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What to Do When You Lose Your Job & Lessons You Can Learn

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No matter the circumstances, losing your job is a stressful experience on both a personal and financial level. Not only are you losing your source of income, you’re also losing a career and coworkers who you enjoyed spending your days with. As a result, it can be tricky to navigate the emotional roller coaster that comes with losing your job.

Everyone’s heard a crazy story or two about a coworker who’s done something a little out of line after being fired or let go. Don’t be that coworker. You don’t want your reputation to precede you, and professional resources are your lifeline in a time like this. That being said, there is a time and place to let out some of your frustrations because the reality is, losing your job is never easy. Here are some things you should do after you lose your job to get back on the right path. Plus, we’ve created an inspirational infographic about what successful people have learned from getting fired.

1. Give yourself some time.

man meditating at home

Before you do anything, take a step back to reflect. While you’ll probably feel angry and upset at first, you may feel differently after taking some time to process. Before you’re ready to get back on the job hunt you must acknowledge your emotions. Secretly harboring resentment toward your former employer will show in job interviews. Do your best to let it go, for the sake of finding your next job and for your general well-being. Just know that it will take time.

  • Finish the same way you started. If you’ve been laid off, end your time at the company by tying up loose ends and leaving on a high note.
  • Learn new skills. While the job search should be your main focus, don’t burn yourself out. Take this downtime to try something you’ve always wanted to do. Learn to paint, take a yoga class or study a new language — the possibilities are endless! Keeping your mind active will help you feel fulfilled and challenged.

2. Figure out your finances.

woman looking at a tablet and smiling

The biggest concern for anyone who recently lost a job is most likely money; however, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re ready for whatever comes your way during this uncertain time.

  • File for unemployment. Even if you’re planning to find another job immediately, you never know what the job market will be like. Swallow your pride, and make that money — even if it is less than before. Your future self will thank you.
  • Rework your budget. After your primary source of income is gone, you’ll inevitably need to cut back on unnecessary spending in order to get control of your finances. That brand-new flat screen won’t help you land your next job — but a new interview outfit might.
  • Don’t dip into retirement savings. Getting fired does not equal retiring, so don’t be tempted to use your retirement savings as a source of income. Instead, turn to your emergency fund. If you don’t have one, you may have to find a job sooner rather than later. In the future, a good rule of thumb is to have six months’ worth of living expenses saved in case of emergency.

3. Start job hunting.

person in a job interview

Evaluate your career. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to make a career shift or try out self-employment, this is it. Give your career path some real thought to make sure you’re headed in the direction you want to be before you jump into the next job.

  • Clean up your social profiles. Check your social media accounts to make sure they represent you in the best light — or adjust your privacy settings. Do a quick Google search of your name to make sure only things you would want a potential employer seeing pop up. Also, no matter the circumstances, don’t bash your former employer on social media. Social media is a public space, not your diary. Keep your complaints to close friends and family.
  • Update your resume. It goes without saying that your resume will need a refresh. Think back on highlights from your last job and include them on your resume. Doing so may even boost your self-confidence and prepare you for the interviews to come.
  • Get your story straight. Whether you were fired or laid off, it can be tricky to know what to say when an interviewer asks why you left your previous job. Always tell the truth, but try find the silver lining and reassure them that you’ve learned from past mistakes. And never bad mouth your former boss in an interview. Gossiping isn’t the best way to start off on the right foot with a potential new boss.

4. Don’t get discouraged.

guys hanging out together at a stadium

Contrary to the saying “good things come to those who wait,” jobs don’t. Take a few days to be upset and then start the job search re-energized.

  • Make healthy choices. It’s easy to feel down on yourself after losing your job, but getting or staying healthy will help keep your spirits up. Exercise promotes mood-boosting endorphins — even if you’re just going for a daily walk.
  • Put yourself out there. Your friends probably don’t want to hear about all the reasons you disliked your last boss, but they still want to see you. If you can, find a fellow unemployed friend and spend the day applying for jobs together. You never know what will come of networking!

5. Turn it into a positive.

This may be easier said than done, but it turns out many successful people, from top CEOs to creative visionaries, have experienced getting fired at one point in their careers. The most important thing to remember is that getting fired is what you make of it — according to these wildly successful entrepreneurs and innovators it can even launch your career!


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Whether you expect it or not, losing your job is a jarring experience, and as big companies go through layoffs, it’s often out of your control. Now that you know what to do if you lose your employment, you can move forward feeling in control of the situation. The best thing you can do is maintain your current routine as much as possible while focusing your efforts on finding a new job.

According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate is at 4 percent and has been in a steady decline since 2009 when it was 10 percent. With a little hard work, you’ll be back to your normal 9-to-5 grind — and more importantly, collecting a steady income — in no time. Just know that unemployment can be incredibly draining so when you’re tired at the end of a long day of doing “nothing,” congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made toward finding your next job. And remember, it’s temporary!


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