.
Don’t just update your last resume. Research current resume writing tools and formats, and then get a first draft down on paper, lickety-split. It’s okay if it’s not polished. Having the first draft written will help you feel like you have your feet on the ground.
Line up your personal references and know what they will say.
Now is the time to determine who your personal references will be, and to let them know you need their support. Only contact people that will understand your situation and be supportive.
It’s important to ask what your references will say when they are contacted by potential employers. Don’t use anyone as a reference that may be a wild card because this can cost you the job. Ask them what they are going to say about you when they receive a call. A terrific reference is someone that asks what you want them to say.
Establish a regular daily routine.
It’s helpful to realize you’re not out of work when you’ve just been fired. You immediately have a new full-time job, which is to look for work. You just won’t receive an income for it.
Set up an area in your home as your office and go to work every day from 9 am until 5 pm, as you normally would. The only difference is that you’re not being paid and your goal is to find a job.
Don’t work through your lunch hour. Take evenings and weekends off. Observe statutory holidays. Get bad habits under control.
It’s premature to say you have everything in hand, but once you’ve completed the first five steps, you are ready to start looking for a job. For help with this step, you can read Why can’t I find a job?
— Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta