Elizabeth Gross was a young assistant account director at a marketing agency the first time she got fired. Her company was going through a reorganization and her job was cut. An ambitious young professional, Gross says she was devastated.
"It’s like a death. Your job is gone. The people you work with, the people you really liked and saw every day, are not going to be in your life anymore. We identify with our job and, suddenly, it’s not there anymore," she recalls.
Over the past couple of decades, Gross has been through four layoffs—two with advance notice and two that were complete surprises—and was also "managed out" once. Now a product manager at a major bank, she has turned those lemons into a talk at the 2017 SXSW conference: "You Just Got Laid Off. Now What?"
Gross says it’s what you do in the immediate aftermath of being fired or laid off that can set you up for success in landing your next gig. This nine-step plan can help you bounce back better and stronger than ever.
You’re resilient, but losing your job can be a big blow. If you feel the need to grieve, let yourself do so, says Steve Spires, managing director with management and human resources consultancy BPI Group. "The first thing to do is focus on oneself emotionally and get whatever help is needed," he says. Reach out to your support network and use any resources that are available from your former company.
Whatever you do, don’t power through like it didn’t happen. If you don’t allow yourself time—even a few days—to work through the emotions you’re feeling, they could affect your decision making and make it tougher to get in the mind-set you need to find a new job, he says.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can take to your bed for the foreseeable future, either. You’ll need to take some action to ensure you’re dealing with as little financial fallout as possible, says career coach Marilyn Suttle, president of Suttle Enterprises LLC. From a practical standpoint, you need to take a look at the money you have, plus any severance or income coming in.
Create a budget to get a better handle on your financial situation. Look at your options for continuing health insurance and other coverage. Will you need to enroll in COBRA, or do you have other options? If you’ll be applying for unemployment compensation, it’s a good idea to get that started, too, since it can take a few weeks to get approved and for checks to start arriving. When Gross was last laid off, she still had a few weeks of insurance coverage, so she made doctor appointments that she had been putting off to get them in while she still had coverage from her employer.
While the prospect of suddenly being able to sleep until noon may be tempting, Gross says you’ll feel better and get back on track more quickly if you keep some sort of schedule. When she was unemployed, she’d get up at roughly the same time every day and go to the gym, then start her job-search activities around 11 a.m. Doing so kept her focused on her goals and helped keep negative feelings at bay.
Suttle says it’s also important to review what happened to see if there was anything that could have been done. Think about the reasons given for your termination. "What were the causes that led up to this?" Suttle asks. "Not from the perspective of blaming your employer or yourself, because that doesn't do any good," she explains, "but from the perspective of, What can I learn from this?"
Think about whether there were clues leading up to the job loss—perhaps you were invited to fewer meetings or your boss made less eye contact. Were there short-term performance issues that could have contributed to the firing? Was there anything that you could have done differently? If there was, take it as a lesson. If there wasn’t, let it go.
Getting fired can be a blow to your ego and self-worth, Spires says. To be able to position yourself well and negotiate for the best opportunities and compensation in your next job, part of your reflection should be on what you bring to the table. It could mean the difference between accepting an uninspiring offer and truly landing a job that allows you to grow, he says.
A few days after Gross was fired for the first time, she was at a barbecue. Not surprisingly, the people she met asked her what she did—a question for which she was totally unprepared, she says.
You need to have an answer to the question about why you left your job, both for your network and prospective employers, says Alyssa Krane, chief talent strategist at recruiting firm Powerhouse Talent Inc. When someone asks you why you left your last job, you want to frame it in the best possible way without being dishonest. For example, if your department was outsourced, which may be a growing trend in certain sectors, that’s a different story than being fired for poor performance, she says.
Even as you give yourself time to get over being fired, start thinking about where you want to go next, Krane says. Do you want to stay on the path you’re on? Or do you want to shake things up and try something new? If you’ve been unhappy on your career path, you have an opportunity to make changes or even embark on a new career. Once you have the vision, write your resume and LinkedIn profile to support the job you want, highlighting the skills you have to do it, she says.
While you’re thinking about your next steps and vision for your future, also take an inventory of your skills, Krane suggests. Are you missing some that could put you at a disadvantage? Your period of unemployment might provide the time you need to take a seminar or class to shore up technical, management, or leadership skills. If you need to fill a skill gap, seek out opportunities to do so now.
With some self-care, introspection, and updating, you’re ready to go. Spires recommends looking to your network first and informing them of your goals. Depending on your plan, you may wish to contact recruiters and begin answering job ads—even for those that may be a stretch.
Whatever you do, don’t let being let go affect your outlook for your future, he says. "The process is more important than thinking, 'I’ve got to get that job today.'" says Spires.