8 Things to Do Right Away When You Lose Your Job

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(Vancouver Public Library)

No one likes it. Few people plan for it. But most working individuals have experienced it: Getting laid off, fired, terminated or dismissed from your job.

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting businesses and employers forced to make tough decisions about reassigning jobs, terminating positions and asking remaining workers to do more, busy professionals are often finding themselves getting that dreaded phone call or "pink slip."

In your military career, you knew there were no guarantees your job would be secure forever, but you had the predictability of consistent work. Today, as you work in the civilian sector, you might realize how unpredictable and possibly unstable your career is.

Whether you left military duty a month, a year or 10 years ago, losing your job is never easy, but there are things you can do to help your situation.

  1. Take a breath. As the loss of income and benefits looms, it might feel counterintuitive to stop and breathe before rushing out to drum up another job. But that's exactly what you should do. Pause; reflect on what you did previously that was great, fulfilling and meaningful; and calm your nerves before proceeding to No. 2.  
  2. Refine your personal brand. Consider what your personal brand looks like today. Are you clear about your value proposition (who you are, what you offer, who you want to serve and why you do what you do?). If not, take the time to develop a strong personal brand for your next position. Remember, people don't hire you just for what you do, they also hire for why you do what you do. Your passion, talents, experience and skills make you compelling and relevant.  
  3. Update your resume and online profiles and focus on your strategy. Ensure your resume and online profiles reflect the successes from your previous job. Wherever you can, list out the results of your efforts, the impact of your contribution and the value your role served to the organization where you worked.  
  4. Refine your narrative. Consider how you'll explain your situation and why you're looking for new work. Control the narrative of why you left your last employer, even if that means being more vague than specific. To say, "market conditions were not ideal for me to thrive in that role ..." might be the right answer to why you were excused.  
  5. Evaluate your options and opportunities. Ask yourself several questions including:
    • What work did you do that was most valuable? Move past your job description or title and consider where and how you contributed value to the company.
    • Is the work you do in demand elsewhere? Maybe the company you worked for is suffering, but their competitors are hiring. Consider other industries that would value the work you offered previously.
    • Look at who's hiring where you want to work. In your community, which companies are growing, re-tooling their systems and emerging strong in the current market? Then, ask yourself: Who do I know there? Leverage your network to position yourself correctly and get the attention of hiring professionals at these target companies.  
  6. Contact your network. With your personal brand refined, your resume and online profiles updated, and your options identified, reach out to your network for help. Avoid sending generic emails or messages asking, "If you hear of anything, please send my resume along ..."

    Your network is also busy right now, and their work has likely changed too. Be specific about what help you need from them, when you need it and what resources you can provide.  

  7. Work at finding work. Each day, commit to getting dressed, sitting down at the computer, making calls, following up on inquiries and working on your plan to find new work. Your job now is to find a new job, and this requires discipline, patience and commitment -- all things you know from your military training!  
  8. Keep your attitude in check. If you're having a bad day and feeling frustrated, turn to trusted people who can support you. Resist the urge to voice your anger or disappointment online, vent with a prime networking colleague or get discouraged. During interviews and conversations, a good attitude shows employers you are someone they might want to work with.

The job market looks different today, but employers are still hiring. Securing work is a process, and in the current environment that process may require some innovation and ingenuity. Get creative about what you could do next -- even if it's a stop-gap job -- and stay positive as best you can. Ask for help, and let others know when you need support, information, insight and encouragement.

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