Losing your job can be very traumatic and distressing.
But whether you have been sacked or made redundant, it’s important to remember that job loss can be a catalyst for positive change.
In years to come, you may even look back on this difficult time as the moment that put you on the path to a much more fulfilling career. Freelance journalist Emma Lunn feels that way about being sacked from her job on a trade magazine in 2004.
“I can still remember doing the walk of shame with the contents of my desk in a cardboard box,” Lunn said. “However, I used the contacts I’d made during my time working there to start freelancing, which I love and have now been doing for nearly 14 years.
“It didn’t feel like it at the time, but being sacked was the best thing that could have happened to me.” Turning a negative event such as losing you job into a constructive experience is not easy, though.
Here are some useful pointers to help you on your way.
On the day you learn you no longer have a job, your immediate reaction may well be to panic. But while that’s a perfectly rational response to a bombshell of this kind, it probably won’t help you to plan your future.
So take a few days to get over the shock and understand and accept what happened to you. That way you can devote yourself to finding a new job – or a new career – with a clear head.
Make a plan
It can take time to find a great new job, but few people have the financial stability to spend months searching for the perfect post. Setting boundaries about what you are prepared to do may help you to find a temporary solution.
Try asking yourself three questions: What can I do? What will I do? What do I want to do?
If you need to find work quickly for money reasons, a temping agency could be a good place to start. Short-term placements are also useful for filling the time while you find your dream job.
Manage your finances
Even if you are lucky enough to receive a redundancy payment, it’s crucial to watch your expenditure when you are no longer working for a while. You may, for example, be able to arrange a mortgage payment holiday, or claim benefits to help cover your monthly costs.
Taking steps as soon as possible to manage your money will reduce the stress of the situation, and may also give you longer to consider your next move.
Stick to a routine
While taking a few days off can be a very good idea, treating job loss as a sort of extended holiday is not. Routine is very important to most people’s sense of well-being, so try to maintain at least some semblance of the routine you had while you were working.
This could include continuing to get up at the same time, and leaving the house to job search during working hours.
Concentrate on your qualities
Your self-esteem can take a big hit when you lose a job – especially if you were asked to leave. But while it is healthy to take negative comments on board for the future, concentrating on your qualities is more likely to help you find a new job.
Writing a list of all the things you did well at your last place of employment is a good start. It should make you feel better about yourself, and will also be useful for job applications and interviews.
Consider new opportunities
Becoming unemployed is an opportunity to re-evaluate your career goals.
You could, for example, use the extra time you have to freshen up your existing skills or learn something new.
When financial inclusion officer Natasha Price was made redundant recently, she decided to take a course she had wanted to do for a long time.
“I panicked at first,” Price said. “But once I thought about it properly I realised it was my chance to do a yoga teacher training course, so I now see it as a blessing in disguise.”
It can be tempting to curl up on the sofa and do nothing after a big shock such as losing your job. But closing yourself off from the world and avoiding exercise is probably the worst thing you can do for your mental health.
Just 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week, can help improve your mood and your sleep patterns: it’s a win, win!
From friends and ex-colleagues to social media contacts, the more people who know you are in the market for a new job, the more likely you are to find one. Use online job portals and the networking website LinkedIn to make sure the right people know you are looking for employment.
You can also extend your professional circle by attending relevant conferences or workshops where possible.
Make your job applications stand out
Before applying for any job, it’s vital to ensure your CV is clear, concise and well presented. To improve your chances of standing out from the crowd, you also need to get the accompanying letter or email just right.
Employment experts suggest a polite but straightforward first paragraph that mentions the job title and company name and explains why you are a strong candidate for the role.
5 things to action straight away
- Stay positive – try to see it as an opportunity rather than a setback.
- Polish your CV – make sure it is up to date and tailored to the position you want.
- Keep busy – enhance your skills by attending courses and seminars.
- Use your contacts – don’t be afraid to ask ex-colleagues and associates for help.
- Control your cash – consider temping if the alternative is falling into debt.
Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor..