12 Steps to Take When You’ve Lost Your Job

Illustration of woman sitting down, looking sad and leaning her face in her left hand

You've just lost your job, and all you want to do is drown your sorrow in a tub of ice cream while binge-watching Netflix. Being unemployed is tough. And feelings of despair and discouragement are very reasonable. At some point, though, you'll have to get out of that funk and start making the right moves towards bettering the situation and eventually, getting a new job.   

Whether you were fired or made redundant, it's time to kick up a plan and get down to business. These 12 useful steps will help you get back on your feet after losing your job.

1. Stay Calm and Positive 

The first thing most people do once they lose their job is panic and sink into depression. While these negative feelings are natural, you must sweep them under the rug and move on. As terrible as life may seem at the time, the right thing to do is to remain calm and positive because it will get better.

Ignore feelings of rage against your boss and avoid feeling sorry for yourself by moving forward and taking courses of action to improve circumstances. Our tip on surviving unemployment? Talk to friends or family. Expressing your feelings is a great way to deal with your emotions. 

2. Fix Your Finances 

Losing your job equals losing money. This is the biggest concern when you're left jobless. Once you have a clear mind, take the time to sort out your budget. Cut down on non-essentials, adjust your spending habits and prioritise mandatory payments (e.g. rent, mortgage, food supplies). 

Even if it means dipping into your savings, at least you'll have some way of keeping up with cash. Set a plan and ensure that you have your finances straightened out to ease off any financial pressure you might be feeling.  

3. Know Your Rights 

Whether you are laid off for misconduct, company restructuring, automation, or because of a pandemic, it's crucial that you know your rights. Some benefits are obligatory by some employers after terminating a contract. So, research the company policy and explore your state's labour department to receive any payments you might be entitled to.  

Once you know your rights, talk to your boss about the payment you're owed for unused vacation or sick days. If you've been unfairly dismissed, then look into benefit options. It's also wise to negotiate a severance agreement which can include financial benefits, or according to Investopedia, a continuation of insurance benefits or help finding another job. 

Rights and policies vary from country to country, so be sure to research your jurisdiction's labour laws before demanding any benefits. 

4. File for Unemployment 

As mentioned earlier, organising your finances is essential after being dismissed by your employer. One way to do this is by exploring unemployment benefit schemes. Each country and state has different laws regarding these benefits, so it's wise to find out if you're entitled to them. Generally, applicants must prove they are actively looking for a new job, have worked a certain number of hours, or earned a particular amount of money at their previous position.  

Most unemployment benefit schemes will not cover salaries in full, but you should get a percentage of what you previously earned. These benefits are not permanent, but only a temporary financial cushion, so try not to rely on this income too much and or let it prevent you from finding a new job.  

During a virus outbreak (e.g. COVID-19) in particular, there will be many people in the same boat as you, so be sure to telephone or hop online to file for unemployment as soon as possible to avoid any system crashes. 

5. Plan Your Healthcare Cover 

One of the biggest perks of working is having health insurance coverage. But what happens when you become unemployed? Your health might be at risk, and this is especially scary if you're let off work during a pandemic.  

Try speaking to HR or your manager about the possibility of continuing your healthcare cover (as part of your severance agreement). If you live in the US, you may be eligible for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) coverage, which entitles you to keep your insurance through your employer for 18 months. 

You can also explore other insurance options to cover you while unemployed, or there's the alternative of relying on your partner's health scheme.  

6. Assess Your Career Path 

Being unemployed can give you more time to revaluate your career path. If your previous job made you unhappy, now is the chance to nail down your career goals and dreams. What do you genuinely enjoy doing? Where do your interests lie?

A career change might be imminent if your job was bringing you down. With careful thought and by investigating your job options, you can consider a new occupation that suits your skills and knowledge and finally makes you happy. 

7. Bolster Your Online Presence 

Before job hunting, make sure your online presence will look professional to prospective employers. Take the time to get rid of any embarrassing social media photos and posts and try Googling yourself to make sure there's nothing that could harm your employability chances.  

Most importantly, refine your LinkedIn profile, as this is generally the first thing employers search for before hiring you. Update your job history, sharpen your skills list, and get friends and previous colleagues to endorse your expertise. 

Once you do start looking for a new job, at least your online reputation will be clear of anything that might get your application rejected.  

8. Give Your CV a Spruce

Other than your LinkedIn profile, your résumé is another way in which potential employers review you. Polish your résumé by refreshing your list of skills, checking for clarity, spelling and grammar, and adding any new professional qualifications. It could get read by an ATS (applicant tracking system), so make sure to use the appropriate keywords according to your job role. Being unemployed can give you plenty of time (but hopefully not too long) to revamp that résumé and hopefully bag you a new job hastily.   

9. Get Good References 

Getting a reference from a previous employer can be awkward. But a good one can be your best bet in getting a new job. Talk to your ex-boss and kindly ask if they'd be willing to write up a short reference about your time at their company. If you were made redundant, there shouldn't be any bad blood between you both, so a reference will be easy for them to scratch up. If you were fired, you should still ask your previous manager for a positive recommendation letter, despite what happened.  

10. Look for a New Job 

After losing your job, the most logical thing to do is start hunting for a new one. As already discussed, don't panic and leap into something you don't like. It's easy to rush and send out your CV to any job opening. Desperate times, right? But try to refrain from rushing and instead, take strategic steps to apply for the right job.  

Mull over your interests, skills, and expertise and begin applying for roles that match these factors. Check online job listings, listen out for job openings in your area, and start sending out your résumé to prospective employers. Hopefully, you'll get a job interview before you can finish saying 'unemployed'. 

11. Sharpen Your Knowledge 

In between fixing your résumé and applying for a new job, make sure to stay on top of industry trends and knowledge. Join dedicated online forums, social media groups, and read websites and magazines based on your area of interest. 

If you have the budget, there's also the option of enrolling in a class or possibly obtaining a new qualification. These activities will not only keep your mind off things, but they will simultaneously benefit your skillset and give you a competitive edge for future job roles. 

12. Socialise with Friends  

When you're unemployed, life can get lonely. You no longer have coworkers to crack up jokes with, nor is there anyone to share your life updates with. Make sure to keep yourself occupied by talking and socialising with friends and family.  

Staying sane isn't the only benefit here. When you network with others, there's a higher chance of you hearing about potential job openings – it also encourages friends to refer you to their managers for a new position. Don't be shy about discussing your unemployment. Letting people know that you're currently job hunting could open up plenty of new opportunities for you.


Once you've given yourself time to wallow over your lost job, you must get back on your feet. These necessary steps will help you claim your benefits, regain your optimism, land a new job and elevate your career.  

Can you suggest any other necessary steps you need to take after losing your job? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!