14 Things To Do When Your Job Disappears

Once upon a time you could get a job and keep it for years unless you did something fire-able. There used to be these crazy things called pension plans that guaranteed long-term employees an income after they retired. Sure, there were sometimes layoffs, but layoffs were just bad luck, not a normal part of life.

Now, more-or-less everyone will find him or herself suddenly out of work. That happened to me for the fifth time last week. It’s never easy, but I have come up with a few coping strategies.

  1. Take a day or a week or as much time as you can reasonably afford to grieve, relax, take care of yourself, talk to friends and family, read a good book, and take naps.
  2. DON’T PANIC. People make bad decisions when they panic. It is important to be able to make good decisions about what’s next.
  3. Remember, this is an opportunity to Change Your Life. You don’t have to keep doing what you’ve done before… Go to grad school! Write a book! Buy a horse!
  4. Hit happy hours. I don’t recommend drinking heavily (this is counterproductive), but happy hour is a great way to get affordable dinners and get out around other humans.
  5. Look up people you haven’t seen for a while and see what they’re up to. Get together for coffee (or happy hour!). Networking, ya know.
  6. Go on dates. This obviously only applies to single people (but who am I to judge). This is another opportunity to network, and if you’re a woman it can be a good way to get free dinners. (This never ceases to surprise me). Just don’t go on a date with anyone you wouldn’t anyway… using people for contacts and free dinners isn’t nice.
  7. Try to avoid looking at online job postings. They’re not a good way to get a job and they will make you depressed. There’s a 4% response rate to online applications, and they are mostly “thanks but no thanks.”
  8. Talk to recruiters who work in your area of interest. They may know about jobs that aren’t posted. But talk to them with a grain of salt. You will do better financially if you’re hired directly.
  9. Take time to research the companies you’re interested in. Do you know someone who works there? Would you be happy there? That has a lot more to to with the people and the culture than the job description.
  10. Update your resumé to reflect what’s next. All of the language should validate your ability to do the thing you most want to do.
  11. Freelance. I’ve made money writing, developing project plans, designing ads and websites for small businesses between jobs.
  12. Take classes. If you can afford it, this could be a time to learn a new skill or consider an advanced degree.
  13. Be willing to turn down opportunities you don’t want. It’s easy to get into a desperate mindset when you’re unemployed and take the first offer that comes along. Unless you really are about to become homeless, wait for something better.
  14. Don’t forget, you are most likely going to get a job through someone you already know. Keep talking to people, and don’t try to do this on your own.

As grim as things may look after a sudden loss of work, I’ve found that things usually fall into place, and often for the better.