Monday, August 13, 2012

You Just Lost Your Job. Now What?

(St. Louis Post-Dispatch column, August 12, 2012)

Pink slip.  Cardboard box.  Security escort out of the building.  Now what?  Here are practical suggestions for you:

1.  Get everything owed you.  Employers sometimes “forget” severance or vacation pay or health benefit information.  Study any information you receive, including the company policy book.

2.  . . .and then some.  Do you want to file a charge against the company?  Talk to a lawyer, but these are protracted dog fights.  Most people move on.

3.  Mourn.  A layoff is a body-blow, even if you hated your job.  Work is your identity, it supports your family. Whether your mourning is to drink or glower in a dark corner, set a time limit – a day, a week. Then force yourself to start looking.

4.  Organize family and finances.  Have a family conference.  How long can you survive without work?  A week?  Six months?  Where can you economize?  Who else has to get a job?  Such conversation will spare later bitterness if your search takes longer than originally thought.

5.  Create a work space.  Grab a room – or the corner of one - that will be exclusively yours.  Equip it with computer and phone.  If documents are hither and yon, so will your efforts be.

6.  Decide your NEXT.  Is your same job available in another company or must you consider a career switch?  Who needs your skills?  A competitor?  Decide what you want and what value you bring an employer.

7.  Tell everyone.  Swallow your pride and your bile, and tell everyone about your search and the job you want. Get leads from friends and colleagues and follow up on them.  Caution:  Your former employer may have been heavy handed with you, but avoid splashing around verbal acid.  Your listeners understand, but still want you to keep a stiff upper lip.

8.  Get help.  Were you offered an outplacement firm?  USE IT.  If not, try free resources (in the St. Louis area):

Go! Network

Businesspersons Between Jobs

SLATE (St. Louis City)
(314) 589-8000

Workforce Development (St. Louis County)
(314) 679-3300

State of Missouri Career Centers
1-888-728-JOBS (5627)

Missouri AFL-CIO Dislocated Workers Program (
(573) 634-2115 x119

9.  Have a posse.  You are now one of the Coffee Shop Set.  Smart seekers join an accountability group that meets regularly to help each other reach their next job.  It’s one of your best tools.

10.  Get out.  Spend time putting together your resume and cover letter, your contacts, your script for networking calls and the clear statement of what you’re seeking.  You’ll also research jobs, but after a few days, get away from your computer.  Go to job seeker workshops, meet your posse, have networking lunches.  But get out of your dungeon.

11.  Cobble it.  Job prospects are better now, but searches still take awhile.  You might need to cobble together part-time jobs.  The first days can be brutal at less-than jobs; but we can get used to anything.  Just do it, and hurry back to your career field when you can.

Stay diligent and actively engaged, and you’ll succeed.