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You're Fired! ...What's Next?

AUTHOR:      Melinda Freels, SPHR
PUBLISHED:  June 6, 2005

Getting fired or laid off is a major life event. Besides the initial panic about finances, the bigger impact is to one's self-esteem. It's bad enough to be jobless, but to be jobless while feeling worthless is combination that can result in self-defeat. The secret of successfully emerging from this situation is to turn it into an opportunity to redefine your career.

Starting a job search at such a low point is not easy. Because this is one of the most stressful events that you will ever face, it's important to take good care of yourself - practice proper eating habits, and get plenty of rest and lots of exercise. There will be some days when all you want to do is avoid your situation. The reality is that the longer you put it off, the harder it will be to start an effective job search. So give yourself a short period to "reflect," but don't extend it. Then on your first day of "getting back to business," make a daily, weekly and monthly plan of action. Give yourself specific goals. You'll find that each time you check one of these goals off your list, your sense of accomplishment will grow.

If you lost a job that you really didn't like, the worst thing that you can do is to search for another one just like it. So before you begin applying for similar jobs at other companies step back and really evaluate the functions of the position. Ask yourself if this job is something that you really feel passionate about? If you find yourself shaking your head, then it's time for a change. Not sure? Try this: write down all the job functions that you really enjoy performing, followed by a second list of all the things you dislike. Compare the two. Which is the longer list? If your "dislike" list is longer, it's safe to say that a change is in your best interest. Now go back to the first list and circle all the items that could easily transfer to another job function or even to another industry. It may surprise you to find that many (perhaps all) of the skills and abilities required by your former position qualify you for other types of work.

The next step is to identify industries that match not just your skills and abilities, but match your personality. Examine your own values and beliefs. Ask questions about and research the "hot" industries. It's important to remember that just because you have always wanted to work in a particular field, pursuing a job in an industry that is downsizing across the board just isn't smart. Is there something similar out there - perhaps a booming niche or boutique industry? The internet is a great way to research current employment trends, (delete comma) but a visit to your local library is another way to source career possibilities. Start with Forbes Magazine and also the Book of Lists for your metro area. Once you've determined your target industry, identify several top companies and start researching them. Always read their mission statement. Examine their website and read their annual report, press releases, newsletters, etc. Look for companies that promote a healthy work-life balance.

Begin your search by creating job search agents on the major online job boards such as and It's a free service that allows you to create an online search agent defined by you. Every few days, (delete comma) you"ll receive a time-saving email that lists all the openings that match the job functions, industries and geographical locations that you specified.

At the same time, start networking! Have your own personal business cards printed. (Incidentally, the gym is an excellent place to network, so be sure to tuck a few of your new business cards into your gym bag!) Join at least one professional association to find people who are currently employed in the field that you are interested in. Find out if their companies are hiring and ask for referrals.

The next critical step is creating a resume which highlights not just your experience, but your core competencies. Investing in a top notch resume is one of the best investments you can make, so before you spend that severance money on a cruise to the islands, ensure that you have a skillfully written, up-to-date professional resume. If you are worried about your recent termination casting a negative light on your resume, a skilled resume writer can advise you on strategies to negate this. The resume is a marketing tool intended to get you in the door, consequently going into detail about why you lost your job is not necessary. Once you're in the interview process, you will have adequate time to explain what happened in your last position. Make sure you are prepared to give a brief, but honest synopsis followed by a statement that explains what positive actions you've since taken to move on.

I recently worked with a client who was downsized after over twenty years in retail management (delete this), an industry well-known for its brutal work hours and under-market compensation. Rather than accepting defeat, my client decided to focus on what he really wanted and concentrated on his core competencies and beliefs. He soon landed a job in a growing industry that by no coincidence is also listed as one of the "best companies to work for." This client set his sights on a company that he wanted to join and networked his way into his dream job - a perfect example of managing the process and pursuing a new career the right way. For this client, it turned into the most liberating experience of his life.

So, if you've been fired or laid off, utilize this time to examine your personal and career objectives. Identify specific competencies that helped you achieve your greatest accomplishments and leverage those same competencies into finding your dream job. The greatest job satisfaction comes from finding a job related to your inner passion. Discovering that we actually "work to live rather than live to work" is a profound realization with life-enhancing consequences once you take charge of your career destiny.

Learn more about author Melinda Freels at:

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