25 Steps to Follow to Bounce Back after Job Loss

Losing a job sucks. But the grass is always greener on the other side.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

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 the feelings of despair and discouragement that accompany it are very reasonable.

At some point, though, you’ll have to get out of that funk and start making the right moves toward navigating the situation successfully and, eventually, getting a new job.

Whether you were fired or laid off, it’s time to kick up a plan and get down to business. These 25 useful steps will help you get back on your feet after losing your job!

1. Acknowledge your emotions

When something stressful happens, our initial reaction a lot of the time is to try to distract ourselves from the discomfort. Though this is fine initially and in the short term, it can cause problems if we persistently avoid processing the uncomfortable feelings.

The sooner you accept your shock, sadness and anger, the faster you can put them behind you and start taking steps to change the situation. Find what helps — whether it’s writing in a journal or talking to a loved one — and start to wade through the grief.

2. Stay calm

When people lose their job, it’s common to panic and eventually sink into depression. While these negative feelings are natural, you must remember that being out of work is not a permanent situation; our circumstances change all the time (whether we like it or not), and it’s important to remember this impermanence of things.

To put this into perspective, ZipRecruiter data has shown that the majority of tech workers (79%), who have been impacted by countless rounds of layoffs in recent years, are able to find a new job within three months of being let go of.

3. Know your rights

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

Once you know your rights, talk to your boss about the compensation you’re owed for any 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.

4. File for unemployment benefits

As mentioned earlier, organizing 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 (eg: 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.


Each state has different criteria regarding eligibility for unemployment benefits. Usually, applicants must prove they have worked a certain number of hours, earned a particular amount of money at their previous position or become unemployed through no fault of their own to qualify.

5. Speak with your creditors

If you’re in debt, it’s vital to prioritize noting down all your creditors, what fees they charge, and how much you owe them. This will allow you to come up with a plan of action regarding your finances while you’re unemployed.

In some cases, you may be able to negotiate the terms of your plan with them, so you might want to consider informing them that you’ve suddenly found yourself out of work. Try to negotiate the best possible terms for yourself, and do your best to provide partial payments.

6. Fix your finances

Losing your job equals losing money; this is the biggest concern when you’re left jobless. That’s why surviving unemployment will require you to come up with a new budget as quickly as possible.

The first thing you’ll want to do is cut down on non-essentials (yes, that includes your Netflix subscription if you’re tight on money!) and adjust your spending habits by prioritizing mandatory expenses, such as rent and food.

7. Take note of your achievements

Separating from your former employer can sometimes entail returning work-owned devices, such as laptops, back to the office. Depending on the type of work you do, take a look through your files and make notes of any numbers or projects that can help you showcase your best work and achievements during the ensuing job hunt.

Of course, you’ll need to adhere to any policies regarding the company’s intellectual property and data, but before you shut that door behind you, take the things you can to make landing your next job easier.

8. Plan your healthcare cover

One of the biggest perks of working is having health insurance coverage. But what happens when you become unemployed?

Try speaking to HR or your manager about the possibility of continuing your healthcare cover (as part of your severance agreement). As a US-based employee, you may be eligible for COBRA 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.

9. Assess your career path

Being unemployed can give you more time to reevaluate 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 that finally makes you happy.

10. Set realistic goals

Since job loss can provide some much-needed time for self-reflection, it can be a great opportunity to reevaluate your life — from your career path to your lifestyle, wants and priorities.

Though this can be exciting, it’s important to be realistic about how many big changes you should attempt to fit into your life at the same time. Big changes require time, effort and consistency — and, above all, being realistic. Though expecting great things of yourself is never a bad thing, how much you expect can end up becoming stressful. And, when you’re already struggling to adjust to joblessness, this can backfire.

11. Evaluate 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.

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

12. Update your LinkedIn profile

Though we just mentioned it briefly, LinkedIn deserves its own spot in an article on navigating job loss!

The social networking platform has a billion members (no, we’re not exaggerating!), which is both good and not-so-good. Good in that it can put your profile in front of many eyes, speeding up the job searching process… And not-so-good in that you’ve got a lot of competition to try and stand out from.

Focus on posting a sharp, professional photo, adding in all your recent achievements and newly acquired skills, and enabling the “Open to work” feature so that others can see you’re looking for work.

13. Inform your network you’re open for work

This brings us to our next point: making use of your network.

Connecting with new people in your industry, announcing that you’re looking for work in a LinkedIn post, and reaching out to friends and former coworkers can increase your chances of getting invited to an interview.

