What do you do when you lose your job?
Unemployment happens to everyone at some point. Even when there’s an indefinite contract involved, job security is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. How many folks do you know who’ve been in the same workplace for more than a decade?
Losing your job through no fault of your own is always tough, regardless of your circumstances. Not only does it come as a blow to your self-esteem (“What could I have done differently?”), but the shift in gear forces you to re-evaluate different parts of your life in often uncomfortable ways.
No Job Security, No Cry
As irony would have it, just a short time after writing (but before publishing) my last post here on Slacking Off, I was made redundant from my Day Job. While it only took me a few days to go through the seven stages of grief (with some emotions more prevalent than others), the repercussions have had me running around trying to get everything from my Spanish Unemployment Paperwork to my LinkedIn account in order.
Us Millennials get accused of being ‘job hoppers’ with little loyalty to our companies far too often. The reality isn’t that we’re demanding Friday afternoons off or beanbags every four paces – that’s the misconception of the companies trying to appeal ‘to the youth’. No, the reality is that when push comes to shove, the ‘career-until-you-retire’ job simply no longer exists. Even within companies that have a wonderful culture code.
The Seven Stages of Unemployment Survival
According to recent experience, there are Seven Stages of Unemployment Survival (and one pre-stage). They’re all explained below, so in the (hopefully unlikely) event that you’re nudged out of your current position, you’ll be able to recognise each step and get into the clear quicker than you might otherwise. Oh, and all of these steps should also be labelled as ‘ongoing’ – let’s not pretend that anything in life is stagnant or must be locked in stone just because you wrote it down once.
Pre-Step: Plan for the worst
No-one likes thinking about being unintentionally unemployed. But that’s no excuse of making like an ostrich and burying your head in the sand. This pre-step plan includes making sure that you’re not going to have any more anxiety than usual should the worst happen. How? Make creating a 3-month Emergency Fund a priority (more on this in a different post), and make sure that you’re constantly levelling-up at work by taking training courses, getting sh*t done, adding value, etc.
Step 1: Breathe
Time it takes: Ongoing
When you were first told of your imminent desk-clearing task, it’s likely that the bottom of your stomach dropped a few feet. Or you got that ‘just took a painkiller’ type numbness. That’s okay, and completely normal. At this stage, all you’ve gotta do is keep breathing and get past the first few hours. Get home and let yourself feel whatever emotions; sadness, confusion, anger. Then breathe ‘em out and do your best to let them go. You’ve got sh*t to do!
Step 2: Re-calibrate your routine
Time it takes: 1 Week
So you no longer have a job. What’s going to change in your day-to-day life as a result? You might not have to get up at 6:30am anymore, or spend almost 2 hours per day commuting…but on the other hand, there’s no 1km walk to and from work, either, and no coffee break mid-morning where you can grab a few pieces of free fruit and chat to your colleagues.
In this step, you have to figure out what’s going to change, and what’s going to stay the same. Your morning routine, for example, may now start at 7:30am…but you’ll still get your stuff ready the night before, and make sure you shower, dress, and have breakfast.
Whatever you do, do not throw routine to the wind. It’s okay for the first week if you feel like you need a ‘holiday’, but after that it’s a downward slide to unproductive days and mental unrest. Stay the course.
Step 3: Get a Map
Time it takes: 1-2 Days
Now it’s time to figure out where you want to go in your career. Use this time to consider your best-case scenario. If you’ve always wanted to work for yourself, now might be the best time to try it for a couple of months. If you enjoyed your previous job more than you thought, and you actually want to stay in the world of finance/technology/restaurants, then that’s great! You don’t even have to be ridiculously specific if that makes you feel anxious, but a general direction is important to help you focus.
In order to get there, what steps do you have to take? Is it time to hunt for some networking opportunities close to you? Maybe you need to take that last qualification in the course you started? You’ll definitely need to update your CV and LinkedIn account, regardless – so make sure those things are on your map!
Remember: You can’t plan a route until you have at least a rough idea of where you’re going!
