Whether you’ve lost your job as a result of a business decision, downsizing, or even performance, it takes a serious toll on your confidence and stirs up all kinds of unpleasant emotions. Unfortunately, it’s likely that we’re going to face some kind of job loss or significant job change at one point or another in our careers. Sometimes this change reaches far beyond the scope of our individual control and comes as a surprise to us. The best we can do is prepare ourselves for this adversity.
So what should you actually do when you lose your job? Here are a few suggestions.
The 5 Things You Should Actually Do When You Lose Your Job
1. Stop and Take a Deep Breath
Losing your job can often be a big shock to your system. Sometimes we know our organization is going through significant changes and sometimes the change comes as a complete surprise. Whatever the case, when the change impacts you personally it can really hurt and take a toll on your confidence.
Depending on who we are and how we react to things, we might become emotional as we react to the news. The best advice I can give here is to take a breath. If your employer is presenting you with a severance package, make sure you don’t sign anything in the moment. Take the severance package away and review it a little later. Reach out to a friend or colleague that you trust for their input. Lean on your support system and let your feelings out in this safe environment. You don’t want to embarrass yourself with emotional and irrational behavior in front of your former employer. Save the insanity for close family and friends (lucky them.)
2. Resolve Outstanding Issues with the Employer
It might take you a few days to get your emotions back in check. Once you can get through a sentence without bursting into tears or turning red from extreme anger, you’ve got to get it together and close the loop on outstanding items with your employer. In most cases, your employer should appreciate that this is an emotional situation and provide an appropriate deadline (a week or so) for you to get back to them on their offer of severance. If they don’t give you some time to get your act together, count your blessings that you no longer work for them.
You’ve done your diligence in terms of reviewing the details and terms of the severance and need to respond to them. I would always suggest having this conversation via email so you have everything documented. Avoid the phone if you can. It can muddy the waters, especially since you don’t know what might set off potential emotional outbursts. Make sure you get all of the details from your employer, how/when the severance will be paid, what happens to your benefits, what happens to any sort of RRSP Programs and any additional amounts owing. Get all the information that you can to minimize any need for follow up. You likely won’t want to talk to them again.
3. Accept – You Might Never, Ever Know Why You’ve Been Terminated
I’ve heard people say time and time again, they need to understand why they’ve lost their job in order to move on. They want to know what they’ve done wrong, or how the employer decided that they should be the employee to exit. The fact is, a lot of times the reason the employer provides a severance package is so they don’t have to share this information with you. Quite frankly, it might even be none of your business and part of some broader organizational plan.
As hard as this is to accept, we have to let go of this desire to know why we’ve been terminated. If the organization doesn’t see your value, do you really want their feedback anyway? In addition to this, think about the amount of power you’re giving those decision makers. You are allowing the opinions of a few people within that organization to own your recovery. You are responsible for getting through this, even with the absence of some information. Feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and sad? See step 1.
4. Take a Break
So, you’ve been working for how many years? Now you’ve got a severance package, so you’re getting paid but don’t have to go to work. Ahem – awesome. Of course, there is the stress of finding your next job lingering over your head. There’s the stress of the mortgage, car payments and heating your house all winter. But, at least you have a line of sight to when this income will run out and can plan accordingly. Heck, you’ve even got the potential of EI at the end of the severance period.
Are you in a situation where you can stay home with your children, or focus on something exclusively for you? You need time to grieve. Try to enjoy this brief moment of transition, whether it be a day, week or months. Do something you haven’t been able to do because you were working. Try to enjoy it. If your benefits are continued through your severance, spend every last dollar of that massage therapy allowance – you now actually have the time to use it.
[RELATED: 5 Ways to Turn Unemployment Into a Gift]
5. Get Your Professional Self Together
So you’ve moved through the grieving process and you’re tired of binge watching Netflix. You’re starting to feel like yourself again. You’re ready to get back out there. Now, you have to get your act together, put on your Teflon and prepare for the job hunt.
Make sure you cover all your bases– update your resume (keep it short – 2 pages max.), clean up your LinkedIn profile – even treat yourself to a new headshot. Start the grueling search process through the typical online sites and leverage your professional networks. Make sure all your contacts know you are looking for work.
A word of caution – Really reflect and make sure you feel completely ready to start this process. It’s tough out there. Especially when you get to the interview phase. Be sure you’re not interviewing too early in your grieving process. I once interviewed a candidate a week after she lost her long-term job. When I asked “Why did you leave your last job,” the candidate burst into tears.
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