Maybe you saw the signs of impending unemployment; maybe the pink slip caught you unawares. Whatever the sequence of events, you now find yourself laid off and without immediate job prospects on the horizon.
Before you panic, consider: You are in excellent company. One-fifth of American workers lost their jobs right after the recession, according to a Rutgers University survey. In fact, getting laid off is so common now, it's a little absurd that there's any stigma left at all.
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Unfortunately, it is still easier to get a job when you have a job. But that doesn't mean that you can't find a job that's a good fit for you — and sooner, rather than later. This is how to get your job search off on the right foot.
Take a break
At Harvard Business Review, Rebecca Knight interviews Priscilla Claman, president of Career Strategies, and John Lees, author of How to Get a Job You Love, to get their advice on how to rebound after a layoff. They agree: The first step is to take (a little) time off.
In the immediate aftermath of a job loss, give yourself time to decompress by "taking a vacation of sorts," suggests Claman. "You don't need to go to Aruba, but take a break," even if it's just for a weekend or a few days, she says.
Your goal is get out of your own head with a fun and "active hiatus." Go hiking. Go camping. Go kayaking.
"The first phase is recovery," says Lees. Don't make any big decisions in those first few days and don't rush into the job market the day after you've received the news. You need time to process what happened and "how you feel about it."
That doesn't mean delaying your job search for months — it just means taking some time to get your thoughts together and begin your hunt with a clear head.
Write your story
It's inevitable: At some point during the interview process, a hiring manager will ask you why you left your previous employer. When they do, you want to be prepared to answer in a way that puts the best spin on the situation (while still being honest, of course).
At Job-Hunt.org, Beth Colley recommends keeping these three rules in mind when you answer:
Keep your answer brief.
Keep your answer positive.
Share something you learned through the process.
Lees offers this sample script: "My former company went through an extensive restructuring. I've been given an opportunity to rethink my career, and what I am looking for now is XYZ."
See? Quick, to the point, positive … and forward-looking.
Polish your social media presence
"It's estimated that almost every hiring manager (93 percent, to be exact) peruse the social media profiles of job candidates that they're interested in," writes Jennifer Parris at FlexJobs. "How are yours looking? You should spend a few hours going through all of your accounts and make them private, to start.
"Eliminate anything (posts, pics, etc.) that don't paint you in the most professional light possible, and consider starting new profiles that represent you as an expert in your industry. That way, potential employers will find tweets from you that showcase your knowledge about current industry info, not you engaged in a political Twitter war."
Parris also stresses the necessity of getting your LinkedIn profile up-to-date as soon as possible.
Network, network, network
Up to 85 percent of open jobs are filled through networking. You're much more likely to find your next dream job through a friend or former coworker than you are from a job board. Especially when you're entering a job search after a layoff, it can help to have someone who will vouch for your skills and abilities.
Hiring managers would almost always prefer to find candidates through referrals than through their corporate job portal or an external job-search site.
Not making any progress? Consider a career counselor
If your layoff is a few months in the rearview, and you're not getting much interest from recruiters or hiring managers, it might be time to get some expert advice. A career counselor can not only help you fine-tune your job search, they can guide you to an entirely new career (if that's what you decide you want).
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