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Blog>Guides>Setting Yourself Up for Success: The 12 Things to Do if You Lose Your Job

Setting Yourself Up for Success: The 12 Things to Do if You Lose Your Job

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Getting laid off or fired from a job can be one of the most traumatic events of your life. Yes, it would be easy to sink into a depression and crawl into bed for a week, or get fired up with anger and spend the late nights bashing your ex-boss on social media.

But if you want to jump from setback to success, it’s best to let go of the past and hit the ground running with a plan. File for unemployment, seek legal advice, explore new career options, spruce up your CV and online bona fide — the list goes on.

Here are the 12 things you need to do if you lose your job.

1. Have a Talk With Your Ex-Boss

Having a sit-down with your former boss might be difficult if the manner of your leaving was contentious with lots of ill will, but it’s a good idea to be clear about why you have been let go. You might learn something in this meeting that will improve your future job performance going forward. More importantly, you can see how your dismissal will be framed for prospective employers so that you can develop an appropriate response.

Young businessman and his female coworker talking on casual meeting in a cafe.

It would also be great if your ex-boss is willing to give you a good reference. If you can, get the letter right then and there so you have it for your file and future job applications.

2. Decide if You Need Legal Representation

In many U.S. cases, losing a job, where at-will employment allows dismissals for any reason, anytime, is not worth contesting. However, if you believe you have been booted without lawful cause, it's in your best interest to consult a wrongful termination lawyer.

Reasons for wrongful termination can include:

  • Violation of anti-discrimination laws
  • Using it as a form of sexual harassment
  • Violation of the employment contract
  • Violation of labor laws
  • Retaliation for whistle-blowing
  • Using the termination as a pretext for any unlawful reason

3. File for Unemployment Insurance

Find out if you qualify for unemployment insurance — which is usually provided to employees, as opposed to independent contractors, who lose their jobs through no fault of their own — then file right away since every state has different eligibility requirements, benefit amounts, and wait times.

Young man typing on a laptop with a document in a little office at home.

To file for unemployment:

  • Do an online search for your state’s unemployment office
  • Create an account to receive your unemployment benefits, creating a username and/or password to log in
  • Follow instructions carefully to avoid delays

You’ll receive a confirmation once your claim is processed.

4. Figure Out How to Handle Your Health Insurance and Retirement Plan

Find out through your soon-to-be-former workplace what your options are to stay enrolled in your current health care plan through COBRA Insurance. Since your employer stops paying for their part of your insurance premiums on termination, you’ll be on the hook for the entire amount, which can be costly. You can see what other kinds of insurance plans you are eligible for through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Also, before you hit the exit, it’s advisable to find out what happens to your pension plan and 401(k). If you have a defined pension plan, for example, you can take the money as a lump sum, annuity, or perhaps a combination of both.

5. Create a Killer Resume

Not only should you get yourself a new wardrobe and haircut before hitting the new job trail, but you should also spruce up your resume. A resume that will get you interviews needs to be well-written, proofed, and polished, highlighting your professional credentials clearly and concisely.

Serious employer reading resumes of candidates.

For your resume, you should:

  • Decide what type would work best for you — chronological, functional, a combination, or a targeted resume
  • Use a professional template for visual polish
  • Jazz up your job qualifications, stressing the quantifiable benefits you brought to an employer
  • Incorporate keywords from relevant job ads and your career choice to help you make it through the automated vetting of job-screening software
  • Proof your resume so there are no typos or grammatical errors

6. Polish Your Social Media Presence

Online resources play an increasingly important role in selecting new employees. So if you have an online portfolio, make sure it is up to date. Similarly, put your best foot forward with your LinkedIn profile, which will likely be checked by prospective employers.

Take a close look at your social media presence using the eyes of a company’s hiring manager. Are there Facebook or Twitter posts that make you look unprofessional? Delete them so you don’t have to explain the drunk party pictures or unorthodox political views. In fact, it’s a good idea to drop your name into a major search engine, such as Google, to see what would pop up when a recruiter inevitably does the same.

7. Get Your Finances in Order

It is essential that you budget for your period of unemployment, even if a new job is lined up, because you never know what might happen. Take a survey of your finances — including employment benefits received and money paid out for health insurance — to decide how long you can cover expenses without employment.

Woman using a calculator and computer to keep track her expenses.

A budget should include the following:

  • A tally of all your income and expenses
  • The type of budget you want (zero-based, 50/30/20, the envelope method, etc.)
  • A sure way of tracking expenses — either pen, paper, and spreadsheet, or an online tool or app that keeps track of spending automatically

8. Network, Network, Network

Phone, email, text, and, even better, meet in-person industry contacts, former colleagues, and even family members or friends to let them know you are on the market and to help get the word out.

If there are professional networking events and job fairs in your field, get out there and attend them, and don’t be shy about handing out your business cards. On that note, it's a great idea to personalize some minimalist business cards that provide at the very least your name and contact info.

9. Don’t Play the Blame Game

Bashing a former employer on social media or trash-talking former colleagues with other people in the industry can come back to haunt you. Future employers might see your posts and peg you as a malcontent who will give them the same treatment when their time comes.

Portrait of stressed office young woman holding cellphone in hand on the street.

And the maligned colleague could be someone an employer approaches for a reference, which could be torpedoed by the rumor mill you’ve started.

It’s best to swallow your hurt and anger and move on with your job search.

10. Consider a Career Pivot

Perhaps you should take your job loss as a sign and consider a career change, especially if your previous work experiences weren’t happy. Do you want to jump into another field altogether? Are you more interested in a full-time job, joining the fast-growing gig economy, or doing a side hustle? If you have the time and money, you can return to school to update your credentials.

11. Take Care of Your Mental Health

Job loss can lead to significant psychological distress, ranging from depression to suicide. So succeeding in its aftermath depends on keeping the mental health slate clean.

Young man practicing meditation at computer.

Psychology Today suggests that some of the steps you should take for mental wellness include:

  • Maintain an open mindset. Be open to new opportunities, but put your well-being first.
  • Limit the laments. Don’t dwell on negative thoughts about your job situation.
  • Keep things in perspective. If you take stock and look to the present, you may find that life isn’t too bad.
  • Remember, you are not your job. Many people define their identities through their work. You are much more than a job title and a bank account.
  • Ground yourself. Replace your old job routines with new, nurturing ones during the job search, which might include meditation, walking, or doing online job searches in a local café.

12. Search for Work in the Right Place

Searching for jobs can often seem like an uphill battle. With so many job boards, fairs, and social sites, open positions meeting your needs and wants can take forever to find — and are easily missed. Our team at Joblist set out to eliminate these issues and brought all the top job boards into one convenient site. Our job search tool uses automation and advanced matching technology to help job seekers find the new work they want and require.

There’s no need to visit endless career sites and scroll through pages of irrelevant results — Joblist uses its smart technology to comb through millions of opportunities to find the ones that best match your requirements in your area. Your new best job may only be a few clicks away.

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