It happens, you lost your job. Was it part of a downsizing or workforce reduction? Was your department or job function eliminated? Did your company merge, or run into financial losses? Or were you fired? Are you no longer a fit for the company you had invested your time and energy into making successful? Whatever the reason, you find yourself thinking about your next move. You are wondering where to start and feeling a little stressed. Sure, it’s nice to be home. Sleep in, and have the time to read that book you’ve been meaning to start or finish that project that sat undone for years. But it doesn’t take long for the reality to set in, that with each passing day, you’re burning through your savings.
Understanding Why You Lost Your Job
I’ve been there, and it’s a challenging place to be. I've also lost a job in the past. You can have mixed emotions that seems to change and evolve as the days go by. Often times, after the initial shock wears off, emotions can turn to anger. Frustration over what feels like an injustice. A company that you had been loyal to now finds you unnecessary. That can draw out feelings of bitterness, anger, and resentment. I’m here to say that’s normal, and it’s something you have to go through. The worst thing is to bottle those feelings up inside or take your frustration out on friends and family. Instead, find a way to vent.
Write a letter to your old boss or draft a review to post on Glassdoor. But my advice is not to send the letter or post the review. Instead, sit on it for a few days and then go back for round two. This time, start taking the emotion out of it. Piece by piece, try to make it as factual as possible. Remove your opinions and speculations, focus on what's real and true. You’ll make progress with that second revision, but I’d encourage you to keep coming back to it every few days.
Each time, make it more concise, more factual, and more real. I'm pretty sure that over time, you’ll start to sense your anger and bitterness will start to fade. You’ll have a more honest assessment of the company, the management, your role, and your performance. It’s all tied together, so it’s important that you understand what happened and why you lost your job.
Somewhere Else or Something New After You Lost Your Job
So now, with a clearer head, you can start to plot your next steps. It’s critical to go through this process. You can decide whether the kind of work you were doing is what you want to pursue again. Or the kind of company you were doing it for. We all know that managers most often look for candidates with similar industry experience. You’ll encounter some outside the box thinkers who look more at personality traits. But that's far from the norm in most hiring organizations.
Instead, your experience is the biggest factor in what kind of jobs you’ll most match for in your search. This is great if you love your work and want to build on your experience. It’s not so great if you weren’t passionate about what you were doing or didn’t like the industry in which you were working. That’s not to say that switching is impossible, but it creates more challenges. I’d say this is especially true as you get more senior. Junior-level people are most often hired for skill, education, or training. As we get more senior, the type of industry where we've worked often plays a bigger role.
Having said that, there are roles that are more agnostic. Back office roles focus more on processes and toolsets. While front office roles often put more weight on industry experience. If you’re a payroll manager, it matters more that you have experience with the same payroll system. It weighs more than it does if you’ve worked in the same industry. If you’re a medical sales manager, selling automotive parts will not be a good fit.
Assess your happiness in the job function you were doing. Do the same on the industry you were working in and the kind of company you were then employed. You may be better suited for a small company than a large corporation. You might be in the retail industry but don’t enjoy dealing with those kinds of customers. Or you’re in the enterprise space, but the long sales cycles wear you out. These factors are important to consider before jumping into your job search or you'll risk landing right back in an environment that will make you unhappy.
Your Resume / CV
Now it’s time to pull out the resume and start updating it with your most recent work experience. The internet is full of advice on how to format a resume but let me make a couple of suggestions that I didn’t find mentioned by others. For most people, a resume will be sufficient for job applications. A curriculum vitae (CV) is generally only needed for jobs where a lengthy description of academic studies and work history are required. I would advise against crafting a long CV when other applicants are submitting more concise resumes that better meet a hiring manager's expectations.
First, know upfront that your resume will not be a static document. There are so many different recruiting systems, and each work in different ways. You have to prepare your resume in different forms. For each, keep formatting to a minimum. The days of fancy formats and expensive paper to get your resume are over. Most of the time, these documents go into automation systems. And your document needs to be automation ready.
