Being terminated from a job unexpectedly can launch a flurry of emotions that may cause the newly unemployed to act irrationally or erratically as they begin their search for the next job. Within hours a fired individual might experience combinations of shame, anger, rage, regret, and loss. This is natural.
In this situation, a clearly defined plan will be instrumental in transitioning from the emotional responses to taking action for your future. A plan can also prevent many common and easily-avoidable mistakes that can have a negative impact on a job search and even a career.
Below is a checklist for what to do and activities to avoid at this critical juncture.
What to Do
- Breathe — This is first for a reason. Millions and millions of other people have experienced this process and gone on to great things. This not a time to panic.
- Gather — Access to documentation related to your employment may become difficult, so get it early. Employment contracts that typically contain details or restrictions regarding IP rights, NDA’s, and non-compete agreements may be critical to the job search. Information about benefits or perks tied to employment that will now expire should also be found.
- Solidify references — Although employers in the industry seem to be less and less concerned with references, that lax attitude may not apply to the unemployed. Having even one or two people from the employer can mitigate the negative implications of termination. Touch base with former co-workers who are likely to have positive impressions of your work, and just find out if they are willing to provide a reference if and when you ask.
- Define a target — Many job seekers start randomly applying for jobs without first considering the type of work they would ideally like to do, resulting in unattractive job offers which are often accepted due to the added pressures of unemployment. When you go to the grocery store while hungry, you may be more likely to buy things you normally wouldn’t. Having a defined target for the type of job you want acts as a shopping list, and you may be more disciplined in your selection process.
- Update — Once the target job is defined it’s time to update the resume and public profiles with the end goal in mind. Tailor the material towards the type of role you will be seeking, and be sure that employment details match across all profiles (particularly for the most recent job).
- Prepare an explanation — When you are an unemployed job seeker, the reason for your unemployment may be the elephant in the room. It is likely that you will be asked about your departure from the most recent employer, so having a somewhat prepared response (without sounding overprepared) may be preferable to improvisation. Practice the expanation, and the repetition should help remove any emotional connection from the words.
- Reach out — Many people send blasts or personal messages to connections before completing the steps listed above, resulting in out-of-date materials being used to qualify you for jobs that you may not even want or be able to accept. There is a natural tendency to want to start the search process ASAP, but approaching the job search only after full preparation will prevent many potential hiccups. Former colleagues, friends, and recruiters may all be helpful in identifying opportunities and helping determine whether your expectations for the search are realistic.
What NOT to Do
Go on a public rant/burn bridges — Public statements (or even private ones that may become public) about your departure often come back to haunt you later. Cooperation from your previous employer can be important based on the steps listed above, so keeping that relationship intact is necessary.
Blast the news — Although reaching a wide audience is effective to save time, the act of a blast can make job seekers sound desperate. Make communications of your availability private when possible.
Rust — Being that it’s difficult to predict how long the period of unemployment may last, it’s possible that skills may being to atrophy over time. There can be some stigma towards unemployed candidates that haven’t touched technology since their termination. Be mindful of these facts as your job search continues, and using the downtime to investigate new technologies can demonstrate intellectual curiosity and interests.
Having a termination in your job history will be a small blip that can be unrecognizable to others if it is handled professionally. There is no reason a firing should have any lasting impact on employability or marketability if you take the proper steps.