Tips for the Suddenly Unemployed

Tips for the Suddenly Unemployed
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For the tens of thousands who have lost their jobs, and the millions of others fearing for the jobs they still have,'s Jennifer Kushell shares these tips to survive the initial shock -- and bounce back like a star.

1. Breathe. Stay calm.
The worst decisions are made under pressure, stress, or in a state of fear. Don't allow yourself to be rash or irrational; keep your wits about you and commit to making it through this in one piece. Get a sense for what this layoff really means to you and what the real repercussions will be. Assess your safety nets: What are your back up plans? (All the way down to spending time with the folks in your worst case financial scenario.) Hopefully you've done enough to guard against that, and if so, take some solace in the fact that you're prepared to weather a little uncertainty.

2. Look at this as an opportunity.
You know what they always say, "It's not what happens to you, but what you do about it." That might not be what you want to hear right now, but think about it: This sudden change could have a silver lining -- so commit yourself to finding it. Take some time for yourself, even just a few quiet hours alone and reflect on all the things you truly liked and disliked about your job. What would you have done differently? Were you there because you had to be, or because you wanted to be? Ask yourself how you can now take the next step learning from your past experience. Is there a chance to take a step up? Or to change industries or careers entirely if you weren't as happy as you wanted to be? So many times, abrupt changes like this are exactly what people need to get out of a rut and move on to something they'd really love to be doing.

3. Audit your online identity.
Start paying close attention to your reputation management, to the platform that you've built for yourself online (if any) and to what new people will perceive about you when they google you. If you don't like what you see online, or want to take control of that first impression you're giving off, build a professional identity you can be proud of with a PROJO - your professional mojo. It's a next generation resume/portfolio that you can share with contacts, add to/promote in your signature line, build out and keep up to date with your latest accomplishments to ensure that when someone searches for you, they find the "goods" on you, but the good!

4. Stay connected to your network.
You probably have a lot more friends, colleagues and supporters than you realize. Survey your address books, PDA, business card files and social networks to see who's really in your inner circle and wider network and who might be able to help lead you to some new prospective opportunities. Talk to friends and family and see who they know.

Then start reaching out to catch up with everyone you can. Befriend old friends online, shoot out a bunch of emails, even invite a few for coffee or drinks. Start talking to everyone you can! Ask your contacts who else you should be talking to, then reach out to them. Update your online profiles with the latest news and let people know that you're actively exploring your options. This is not the time to hide out and wallow. Just make sure you force yourself to smile and at least appear to have a positive outlook for the future! Repeat the mantra to yourself: "onward and upward!"...until you believe it.

5. Assess your financial situation.
The first serious thing you need to do once you have the ability to think calmly and rationally (see #1) is to figure out the true state of your financial affairs. If you can, sit down with a financial consultant who will know how to ask you the right questions to get a proper assessment. Take a very careful look at any severance (if you're lucky), benefits packages (like insurance policies, 401ks, etc.) that you may be able to "roll over" from your old company's plan. (Take care of this right away too!)

6. Ride the coat tails of senior execs.
If you've done a good job of befriending and staying tight with your bosses and other senior management, it might just pay off in real dividends now. Keep in close contact with them!!! The more connected they are, the faster they will probably find their next great opportunities and look to set themselves up for success in their new spot. When that happens, seasoned execs take quick steps to surround themselves with people they know and trust. They build teams from people they know -- and that could include you! Make it known that you're up for the new adventure if you are.

7. Use your leverage.
What can you do to leverage the experience you've had so far and the skills you've been building? What do you know that others want to? (Besides proprietary trade secrets!) How can you use what you've learned to your benefit and to others? You don't have to play hardball or let your ego run wild to put your experience and expertise to work for you in a positive and proactive way. A great way to do this, and make some quick money, is to do some consulting work. Taking a few projects on will keep you in the game and buy you time to figure out your next move. Who knows, you might actually like it so much you decide to make it your new business!

8. Open yourself up to new opportunities.
Employment prospects or ideas you hear about from friends and relatives might not sound quite right at first, but give them a chance to explain -- and yourself a chance to explore a bit. Don't limit your attention to a very narrow set of options right after a layoff. Try to imagine yourself working in a whole new scenario and consider whether you might find happiness in some other industry or way than you'd previously envisioned. Ask a bunch of questions...even just to humor yourself. You might actually learn something you never expected or discover a connection to something that does actually fit you.

9. Stay healthy...or make this your big chance to GET healthy.
Whether you've been really diligent about taking care of yourself while employed or have totally forgotten what an athletic shoe feels like on your foot, make your health a major priority now. Take the time to sleep, get some fresh air, walk, run, do some yoga -- whatever makes you feel your best. The endorphins will help a lot in bringing a smile and positive outlook to your face. You'll also project more confidence as you go out to pursue other opportunities. You never know who you'll meet along that run either!

10. Use this as preparation for the next big shake-up in your life.
Right now this might seem like the end of the world, but the good news is that if you can weather this storm, you'll only be better prepared for the next one. Though we'd like to say this will never happen again, the truth is that life is a cycle of ups and downs, and preparation is the key to surviving it all.

If you are ready to look at the big picture, listen to our Secrets of the Young & Successful podcast series and create the life you've always dreamed about -- no better time than the present! You can also come and talk to others about what's happening to you in our discussion forum. You never know where the next great idea or opportunity is waiting...

Good luck!

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