I’ve found I’ve needed to have my main resume in PDF format but also have versions in Word and Text. I use the Text version of my resume for systems that scan a resume and rebuild it for their system. Almost always, this creates errors and mistakes. So you then have to do manual corrections. But I’ve found that using a Text resume in these cases allows me to keep the reformatting to a minimum. It makes it easier for these systems to scan. I also include a section of “skills” at the bottom. These are keywords to help the system better match you to the job posting.
Second, many systems give you the option to include a cover letter. But I question how often they even get read. That said, it’s good to have a generic cover letter that summarizes your qualifications. One that you can tailor to fit the position to which you’re applying. I always include one if given the opportunity. But I’ve seen very little difference in the response rates with or without one.
Third, think of LinkedIn as your online resume. Make sure it’s updated and matches your resume. For jobs more than 15 years ago, make sure they’re listed but don’t go into detail about those work experiences. Employers might have an interest that you worked in someplace. But experience 15 years ago is irrelevant to your position today. Also, make sure to include activities outside work. Include professional associations, groups, or leadership positions. Community involvement is important and also creates opportunities for conversation. Finally, get a decent picture, something professional and not a picture of you on vacation. Save those for Facebook and Instagram.
Your Network Can Help After You Lost Your Job
They say the time to build your network is not when you need it. Having a network you can leverage is a valuable resource. But if you’ve neglected this over the years, the start of a job search is not the best time to start building one. It’s also difficult if you’ve neglected your network and are now reaching out and asking favors. Keep relationships warm is a skill worth learning. Jordan Harbinger has a great program if you’re interested.
Depending on the quality of your network, this may be the best place to find new work or a source of frustration. Nothing is better than when colleagues say, “Hey, you should come work here.” This can fast track the hiring process and cut through the typical hiring red tape. That’s not where many people find themselves. And it means reaching out to people in your network and asking them for help which can feel awkward.
Sometimes, letting people know you’re looking can put a bug in their ear. That might prove beneficial down the road. Other times, you might ask someone to pass along your resume or put in a good word. Know that other people are not going to do job hunting on your behalf. They will pass along that resume or put in a good word. But it may take 2 or 3 uncomfortable reminder messages to get them to do it. The bottom line is that networks can be a great resource, but only if they’ve been well maintained.
The big online resources out there are The Ladders, Execunet, LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, ZIP Recruiter, Monster, and CareerBuilder. What I will tell you is that you'll find most of the jobs posted across these platforms. There are unique jobs on The Ladders and Execunet. But both require a membership fee which isn’t worth it. There are also unique jobs on LinkedIn, and that’s going to be the best option. The others have the same jobs. If you see a job on one, chances are it’s on the others. Your best bet is to focus on two or three and ignore the rest.
I have many thoughts on these sites. See the links below for more in-depth reviews:
Recruiters / Headhunters
For the most part, recruiters and headhunters are not your buddies. They will not spend time giving you advice or career coaching. In fact, you’ll be lucky if they return your email or phone call UNLESS they have a position that matches your skills. Then they will spring to life and be your best friend. It’s understandable in some ways because, in most arrangements, you’re not paying them. The companies who posted the jobs are providing their compensation. They don’t have an incentive to work with you unless you match something they have available. They might file your resume away in case something comes along but don't expect too much. I still think it’s worth passing along your information. In my experience, you are far more likely to get on a recruiter’s radar than thinking they’ll search you out. But definitely flip the flag on LinkedIn that tells recruiters you're in the marketing for new opportunities. It won't open the floodgates but it's definitely an important step.
Setting Expectations After You Lost Your Job
Finally, give yourself realistic goals. Think about how much time you need to spend working your network and applying for jobs. It’s hard to predict when new jobs will be available, so you need to be watching for opportunities every day. Mention your search to friends. Reconnect with people you know who might have insights. Especially if they work for companies of interest to you. Most of all, be patient. Know up front that you will be ghosted and many of your applications, emails, phone calls will not get a response. If you’ve got the skills and some good experience, a job is waiting out there for you somewhere. If you’re persistent, you will find it!