Q. I just found out that I'm being laid off. I'm in shock, and wonder what I should do to get my feet back under me.
A. Last week's column focused on the emotional aftermath; now, it's time for action.
The inner game
Consider what you'd like. What have you enjoyed and what would you just as soon leave behind? If you love what you've been doing, look for something similar. However, this may be a chance to try something new. Or, market forces may force you to change. As you consider alternatives, think about your skills, talents and preferences. Knowing what you want will increase your chances of finding it.
Look at what you need -- and be practical. If you need health benefits, that adds pressure. If you've received a decent severance package, you may have more time to explore options. Consider salary, flexibility and benefits so that you can try to find a good fit. Even in this challenging job market, it'll help to know your minimum requirements.
Define your goal. It may relate to a particular job you would like, a timeframe or a salary. Be specific and realistic, and use it to stay motivated. Develop short-term and long-term goals. For example, you might need to take a less-than-ideal job to pay the bills now while you prepare for a career change in the future.
The outer game
Prepare your résumé and other application materials. Then adapt them to fit specific jobs. Pay attention to detail -- it sends a powerful message about the quality of your work and might tip a decision in your favor. For firms that use electronic application systems, load up your submission with key words from the job description or posting. Have a printed résumé to take to interviews.
Get help. Let people know that you're in the job market, and what you're looking for. People like to help others, but can only do so if they're asked. Let others help you keep your spirits up, too. Support from friends and family will help keep you going. Use professional resources, such as government job agencies, outplacement services, job clubs or a career coach. These services can help keep you moving.
Take action. Looking for work is your main job, so give it dedicated time every day. Find leads and do lots of follow-up. It pays to be persistent, especially in a tight market. Start prepping for interviews, developing responses to questions that you might be asked. Consider volunteer or contract work to put structure in your day and keep you energized.
Sustain yourself. Job hunting is not a 24/7 activity, even if you're committed to it. Have some fun during your time off, and take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Don't feel guilty: You'll make a better impression on a potential employer if you're relaxed and positive. And, when you go back to work, you'll be refreshed and ready.
The last word
It's a tough time to be out of work, but if you're thoughtful and consistent in your search, you'll be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that will come your way.