Step 4: Update & Polish
Time it takes: (Up to) 1 Week
I’m just going to say it: updating CVs, LinkedIn and Job-Hunting accounts sucks. It’s tedious and repetitive and makes you realise how much you haven’t been doing to increase your skill set just recently. But all of the above are super important. The sooner you get all of the updates sorted and out of the way, the sooner you can put your best foot forward when it comes to applying for work.
I’ve also taken to scanning all of my past certificates so I have them digitally at a moment’s notice (something I’ve found is suuuuper important here in Spain, where everyone seems to be far more obsessed with bits of paper more than experience), and have created a timeline of sorts, where I list the dates when I did important stuff, such as attending a conference or having a book I edited published. Oh, and now I have a tiny bit more time, I’m going through a digital spring clean. Yes, it’s as horrifying as it sounds. But on the plus side, I’ve found a load of stuff I’d forgotten about, that’ll help me for future content ideas (amongst other things).
Step 5: Execute, don’t slow down
Time it takes: Ongoing
You’ve already had your week-long holiday during Steps 1 & 2. The trick of keeping momentum is to make sure you don’t completely lose it in the first place. After all, an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion kicks ass. Or something like that, anyway. (Thanks Newton!)
Now is the time to get sh*t done. I’m not saying that you have to treat job-hunting like a full-time job. Unless you’re looking for a job literally anywhere in your country, then there’s no way that scanning all of your relevant job sites is going to take you 8 hours a day, every day. After the initial check-through, it’d take you maybe 2 hours twice a week. Then, of course, further time for actually filling in application forms.
The rest of your time should be spent learning new things (applicable to your field), finding networking groups, working on a hobby, seeing family and friends, exercising and getting enough sleep. Please note that nowhere on this list do I include Netflix marathons, going on exotic holidays or wasting time ‘tweaking’ your CV/LinkedIn without actually applying for anything. There are actions you can take to push yourself forward. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking all of your free time can be spent doing the bare minimum followed by screwing over future-you by wasting time during the week (minimum).
Step 6: Go on the offensive
Time it takes: Ongoing
Remember in Step 3, where we figured out exactly what we want? Sometimes it isn’t enough to sit and hope that a job in your field will miraculously open up. If you have an industry in mind, and know of some interesting looking businesses that seem to be a perfect fit…take the time to follow them on social media, look extensively at their website, and then get in touch and tell them exactly why they should think about hiring you as soon as they have the capacity. Obviously, this is going to be easier for some industries & careers than others, but it’s something to think about.
Sometimes companies don’t know what they need, or might be thinking of hiring, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Obviously, don’t come across as arrogant or patronising, but just getting in touch to say “Hey, I notice that you don’t seem to have ABC in your company, and that’s my specialty. If you’re ever thinking of getting someone for that sort of project, could you let me know? I’d love to work with you because of XYZ.”
7/10 times you might not even get a response, but you can think of it as good practice for other job applications and networking, and as long as you’re respectful, that company is much more likely to remember your name in the future.
Step 7: Practice Self-Care
Time it takes: Ongoing
So important that it gets its own Step! You all know the drill by now. Drink plenty of water, exercise regularly (even if it’s ‘just’ a nice brisk walk), eat the right food, sleep well, and do tasks that actually challenge your grey matter on a daily basis. We know this…but it’s always in these sorts of lists because how many of us actually put in the effort to do it?
Now is the time to lock down on those good habits and get rid of the bad ones. Not all at once, of course, and there’s no definitive ‘right’ way to go about doing it. But be mindful and do your best. You’ll get another job eventually, but you can’t get a whole new body.
Final thoughts & Next Steps
It’s difficult to put into words how frustrated (and yes, confused) I was when this happened to me. But I know that I added plenty of value at my last company. Sometimes, these things just happen (not that it makes the initial day or two any easier!)
I’m just about to start on Step 6, so all in all I’ve had a rather smooth journey. But this process is one of the big reasons why I’m not feeling constantly anxious about where my next meal is coming from, or whether I’m going to have to start teaching English for rent money. (That’s a can of worms, right there – rock on, teachers!)
What’s the first thing you’d do if you lost your Day Job? Would it be smooth sailing, or did the steps above give you some new ideas?