Where I’m from, if you want to disparage your job—if you want to indicate how little you’d be concerned if your boss fired you—you simply shrug and say, “I was looking for a job when I found this one.”
Apparently I take that saying to heart, because seriously, I’ve had more jobs than anybody I know—35 or 40…so far, and let’s just say I’m not planning on riding out the rest of my career at my current one. I’ve simply never had any particular fear of losing a job, because all I have to do is look out my front door to see that the world is full of countless places to work. I’ve resigned from some jobs with a proper two-week notice, I’ve snapped and walked away from some, and yes, I have been fired a few times. Yet through it all, I’ve never once collected unemployment and I’ve never been out of work for any significant length of time, so here are my tips for what to do when you lose a job.
1) Don’t let inertia set in. Up to now you’ve been getting up and going to work every day; now you’re going to get up and look for work. HARD. I don’t care what unpleasant things you’ve been experiencing at your former job, this is not the time to “take a few days to regroup.” No. Do not let yourself drift into vacation mode. You want to make some contacts today. You want to have an interview tomorrow. Your goal is to have an offer by the end of the week. I’ve always found it helpful to think of what I ordinarily earn in a day. Let’s say it’s $100. Your figure might be $50 or $500—whatever, it doesn’t matter. Just keep in mind that for every day you are unemployed, you are “X” amount in the hole. You will come up that much short on your bills. You can’t afford many days of couch surfing at a cost of “X” amount per day.
2) Apply for every job you could remotely consider doing. There are some jobs you’d rather have than others, obviously. If you are a nurse, I’m not suggesting you apply to work the counter at a fast food restaurant. However, I’m suggesting that even though you once worked for the most elite plastic surgery practice in town, you might need to apply at the hospice. If you were an office manager, great, but apply for the receptionist job that’s available. I understand that these jobs may not be sufficient for you in the long run, but I firmly believe that by being willing to consider every job you qualify for, you are keeping the odds in your favor. Plus, if the “big” job you’re chasing doesn’t pan out, you’re going to be pretty glad you didn’t just sit back and ignore all the “smaller” jobs you might have gotten hired for.
3) Don’t come out of left field. While I do advocate that you apply for all jobs you qualify for, be reasonable and go for jobs that make sense in light of your previous experience. Just because you are smart enough to be an insurance adjuster or the manager of a clothing store is no indicator that anybody will hire you for such a job when you’ve never had the slightest experience in insurance or retail sales. The clock is ticking, and dozens of other people are more qualified for those jobs than you. Chasing after jobs you don’t have a chance at is only going to make you feel you’ve been rejected by a wider circle of people.
4) Tell the world. It’s always embarrassing to get fired. Granted, there may be some circumstances (for example, if you were caught stealing) where you’ll feel so extraordinarily embarrassed that you’ll want to conduct your new job search as quietly as possible. But if you were fired for simply breaking a rule, making a mistake, being absent one too many times, or generally screwing something up—join the club! You’re not the first, and your friends won’t condemn you. So take to every form of social media you use and tell everybody you know that you and Acme Company have had a parting of the ways and that you are looking for a new job ASAP. Then put out general reminders every few days so no one forgets.
5) Let your anxiety motivate you. Only one thing is going to ease the anxiety you feel, and that’s landing a new job. So don’t numb yourself with alcohol, drugs, or food. Don’t go shopping or partying, because you can’t afford it. You can’t bear this feeling of discomfort? Good, you’re supposed to feel uncomfortable when you’re a grown adult with no job. What kind of responsible person would feel relaxed if they were in your shoes? Now get back to job searching.
6) Get a part-time job instead of collecting unemployment. If you normally work standard office hours, accepting a full-time job at an insufficient rate of pay can tie up all your time and leave you unable to interview for a better job. However, I would recommend accepting a part-time job over collecting unemployment insurance. “Why?” you might ask. “Why would I work a crappy job for less money than I could get for doing nothing?” Two great reasons. Number one, the crappy part-time job keeps your momentum going, and gets you out in front of new people who might be in a position to offer you a better job. Number two: it might sound a little New Age-y, but I think you’re communicating to the universe that you are ready and willing to work; not lying on your sofa waiting for the perfect gem of a job to be offered to you. Besides that, there’s a limit to how much unemployment insurance you can collect, but you can make work a part-time job as long as necessary until you really do find that perfect gem, or at least, a job that will keep you afloat for the long term.