If you went to work this morning and learned that as of 9:15 A.M. this day that your services are no longer needed, you may be wondering what am I supposed to do now? Here are a few ideas to help you get through Day One of Career Transition:
1. If you feel like crying, then cry, either by yourself or with someone "safe". By safe, I mean the kind of person who won't judge you because you happen to be a 47-year-old professional who is crying when you are "supposed" to be mentally tough and always “together." Let the tears flow. I have worked with hundreds of people who have lost their jobs. Cry until you can cry no more – at least for today. In my practice, I have witnessed any number of highly successful men and women sit in my office and cry over their job loss. Go ahead, grab the Kleenex and cry like a baby -- let it out! It won't bring your job back; it may help you "dump" some of the emotions surrounding the event.
2. Immediately apprise family members and close friends of your job loss. Their support and comfort will be good medicine for you. Don't withdraw, even though you might be inclined to do so; force yourself to connect and stay connected.
3. Call a family meeting as soon as possible. Be honest with your spouse and children about your job loss. You need not go into great detail with your children; briefly state the facts and answer their questions to the best of your ability. Do not try to hide the truth from those that love you the most. In my years as a career counselor, I have known a handful of terminated individuals who refused for several weeks to tell family of their job loss. They'd get dressed, leave home, and spend the entire day doing something, anything -- coffee, public library, grocery store, driving around -- only to return home their "usual" time. This strategy is of value to no one, especially to you.
4. Give yourself permission to grieve your loss. It is shocking; it is stunning to hear the news that your job is over. Even if you know that the Employment Termination Train is headed your way, until it actually happens, it doesn't really hit you. And when it does, bam -- for most, it really hurts! For a few days, you may feel like you're on an emotional roller-coaster. One minute you are crying, the next you are laughing; one minute you know that everything will be fine, and the next, you can't even remember what day it is. Just keep telling yourself...this too shall pass. As the name of a book I wrote some years ago suggests: Between Jobs: Recover, Rethink, Rebuild, you have to allow yourself time to grieve, to heal and to recover, rethink, rebuild.
5. Write and never send a letter to the person(s) who dismissed you. Say everything you would like to say if you had the chance. Write, write, and write until you simply cannot write any more because you have nothing left to say. Keep your letter private, for your eyes only. Once you're done with your letter, read it over and over and over as many times as you like. When you are sick and tired of reading it, shred the thing. My clients have found this activity a most valuable exercise to help them let go of their old job and begin to look to the future.
6. Get help immediately. If your former employer didn't offer outplacement or career transition services, make one of your top priorities that of finding a career management professional to help you. If you don't know where to turn, ask your network for names of career counselors or career coaches in your area, if you wish to work with someone face-to-face. Once you get a name, ask for recommendations. Not only will you want to find a professional who is competent, find someone you connect with and feel comfortable with as a career success partner.
7. Figure out your finances for the next six to 12 months. Whether you feel like it or not, your finances must be dealt with and the sooner you address it, the sooner you will know where you stand. Review each and every dollar you are spending in your household. Where can you reduce expenditures? What needs to go? What are you willing to sacrifice? Ask all household members to do an autopsy of their spending habits to identify areas for cost reduction.
8. File for unemployment benefits. Put aside any feelings of pride, ego, shame, or embarrassment as you "file for unemployment." Feelings will not pay your bills. Your unemployment compensation will help -- a little, or a lot -- with family expenses.
9. Organize a home office space where each day you can arrive at your "new place of work." So your office space may be in a small corner of the loft you share with your boyfriend; it may be the dining room table that never gets used, or the junk room in the basement. Find a place that you can call your office, as it will serve as a starting place for daily structure, routine, and organization.
10. Track your own performance. For years, your employer has tracked your performance. You don't have that now, so it's up to you to do the same for yourself. This is a simple activity I encourage my career transition clients to do on a daily basis, for at least the first 30 days of their transition. Buy a small journal; keep it in a private place where each night before you go to bed, you can record these three pieces of information: 1) the best thing that happened to me this day 2) the worst thing that happened to me this day and 3) on a scale of 1-10 (10 is tops), rate your day by affixing a number to it. This activity takes no more than a couple of minutes to do at day's conclusion. Over the next few days and weeks, you will then be able to track how you are doing. (This is not to be confused with what you are doing – that's a separate thing.)
11. Start thinking about who you want to invite to serve on your Transition Team. Be intentional about who you select and your reasons for choosing them. Avoid including anyone who stands to profit or gain from your transition. Select members who have a genuine interest in your continued career success and your overall well-being, just because you are you.
12. Focus, focus, focus. Take a few days off and then, get your new Career Transition Project underway. Plan to work very, very hard, especially on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in the coming weeks. Use these three days in particular to focus on making connections, revamping your professional resume, going on interviews, and catching up with people. Based on your own work experience, you already know that Monday is a day of "coming back" and about 3:00 P.M. on Thursday, people start "checking out" for week-end activities. Thus, the emphasis on Tuesday-Thursday for peak productivity in job-search related activities.
You will note that many of these ideas have to do with the emotional side of job loss versus the organizational aspects of it. Set yourself up to succeed. Build a strong foundation and launch from there. What you put into your new endeavor – time, focus, passion, energy, commitment, thought, and motivation – drives what you will get out of it, your ROI. I wish you continued success as you embark upon the next phase of your career journey.