Step Two After a Job Loss.

Bronwyn Smith
5 min readOct 19, 2019

So, you got laid off. Or fired. Or quit. Regardless of what led you to this moment, you’re here now and looking for a new job. Maybe?

You’re in medias res. In the middle of things.

Photo by Kevin Wang on Unsplash

I have a spectacular track record of looking for work. In the 25 years since my first job, I’ve held 22 different titles in nine different cities in two countries. I’ve worked for companies as small as five and as large as 15,000. Private, public, big money, not-for-profit, thriving and dying. I’ve been hired, fired and early-retired. I’ve quit, I’ve re-negotiated, I’ve re-located, I’ve turned down offers and have certainly been turned down, too.

My resume is everything that your parents likely warned you against, but the tapestry of industries and exposure I have had in my career is firmly part of my brand now. After getting to peek behind the curtain of several different organizations, I have one heck of a toolbox that I bring with me to the table.

What you don’t see on the resume is how I moved through those ‘in between times’ — the time between old job and new job. It wasn’t always pretty. Job loss can be really challenging to navigate, and sometimes the motivation to take action just wasn’t there. I got better at this each time and figured a few things out. Like this:

The second thing to do once you’re out of a job is redefine what a successful day looks like.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

It’s likely that you were clear on what a successful day looked like when you were working. You had a list of things to do, people to connect with, projects to influence, emails to write and decisions to make. At least eight hours of your day was in service of your job. And now without that clarity, well, what?

Despite what others may say to you, looking for a new job is not your new full-time job.

Would you take a job that has you job searching for eight hours a day? Likely not. You are responsible for the design of this time, and when you intentionally create what fills it, you are practicing self-leadership.

Shifting your mindset about what being out of work means to you, and how it feels is fundamental to a successful Step Two. You may hold some very strong perspectives about what it means to be out of work and how you should spend your time. It’s important to recognize that as one perspective, and then perhaps try a few more on.

Like this one: “I‘m really going to take advantage of this time.”

If you’re able to shift your perspective to this positive mindset and get a sense of the immense possibility that awaits, you’re ready to redefine what a successful day looks like.

Ready? Start here:

  1. Remember what structures or habits worked well for you while you were working, and bring those forward into your newly redesigned day.
  2. Make a pie. Well, a pie chart. Your pie chart is the size of the hours you were spending on your job. How are you going to divide the pieces up now? Here are some ideas for slices:

3. Keep the slices of pie really high level. What you fill each of those slices with are little tasks or ideas that will keep coming to you, but need to remain fluid. If you declare ‘go to the gym every day’ as one of the pie slices, and you’re just not up to it — you might feel like you didn’t have a good day. But if you keep your pie slice as ‘bettering my body’ — maybe that day it’s just about eating a GD salad.

4. Figure out how much of your working day you will dedicate to each of these slices. Don’t beat yourself up about it either — it’s fluid, because you’re fluid. Remember, you’re designing this.

5. Start to think about what could be the things inside each of your pie slices. This is the super fun part because this stuff changes as you grow. Fluid, remember?

  • Make a list of three things in each of your slices of pie that you could do. Here’s an example, if you need one:

6. Ok. Now you’ve got a bit of structure. If you spread your pie-eating out over one day or one week, it doesn’t matter. You. Are. The. Boss.

7. Quick check in here… if your pie is still 90% ‘Bettering my career’ — call me.

Here’s the next super fun part — you can eat pie anywhere.

I’ve booked interviews and applied for jobs while I’ve been out of the country. I’ve done phone screens while still at the gym after a great workout. I’ve read books and done online courses while at the park. I’ve also chosen to spend hours at the library for some disciplined work, or in coffee shops to feel inspired by others who are aren’t working out of an office.

All of this made me a better candidate for my next job. When you are taking care of yourself, growing yourself, learning and thriving, it comes through in your words — both on your resume and in that phone interview. You have so much more to talk about and share with the person who is trying to get to know you.

Demonstrating the gritty perseverance you have during times of change, and actively capitalizing on an opportunity are great transferable skills. If your job loss (in whatever shape it came in) feels like being pummeled by sour lemons — make some lemonade. You will have something to show for your in-between time.

SO, that’s the second thing you need to do after experiencing a job loss. Wondering what the first thing is? That’s up to you. It’s personal. Loss is loss, even if you were at complete choice in the decision to exit your role. Your ‘first thing’ might be the thing that eases the pain, distracts you, helps you celebrate, clears your mind, rocks your confidence, gets you stuck, or unstuck. Your first thing has a purpose, so figure that out, work with it, and then move on to Step Two.

Have your pie, and eat it too.

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Bronwyn Smith

Talent and Leadership Development. Co-Active Career Coach. altMBA Alumni.