What to Do If You Lose Your Job
Does the thought of losing your job worry you?
Whether it’s down to Brexit, the pace of technological change, or plain old corporate restructurings, there’s ample reason to feel a little bit anxious.
These days, there’s no such thing as job security.
That’s why I want to share with you the things I would do if I lost my job. And some of them are worth considering even if you’re gainfully employed.
These come in four categories:
- The Basics
1. Give yourself permission to grieve
It can feel traumatic when you lose a job or even leave a job. After all, you’re parting with the place you’ve spent the majority of your waking hours and for most of us, it’s part of our identity. This was definitely how I felt about my job in investment banking before I left it 10 years ago.
If you're going through this, it's perfectly normal. And if you fear going through this, that's even more normal.
While you're going to be okay, you do need to give yourself the time to go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you let that go on for a long time. At some point, you have to move on. But don't feel like you have to “muscle” through it. Some days will be better than others. And trust that at some point, the number of good days will outnumber the bad.
2. Do something you enjoy every day
When things don’t go well, it’s exactly the time when you have to treat yourself well. So, whether that’s exercising, playing the guitar or making your favorite cup of tea, spark some joy in your life.
It will help you spark joy for others too. And we all need other people’s help along the way, which we’ll talk about a little later.
3. Get your financial situation in order
One of the things I did before leaving my job was to figure out our family financial situation. In hindsight, I should have had a better grip on it all along.
What were our expenditures, where could we find cost savings, how much income did we need for the lifestyle we wanted to have, and how long could we go without having that new income stream?
It’s important to know how much time you’re able take to find that next cool opportunity before you need to start earning again. Wherever you are in your career, it’s good to figure out what your numbers really are.
4. Set up your logistics
For me, this meant carving out a space for my home office. The number one rule I agreed with my husband, who ran our home life during my 24-year corporate career, was “don't interfere”. Everything had run perfectly well without my meddling, so who was I to mess with the existing system?
5. Set up and migrate towards using a personal email address
Even if you're gainfully employed, I recommend setting up a personal email address. For example, you might want to sign up for some online training but your company’s firewalls don't allow that. And as we’ve seen from the US political scene, it can get messy if you use your work email for personal matters.
The key is to use your personal email address so it’s not such a shock when you no longer have the one from work.
You don’t want to be stuck having your work email be your only email.
6. Update your LinkedIn profile
These days, your LinkedIn profile can act as your website equivalent, especially if you're in the corporate world. We all Google each other, and when a prospective employer or business partner does so, what’s likely show up for you is your LinkedIn page. So, you want that to be current. And yes, you want to have a photograph in it.
When you look at your LinkedIn profile, make sure that it captures the essence of who you are. Show some personality in it. It doesn't have to be just a boring, old resume with a list of dates, company names and “just the facts”.
And speaking of resumes or CVs, it makes sense to update it at the same time. But your LinkedIn profile is likely to be what people see first when you're networking, and it’s interactive rather than static. So, I would focus on that and don't sweat the resume too much. You want to have one but it's only a tool.
7. Figure out what you really want to do
Give yourself permission to reframe losing your job as a golden opportunity to figure out what you really want to do.
Maybe you want to get right back into the industry you were in. Maybe even in a very similar job. If that’s the case, it’s great news because recruiters will find it a lot easier to place you.
But maybe you want to find a different opportunity. This is a great time to start looking at what I call adjacent opportunities: sectors or roles that are close to what you were doing so you can leverage your former skills. Like taking your quantitative skills and applying them to artificial intelligence instead of finance.
Or maybe it's something completely different, which could be based on expanding a hobby or building on something you love to do.
8. What’s your value proposition?
In my case, I thought hard about, “what do I really bring to the party?” Not just the things I'm great at, but the things that I'm both great at and love to do. Those are what I call special strengths.
Your value proposition comes in when you look at your special strengths and match them against the needs of a particular organization or sector or entrepreneurial business niche.
For me, it was a combination of bringing my career experience and love of engaging with people to help people to be better, do more, and make the difference they are meant to make in the world.
9. Get your story down
This is about personal branding. It’s about how you want to project your value proposition and the things that you really want to go for and do.
It’s your version of, “This is what I did in the past. This is what I’d like to do in the future. Here's where my strengths lie and here's where I can really add value to these kinds of organizations.”
When you know your story and convey it succinctly, people will more quickly “get” who you are and how they can help.
10. Focus on your network
In my experience, this is the most important action you can take to find that next opportunity for yourself. The majority of people find their jobs through their extended networks, especially if you're looking at something different than what you were doing before.
In my case, I examined my network, both internal (i.e., within my former employer) and external networks. You want to codify your network – map it out. You want to reach out to old and existing contacts. They can be references as well as a rich source of ideas for who else you should be talking to.
Then you also want to reach out to new people to expand your network. When you do reach out, it's all about getting comfortable having conversations. This is where you can really leverage the storyline that you developed earlier, and keep refining it.
11. Identify your retooling and retraining needs
Figure out what kind of retraining or retooling you need based on what you want to do.
For example, when I left investment banking, I decided I wanted to help people to be better and more successful in their careers and to be better leaders. To do that, people recommended that I get another credential. More specifically, to train as a coach, which I did. And it turned out to be a great skill to have.
12. Find a bridging platform
You don't have to find your “next big thing” right away. It might be one, or two, or even three steps away from where you are right now. Don't get too hung up on finding that perfect thing immediately.
Of course, you don't want to jump at the first job that comes your way if it’s not right.
But when you look ahead at your bigger aspirations, you’re likely to find a few stepping stones that can lead you there. Each of those stepping stones is a platform, a foundation you can stand on to add value, learn, contribute, be visible, and connect with people
For example, you could join some non-profit boards, do some volunteering, or guest lecture at the local college. Find activities that feed into things you love to do, and places where you can connect with people you enjoy. These could be your bridging platforms.
Whether you’ve lost your job or fear you might, these steps can help you make a better transition.
Change is never easy. But in my experience, it helps if you keep taking actions, no matter how small. And it’s even better when you combine action taking with being around people who can support, inspire and guide you. That’s when you have the best chance of making the transition with speed and grace.
So, what step would most move the needle for you if you took it right now?
Leave a comment and let me know your next step(s). I'd love to hear.