It doesn’t matter how you dress it up or strip it down, whether you’ve been ‘let go’, ‘laid off’, ‘made redundant’ or, worst of all, ‘fired’, the packaging is irrelevant. The can of worms has been opened and you feel utterly sick to your stomach because you know there’s no way back. The decision is final, the damage is done, and it hurts. That’s understandable. The most important thing you can do is not spend too much time licking your wounds and wallowing in a deep well of self-pity.
These days, losing your job isn’t the end of the world. It’s actually much more common than people realise and it can occur for a number of reasons. Perhaps you made a bad judgement call that couldn’t be rectified, something that seriously impacted on the company and caused them to lose customers as a result. Maybe you just weren’t pulling your weight. You consistently failed to meet your performance expectations, kept showing up late, calling in sick, behaved unprofessionally, or let personal problems interfere with your work.
It isn’t always the employee’s fault either, although there may still be some residual stigma attached even when it is a company-related matter. Your employer may have no longer required your expertise or simply had to let you go due to cutbacks and downsizing in the workforce.
Whatever the reason, the knock-on effects are unpleasant to say the least, and in some cases can be devastating if you have a mortgage and lots of bills to pay. Confidence, self-esteem and motivation levels all take a hit, and it can be easy to feel like a lead weight as you recover from the psychological and emotional shock. Unwanted pressure, anxiety and stress can be really counterproductive, making it way harder to focus on getting another job. When you have to cope with the negative preconception of potential employers coupled with that of family and friends, it can often lead to feelings of shame, guilt and despair on top of everything else.
It can be harder to find work when you’re unemployed too. When you have a job, there is less immediate pressure and you have the freedom to wait it out until the right opportunity presents itself. When you’re out of work that freedom of choice isn’t necessarily there, and you might need to take anything that you can get in the meantime, until something better comes along.
That being said, there are several logical steps you can take to rapidly enhance your employability and land a job much sooner than anticipated…that is, if you’re ready and willing?
#1 POLISH YOUR RESUME
Polish up your resume so it sparkles like gold. Don’t mention your dismissal, or the circumstances surrounding it at this point; this applies to your cover letter as well. You can save any explanation for the interview stage as it is a sensitive topic that’s best dealt with face-to-face. Instead highlight all of your skills, accomplishments and qualifications to date and explore any areas for self-improvement. If you’ve been out of the job market for an extended period of time, getting a current qualification could dramatically increase your employment prospects and prove to a potential employer that you are committed to your career. Look at short courses or feasible opportunities for further study in your field. With RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning), you can gain a nationally recognised qualification based entirely on your previous work experience, so that could also be something to consider, especially since you can qualify in a matter of weeks. Conduct a free skills review online to see what qualifications could be yours for the taking and cash in on your expertise.
#2 PRACTISE INTERVIEWING TECHNIQUES
Don’t feel like a used, discarded item that has been left to gather dust on the shelf. If nobody wants you, it is a simple matter of researching what makes all of the other job seekers so appealing. Recruitment methods may have changed since you were last a free and single agent, so research the most common interview questions asked and practise your answers. Research prospective organisations in turn and make sure they are the right fit for you. What went wrong last time? It’s important to learn from your mistakes in order to grow as a person because you don’t want to repeat them and be stuck back in the same situation.
#3 MAKE THE BEST OUT OF A BAD SITUATION
At the interview stage, you’ll need to explain what happened with your previous employer in a positive light. Don’t lie, but don’t be too dramatic either. The choice of words you use to express why you were let go could make all the difference, so be diplomatic and keep your best interests at heart without slating the organisation that dismissed you. Never use the word ‘fired’ or ‘quit’, because these words have a very negative connotation. Try and come up with something a bit more imaginative, such as not being a suitable candidate for the role, experiencing a clash of ideals, or that the company wanted to adopt a new outlook entirely, which just wasn’t for you. If you were entirely to blame, you could illustrate how you’ve taken steps to change, but don’t go into too much detail here. A brief explanation should suffice. If it was only a short stint, you could also omit this employment altogether from your work history. Decide on the most appropriate strategy for you.
#4 VOLUNTEER YOUR SERVICES
Volunteer your services or do a bit of freelancing at a discounted rate to reduce the gap on your resume and keep your skills honed. Volunteer work always looks good to a potential employer.
#5 ASK FOR A REFERENCE
Don’t leave the company on bad terms if you can and do ask for a reference from your previous employer. At least your period of employment won’t have been a complete waste of time. There’s no point in burning your bridges if you can avoid it. Reach out to any other former employers and let them know you’re back on the market as well. You never know, there may be an opening on offer.
#6 CONSIDER A CAREER CHANGE
Maybe you aren’t on the right path to begin with. Have you entertained the possibility of seeking out a different role entirely? What skills can you bring with you? Do a course, attend a workshop, seek advice and network with people in your ideal profession. Perhaps this could even be the perfect opportunity to start your own business.
#7 DON’T DELAY YOUR JOB-HUNT
Don’t delay, get job-hunting straight away. The longer you take, the harder it can seem on an emotional and psychological level. Minimise the damage and put yourself out there as soon as possible. You don’t want that gap in your resume to keep growing either, particularly as you left your last position under less than ideal circumstances. It will prove to a potential employer that you are coping with the situation in a positive way and show real strength and determination in your character.
All you can do is try your best and take responsibility for any mistakes that you’ve made along the way. This is just a minor setback in the grand scheme of things. Once you get back on track, you’ll probably look back on all this and laugh. Take solace in the fact that you’re not alone and don’t let anything stop you from landing your next job. You can do it, we believe in you!