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.
- 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.
- DON’T PANIC. People make bad decisions when they panic. It is important to be able to make good decisions about what’s next.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Freelance. I’ve made money writing, developing project plans, designing ads and websites for small businesses between jobs.
- Take classes. If you can afford it, this could be a time to learn a new skill or consider an advanced degree.
- 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.
- 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.