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I Just Lost My Job - Now What Do I Do?

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Whether you saw it coming or not, it's still a gut-wrenching experience to get laid off, canned, downsized, kicked to the curb, fired, terminated. You can couch it in any language you want, but you're out of a job. True, it's not 1999 anymore, but it's not 1929 either. There are plenty of job opportunities even in this market.

In 1999 you may have been flooded with opportunities, but now the emphasis has shifted to your proactive efforts. Sure it's going to be more work but the results will be worth it.

So, how do you get back on track and find the job of your dreams?

1. Don't Panic! - The first thing you may be tempted to do is hyperventilate and start assuming the worst possible scenario - "I'll never get a job in this market." This kind of thinking will only drain your energies, which could be better put towards getting a new job. It's only human nature to hit the panic button in times of stress, but the sooner you get off the buzzer the better you'll feel and the more progress you'll make. Focus on the things you can control - like creating a plan of action to get your next job. This will help your stress level go down.

2. Target Companies - Create a target list of companies that are hiring. Target those industries that grow in down-markets, whether they are counter-cyclical (like automotive aftermarket) or emerging (e.g., green-focused, alternative fuel). Look through the annual reports of public companies and target ones with healthy balance sheets (lots of cash, little debt). Once you have your target list of companies, identify the person in each company who could be your next potential boss. Send them a company-specific email, letting them know why you want to work there and what value you can bring to the company. This will separate your communication from the vast majority of candidates who send generic ones. Let a week go by and then follow-up with a phone call. This approach has proven effective at landing a great job.

3. Work Your Network - Contact everyone you know and let them know you're in the market. Don't focus on what went wrong (e.g., bad relationship with your boss, troubles in the industry), keep the conversation forward thinking, what you are interested in and how you can add value. Even if their company is not hiring, they'll think of you if they hear of an appropriate opportunity elsewhere. Try to get one referral from each person in your network so that it will expand. Whenever possible, meet the person in your network for coffee, lunch, etc. Nothing reinforces the connection like an in-person meeting.

4. Think Broadly - Many people make the mistake of pigeon-holing their experience into a particular category. Say, for example, you have been working in financial services for most of your career and are looking for a new job. Rather than limiting yourself to other financial services companies, focus on the functional area of your job which could be applied elsewhere. For example, a systems analyst, product marketer, sales person, controller in a financial services industry can utilize their expertise in a packaged goods company, a retail business, an insurance company or pharmaceutical company. Another option is to leverage your industry knowledge into a new field, like financial consulting or teaching a finance course at a college.

5. Keep On, Movin' On - All of a sudden you're housebound and with that can come boredom or depression. In order to ward this off and increase your prospects for landing a new job, get out there and do consulting, give talks in organizations and join local networking groups. This will keep your energy and confidence up. Staying active in smart ways (don't get wrapped up in busy work) will generate opportunities.

You may have just lost your job, but the prospects for something even better may be on the horizon. While others are preoccupied with the negative news, you can spend your time focusing on what you want and working to make it happen. There are jobs out there - really there are - and it's up to you to find them!

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success