Developing Your Career

How to Handle the First 72 Hours After a Job Loss

By Greg Simpson on February 11, 2013

Research shows that how you handle the first 72 hours after you have lost a job will profoundly affect your job search in the weeks ahead.   A haphazard or knee-jerk approach can lead to unnecessary mistakes.  The following activities will help you prepare to launch your search effectively and set the stage for future success.

  • Don’t panic. Keep a clear head and resist the temptation to contact everyone in your network before you are prepared with a specific plan of action. Your immediate contacts will be in a better position to lend meaningful assistance if they recognize you are preparing an organized approach to your career search.
  • Take time to assess and identify career options. Search through the major Internet job board sites like Monster and CareerBuilder.  Check out postings to see what positions are in demand and what skills are required. Begin to identify companies you might want to target.
  • Tell your family and close friends. You’ll want their support. Avoid saying anything that could be perceived as negative about your former employer, boss or colleagues. Negativity could impede your chances of finding new employment.
  • Create an action plan for your first week. Make a list of everything you need to accomplishment (filing for unemployment, updating your resume, creating contact list, etc.).  Assign deadlines and keep yourself accountable to stay focused.
  • File your unemployment claim. In most states, there’s at least a one- to three-week waiting period before checks are issued, so file as soon as possible.
  • Make a list of your professional networking contacts. Include former colleagues, business associates, former college classmates and friends. Finish the first draft of this list in the first three days of your search.
  • Add new connections on LinkedIn. Identify a few key recruiters and connect with them on LinkedIn so that you can stay informed on new job postings while increasing your own visibility.
  • Create your 30-second commercial. You want to make a good impression when networking, interviewing or cold-calling, so create and practice your 30-second commercial – a brief response to the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Ideally, you want to introduce yourself, provide a high level overview of your experience and employment goals, one or two accomplishments that demonstrate your skills, and how you can immediately add value to an employer.
  • Review your finances. It’s time to be realistic about what you can afford and where you can cut expenses until you land your next job.
  • Begin updating your resume. Developing an effective resume can take some time, so begin writing down your accomplishments and collecting the information you’ll need while it’s still fresh in your mind. Give yourself a five-day deadline for developing your resume. It’s a dynamic document that will change as you progress through the search. Still, plan to get the first version completed quickly so that you’re prepared to begin networking.
  • Update your social media profiles to reflect your new status. Once you’ve decided on the direction you’d like to take and you’ve updated your resume, change the end date for your previous position on your social media profiles and update your headline to reflect what direction you plan to take (e.g. “accounting professional” or “seeking new challenges in accounting”). This will notify everyone in your network that your status has changed and can prompt requests for your resume.
  • Be kind to yourself. Reduce stress by walking, enjoying healthy meals and socializing with loved ones.

When dealing with a job loss, jumping quickly out of the gate – without clear goals and a clear plan – could put you on the wrong path and prolong your search. Take time to assess and strategize so that you have a solid foundation.

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