Meanwhile, you may also want to print a few business cards if you don’t have any, and stick them in your wallet. You never know where you might be when you next meet someone working in your field; it could happen anywhere, at the gym or the gas station!

14. Update your résumé

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 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 soon.

15. 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 laid off, there shouldn’t be any bad blood between you, 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.

16. Look for a new job

As far as finding a new job goes, the internet is your friend. Job boards, including our own CareerAddict Jobs, allow you to filter through thousands of job openings and set up personalized alerts using the criteria that best describe the type of work, schedule and employer you’re looking for.

Though you’ll want to apply to as many relevant listings as possible, it’s equally important to spend enough time tailoring your application materials to each position. Also, allow yourself to take breaks — there’s a fine line between being productive and obsessively (and futilely) trying to control the outcome.

17. Avoid rage-applying

After losing your job, the most logical thing to do is start fervently hunting for a new one. It’s important, however, not to panic and leap into something you don’t like. It’s easy to rush and send out your résumé 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”!

18. Submit job application letters

You may be wondering how sending in job application letters differs to submitting your cover letter and résumé. Well, let us explain! Whereas cover letters and résumés are submitted in response to specific job openings, application letters are sent in when no positions are advertised.

If there’s a company you’ve heard great things about but have endlessly procrastinated getting in touch with them, now is the perfect time to introduce yourself. You have more time to devote to presenting yourself as the ideal candidate, and you also have nothing to lose if nothing comes of it. At the very least, you’ll make a new connection on the inside!

19. Practice interviewing

Though this will be by no means your number one priority, when you do get the chance, familiarize yourself with common interview questions for professionals in your field. Knowing what you can expect when you start hearing back from employers can help keep your stress levels to a minimum!

There’s an added pressure to going in for an interview when you’re out of work; you don’t have a job to fall back on if you get rejected. So, the more you prepare, the better off you’ll be!

20. Learn new skills

Expanding your skill set while you look for your next role is one of the most productive ways you can spend your time. There are countless free online courses you can take, so consider what soft or technical skills would benefit you the most professionally, and get searching!

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 skill set and give you a competitive edge for future job roles.

21. 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 and social media groups, read blogs and magazines based on your area of interest, and finally tackle that endless book list of yours.

As we’ve mentioned, though, dedicate some of your time to things unrelated to your career, too. Even if you choose to read that self-help book that’s been sitting on your shelf for a year, you’re still bound to learn some insights that you can apply to your job search and career development!

22. Get into a routine

A healthy routine can be vital to safeguarding our mental health. At a time when your life is changing drastically, what with losing the big time-filler that is full-time work, keeping other habits the same can protect your wellbeing.

Work often plays a fundamental role in our identity, so without it, it’s easy to start feeling lost. As much as possible, try to keep the rest of your day structured: walk your dog, go to the gym and eat your meals at the same times as before so that you preserve your sense of stability.

23. Socialize 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 socializing with friends and family.

Staying sane isn’t the only benefit here. When you network with others, there’s a higher chance of 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.

24. Focus on what you can control

Focusing on all the things you have no control over is only going to increase the amount of panic and powerlessness you’re experiencing.

Instead, have a think about how fruitful you can make this process be: you can brainstorm different types of career paths that interest you, should you be craving a career change. Or you could start learning how to code, how to use Photoshop or another skill that could give you an advantage over other candidates — one that you had no time to prioritize previously.

25. Be patient

Being unable to predict the amount of time you’ll spend out of work — will it be weeks, months, years?! ­— can be intimidating. But although it can feel like it, you won’t be stuck in this situation long term.

It’s important to remind yourself that these things can take time, and that feeling discouraged (if not defeated) is understandable.

Find your source of motivation — be that your family or the opportunity to create a career path you adore — and let that fuel your resilience and determination until you’ve landed your next gig.

Final thoughts

Though filing for unemployment benefits is perhaps the first to-do that comes to mind when we think about navigating unemployment, there are many more things we must prioritize to get through this challenging time as painlessly as possible.

If you use this time wisely, carrying out a bit of career planning, reevaluating your choices, and developing your skills and interests, then you can start your next job feeling more self-aware and focused than before.

Can you think of any other tips to share with anyone who might have recently found themselves out of work? Share your wisdom in the comments section below!

This article is a major update of a previous version originally published on April 2, 2020 by contributor Angela Stephanou. In the update, we added 13 additional tips and reviewed the existing information for accuracy.