Sadness, anger and feelings of unworthiness can hit like a Mack truck and leave you paralyzed in the wake of being let go. But being laid off doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Use these tips to help you get a grip, face reality, and move forward.
1. Stop freaking out
It may feel rotten, but keep in mind that you’ve lost a job, not a limb. Your livelihood maybe, but not your life. Take a deep breath, calm down, and don’t make any snap decisions like telling your boss where to get off.
2. Get all the money due you
Find out if your company offers a severance package, any penalties for withdrawing from your retirement account and whether you’re eligible for unemployment compensation. You can find your state’s specific requirements by contacting your local unemployment office.
3. Call the bill collectors…
…before they call you. Let the credit card companies know you’ve been laid off, and they might allow you to send in greatly reduced or interest-only payments. Federal student loan agencies permit some unemployed workers to suspend their payments altogether for a short period of time. Better to work out a deal than to ignore the debt and let it mount.
4. Don’t take it personally
Being fired can sap your confidence, but try not to view at as a rejection of you as a person or let it undermine your self-worth. Prospective employers can spot low self-esteem a mile away, so instead of slumping around like a dumped lover, turn anxiety into energy and use it for a fresh start.
5. …but improve yourself all the same
If a bad attitude or outdated computer skills played a role in your termination, decide to change for the better. Take full advantage of any outplacement training or services offered. Or, embark on your own personal journey of self-discovery at the library or bookstore. Once you’ve reassessed your skills – and uncovered ones you never knew you possessed – bullet and bold them on your brand new résumé.
6. Tell them about it
Instead of cowering in shame, lay down your pride and tell everyone you know that you’re out of work Tap into all the support and referrals that your friends, former colleagues and church members are willing to offer, even if it’s just a shoulder to cry on.
7. Play the glad game
Nix phrases like “After all the hard work I gave that company” and replace them with more positive sayings such as “There must be something better out there for me.” Once you stop agreeing with dismal job forecasts and start speaking like a positive Pollyanna, doors will begin to open.
8. Look for meaning
Everything happens for a reason. Some terminated workers find that their layoffs came at the perfect time to address health concerns or to devote more attention to their families. Reflect inward for any issues you’ve been dodging.
9. Make yourself useful
Instead of wallowing in self-pity and doughnuts, get out and donate unused time to organizations much in need of volunteers. Not only will you help others, you may also gain experience and connections that lead to a wonderful new career.
10. Take a risk and follow your bliss
In between pounds on the pavement, take a few steps in the direction of your dreams. Search for an angel investor to fund that cozy café franchise you’ve always dreamed of opening. Jot down notes for a business plan detailing that one-of-a-kind movie theater/day care center you wish “somebody” would create. Haul those unique quilts from under your sewing machine into area boutiques and sell them on consignment.
What better time than during a break from the rat race – and most likely a job you hated anyway – to give it all you’ve got to pursue your dream? You might find that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to your career.
Paula Neal Mooney is a former laid off software quality assurance tester and current editor-in-chief of Real Moms magazine.