What To Do After You Lose Your Job


Imagine this scenario:

Yikes! You just lost your job! You've been so busy at *work* that you don't feel your network is as strong as you would like it to be! What are you going to do with (and to) your network in the next 6 weeks as you begin an aggressive job search campaign? And, outside of your network, what job search tactics will you employ? Or your best networking tips related to job searches.

That's the question put to me by Jason Alba as part of a "blog carnival." At some point he'll link to all the people who've posted on the topic. When he does I'll point it out. But in the meantime, what about those questions?

It's hard for me to imagine being in this exact situation since I've always spent a good deal of time working on my "personal brand." I think part of that stems from my start as a university professor. Professors are very individualistic. Not too many teams in academia. You live and die based on the reputation you build as a researcher.

I always tell my students to never confuse their job with their career. Fifty years ago, that might have worked, but no longer. All of us know that we'll probably have multiple jobs, but most don't like idea. I believe in embracing it.

So, what Jason's scenario tells me is that I haven't been speaking much, I haven't been blogging much, and I haven't been to many trade association breakfasts or lunches. Jason asked that I write this from my point of view: What would I do?

First of all, a few pre-requisites:

  • You should always have a couple months salary on hand for this kind of situation. You ought to be able to live while you get your next gig. Consider severance icing on the cake since you don't always get it--even when it's owned to you. Trust me.
  • I was talking to Scott Lemon a few days ago about why he always buys his own laptop: you should own your tools. If you've got a computer, you can do all kinds of things to get by and reconnect. If losing your job means losing your computer, then you've got to go buy one. Yikes.

With those out of the way, here's some thoughts about what I'd do.

Blog. First thing I'd do is pick up the blogging pace. Start writing about things you know and the areas you want to establish your expertise in. Don't have a blog? Start one.

Update your resume. I'd bring my resume up to date with the latest stuff I've been doing and make sure it emphasizes the areas I'm interested in pursuing.

Call some headhunters. Once my resume was up to date, I'd call all the local head hunters I know and schedule times to go talk to them. I'd schedule phone interviews with any who were out of town. Most of them are eager to talk and get to know you. Any you've paid commissions to owe you at least a meeting. They know who's hiring and what's hot. I've gotten lots of good advice from headhunters over the years.

Go to conferences. Local ones are cheap, but even ones out of town are affordable if you can use frequent flyer miles and get a discounted conference fee.

Refuse to be unemployed. If you're a programmer or IT professional, don't think of yourself as unemployed, think of yourself as an independent contractor and go get some work. I loved the freedom of consulting the 18 months I did it. I didn't like constantly scrambling for the next gig. You might enjoy it enough to just consult forever.

Go to events. There are probably all kinds of industry association events--formal and informal--in your area. I would go to as many of these as I could and start getting to know people. Offer to speak, take tickets, whatever. Be involved.

Write a book. You've got some time, make you name by writing about what you know. You'd be surprised what writing a book will do for you as far as employment goes. It immediately establishes you as an expert.