The Most Important Steps to Take After Losing Your Job

(U.S. Army/Timothy Hale)

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Getting laid off stinks. Maybe you saw the termination coming. Maybe it’s a complete surprise. Maybe you’re the only one dismissed or perhaps your layoff comes as part of a larger initiative. Maybe you loved your job … Maybe not. 

However you look at it, being asked to leave your place of employment brings up feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, disappointment, confusion, uncertainty, relief, anticipation and other emotions.

What to Do First When Losing Your Job 

As soon as you’re notified your services are no longer required, you’re thrust into the process of transitioning to the next thing. If you were told by email or formal letter, be sure to read and re-read any terms and stipulations surrounding the conditions of your termination. 

For example, you might have a termination letter that clearly states that you will receive a severance amount (money), provided you don’t say anything negative about the company. Or you might receive an email that states that as part of your separation from the company, you must turn in all company materials and equipment by a certain date. Pay close attention to these details.

It's possible that someone from human resources, along with your boss, called you or told you in person in the office. In this case -- while you may be reeling from the sting of this new development -- try to calmly absorb and understand as much of what’s being told to you as possible. Do they need you to leave immediately? Will you receive severance pay? What happens to your corporate expense account? And so on.

This next part is hard to swallow: While you will certainly feel shocked, angry or upset, try not to lash out. Yelling, becoming defensive or disputing their claims is often futile. If your work hasn’t been up to par, your position is being terminated and they’re not interested in directing you to another department, or your interpersonal skills are lacking, resist the urge to fight back. The decision has been made. 

As hard as it may be to accept, your employment is no longer wanted there.

With as much composure as you can muster, calmly express your surprise and displeasure with the news and ask for as much in writing as they can offer. This will help later when you’ve absorbed the shock and can review everything more calmly.

Notifying Your Networks

Without fanfare or hostility, let your colleagues, friends, mentors and clients know you’re moving on. Unless you’re given specific instructions from your employer on how they want this handled, keep it simple and professional. 

A message such as, “I wanted to let you know that today is my last day at XYZ company. I’ll be reaching out in the next few weeks to update you on my progress and perhaps ask for guidance as I look for my next great opportunity.” Something non-specific may work best here. 

Allow your friends and family to support you and offer their encouragement and ideas for moving forward. Now is the time to have people who care about you around you and not isolate yourself. 

Finding That Next Great Opportunity

Be sure to update your social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn. Put the end date on your employment and consider adding the “Open to Work” circle around your profile photo to indicate your openness to new opportunities.

Over the days and weeks that follow, reach out to your network. Even before you hit the job hunt aggressively, talk to people who know you and get their insights: Did they see any red flags that led to your dismissal? Were there market conditions you overlooked that they saw that could have helped you prepare better? Do they have a sense of what you’d be great at doing next?

When you’ve updated your resume and have a clear focus on what to pursue, begin searching for jobs. Leverage your network of influencers, information sources and cheerleaders to help guide you through the job hunt. Then, be sure to update them on your progress and status.

At all times, refrain from speaking negatively about your past employer. The termination sting can linger for a long time, and it’s tempting to want to tell others how unfairly you feel you were treated. But displaying grace and professionalism now indicates to future employers how you handle rejection and disappointment and the character you bring to a new situation. 

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty” (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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