A mid-career transition is never easy, but it can be particularly difficult when it’s forced. When you suddenly lose your job, you might feel like you’re in a tailspin with no idea which way is up.
The problem is there’s no way to plan for a forced career transition. Unlike previous transitions, you haven’t spent the last few months developing a strategy to reach the next level. Instead, you’re in shock and suddenly facing a new world you never wanted to enter.
Being able to make this transition smoothly will be critical to your future success and happiness. You can turn a forced career transition into a positive experience if you know how to handle it.
What to Do When You Lose a Job Unexpectedly
Step 1: Close the Old Chapter
The key to a successful career transition is to obtain closure in one period before you move on. Basically, it’s hard to move on to the next steps until you tie up loose ends. To obtain closure, accept that the job is over and there’s nothing you can do to go back. You don’t owe anything to your old employer, and you can let go of any outstanding projects or assignments—they’re no longer yours to worry about.
Step 2: Complete a Self-Assessment
Before you immediately jump into your next job search, take time to self-evaluate. When you’re in the middle of the 9-5 grind, it’s hard to get the perspective you need to plot your course.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you where you want to be? If not, what career would you rather have?
- How do you get to your dream career? Do you have a roadmap to follow?
- Do your skills and experience line up with your career goals? If not, what steps do you need to take to close the gap?
- What’s the most important element of your new career path: money, status, location, work/life balance, culture, etc.?
The more you know about what you want and how to get there, the more value you’ll get out of the transition. Don’t waste this opportunity to gain insight into your professional goals and develop an Individual Development Plan.
Step 3: Be Open to Fresh Opportunities
The grass really can be greener on the other side, but only if you’re open to new developments. Don’t impose limits on yourself and what you can accomplish. Be open to a career, job, or company that was never on your radar in the past. You could discover new experiences and abilities that you love.
Losing your job can be devastating, but that doesn’t mean your subsequent career won’t be an even better match for you.
Check out “4 Strategies for Applying to a New Industry“
Step 4: Craft a Search Plan
Once you know what you want, it’s time to plan how you’re going to get it. Outline the necessary steps you need to take to achieve your new career goals:
- Do you need to improve your skills or experience? Think about professional advancements, like attending networking events or enrolling in classes.
- Update your résumé and cover letter. Your résumé and cover letter probably haven’t been updated in a while. You’ll want to include both hard skills and soft skills, as well as all your relevant experience.
- Get involved on LinkedIn. An active profile can help you build a network of recruiters and garner employer recommendations.
Finding a new job could take longer than you expect. Plan for at least a six-month transition period. In the meantime, you can look into independent contracting to broaden your experience and provide temporary income.
Step 5: Reach Out to Your Network
Seek advice from the people who know you professionally and personally: friends, family, mentors, and former coworkers. Your network is an invaluable source of wisdom. If you have a strong group of people around you, they can offer guidance and insight into the marketplace, your skills and experience, and where you should transition next.
Set up coffee dates, attend industry events, check social media job posting groups—whatever you need to do to connect.
Finally, remember that a career transition isn’t a one-shot deal. Today, it’s unusual to stay with the same company for longer than a decade, and one misstep won’t haunt you forever. Embrace the change and get excited about what will come next!
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