What to Do When You’re Between Jobs

A Roadmap for Moving from Fired to Hired Without Losing Your Way

Remember when job-hunting while you were employed seemed really stressful?  There’s all of that sneaking around, worrying about what your boss will do or say if they find out.  And there was that constant, nagging doubt about whether you were a fool to even be considering making a move.  Yeah, that seemed rough… until you tried job-hunting without a job.  Whether you were laid off as part of a massive reorganization, unceremoniously fired, or you simply walked in one day, dropped the mic, and walked back out, there is a moment when it hits you: you’re jumping into a job search without a safety net.  And that moment is painful.

The transition from employed to unemployed to employed (more happily) is a tricky one.  Yes, you need to find a new job.  And yes, the insecurity associated with unemployment can be overwhelming at times.  But before you let pain turn into panic, here are six tips, reminders and tricks to help you stay right-side-up and focused on your own, brighter future.

1. Grieving is healthy.  Blame and shame are pointless.
Even if your departure was all your decision, job loss is … well, a loss.  And unemployment can be scary.  So go ahead, have a good cry.  But don’t let yourself get mired down in the negative baggage.  Embarrassment, worry and fear are feelings that often come with sudden unemployment.  But before you go there, look at these facts, instead:  talented people lose their jobs every day.  They really do.  If you ever feel yourself starting to doubt that, check out this powerful reminder.   So yes, you deserve some time to be sad, hurt, even angry.  But then pick yourself up, get yourself moving, and take care of yourself.

2. Stop hiding and lean on your support network.
Your upcoming job hunt will be filled with people you need to impress with your calm, upbeat and endlessly optimistic attitude.   The best way to keep that outward- facing-you in peak job-searching condition is to take care of what’s going on in the inside.  Make a list of your good friends and trustworthy family members.  Tell them the truth about your recent change in status and ask them, point blank, if you can lean on them for moral support as you venture back into the job market.  Be perfectly clear about what you’re asking them to do for you.  If you just need someone to talk to, say so.  If you’re hoping for a financial buffer to tide you over, spell it out.  They’re your friends.  They’re not mind readers.  Then make sure you do two things:  1. Lean on them and  2. Be there for them the next time they need a friend.

3. Reflect, Reclaim, Rebuild.
It may not be the gift you wanted, but sudden unemployment gives you an opportunity to step back from the daily grind and assess priorities that are yours, not those of an employer.  Do not ignore this gift.  Ask yourself what you really want out of life, out of a career, out of a job.  What were your dreams when you first entered the workforce?  Did your dreams change as you matured – or did they wither, untended, as you chased somebody else’s idea of what matters?  Whatever your hopes and aspirations may have been in the past, what’s important is that you reclaim your right to pursue your own goals.  Take an honest assessment of where you are right now, what you want to do “with the rest of your life,” and start rebuilding your pathway to getting there.   Start simply.  Make a list of the types of work that bring you satisfaction – or that you’ve never done but passionately want to try.  Figure out what skills you’ll need in order to realistically pursue those dreams.  Factor in your financial needs, both short term and long term.  And put together a written plan, step-by-step, of what you’ll need to get there.  While the steps sound simple, they’re big, important, and often challenging.  If you’re like many people, you may benefit from seeking some brief (or longer term) help from a credible career coach.

4. Get out of bed and dressed for public every morning.
Ok, maybe you get a pass on the first day after the big breakup.  But this rule bears repeating:  get out of your jammies and get yourself groomed for public interaction every single day.  Why?  Because you’ve got some serious work to do.  You need to take a healthy look at your life and where you want it to go.  You need to start job hunting soon, too.  And acting like you have nowhere to go can rapidly lead to making you believe that you have nowhere to go.  Bad (bad, bad) practice.  Get up!  Your world is waiting for you.  Time to get out there and face it, head on.

5. Stay involved.  
Once you’ve decided what kind of work you want to do, job hunting should become your full time job.  But in the meantime, don’t abandon your professional networks.  Expand them.  Stay connected with the people who have seen your work, know your talents and are likely to point you toward job opportunities and vouch for you once you’ve applied.  One of the best ways to keep yourself engaged in the areas that interest you is to volunteer.  This keeps your skills sharp and it garners the admiration of hiring managers.  It’s also a great way to test the waters if you’re considering a major career shift.  Are you a banker, for example, who always dreamed of going back to school to become a teacher?  Sign up with your local Junior Achievement and bring your current expertise into multiple classrooms.

6. Be kind to your finances.
Even if you’ve never made or honored a personal budget in your life, now is the time to do both.  Unemployment, no matter how temporary, brings with it a new set of rules.  Rule #1:  retail therapy is bad for you.  Don’t fill the hole in your soul by going shopping.  You’ll only discover that the hole is deeper next month, when your credit card bill arrives.  Instead, consider adding a little side hustle to your weekly routine.  Local retailers may have part time gigs that interest you.  Garden stores offer seasonal work, bakeries are a great source of early morning work.  Look around.  If you need to keep some coin trickling in while keeping yourself busy, there are plenty of ways to invest your hobbies or skills, part time.