7 tips for getting a job after job loss (and start whilst you’re still employed!)

Change Management, Coaching and mentoring, HR Management | 2 comments

It is never nice to lose a job, especially through no fault of your own, but the chances are it will happen to most of us at some stage in our career.

There are plenty of articles about what you should do then to improve your chances of re-employment. Unfortunately most people wait until it happens to them. My message is that for many of these tips to be truly successful, you should be working on them all the time when you are still employed.

1. Be more than your job title

I have seen plenty of people who defined themselves by the position they had. Even worse, their contacts with other people depended purely on the role, even though they may not have realized it. I had a boss in The Hague, an important man in his role, who suddenly when he left the company discovered his contacts had evaporated in the sun. Do people want to know you or is it only your position? Are you being yourself in these contacts or only your position? If you really are more than your job title your self-esteem and status won’t take too much of a knock when you relinquish that title. And you will be able to rely on those contacts.

2. Do good to others (and they will do good to you)

Do you share your experience and are you generous with your time and knowledge without looking for an immediate payback? Externally not just inside your current company. I certainly enjoyed doing this and it doesn’t need to stop when you stop that job. Furthermore if you do extend kindness to others my experience is that you will be pleasantly surprised with the help and support you receive when you look for something else. Not everyone of course, but often from unexpected corners.

3. Build your network and work your network

Whenever I did a job, I was curious and wanted to know what others outside the company were doing and thinking – competitors, peers, stakeholders. I supposedly worked for a company whose leadership espoused the importance of an external viewpoint and said that its staff were too inward looking. Unfortunately in practice the reverse was true and it was actually used against you. However I still went ahead anyway and built a number of extensive networks.  The classic way to find new opportunities is then to work that network. People need to know that you are looking for something else. I have seen colleagues who have never bothered to look outside the company. Fine whilst they worked there. But losing a job can happen to anyone. And then they had no idea what to do or with whom to talk. The advice of use your network was spectacularly unhelpful. Don’t let it happen to you.

4. Look after yourself

Although job hunting takes time, you really will have time to be kind to yourself. Do it. Go to the gym. Go out with the kids. Sightsee. Read. Get outside into the fresh air. Whatever makes you feel good. And why wait until you are unemployed to be nice to yourself? Lots of people talk about work-life balance but whilst you were in that demanding job what did you do? I might not have succeeded all the time but I tried to build in small treats in my schedule. An extra couple of hours sightseeing whilst on a business trip. Yet another bottle of eau de cologne whilst going through the airport again. Whatever works for you. The Russian cultural experience of when people resign or lose their job has also been instructive. People see nothing wrong in taking time out to rest and recharge their batteries rather than immediately have to work again. Western companies recruiting in Russia have to learn that because they are getting CVs from people who are not working it doesn’t mean these are not some of the best people!

5. Finding a job is a job

Things are going to take longer – especially if you had a wonderful PA in your previous life. Even setting up meetings can cost an inordinate amount of time. All of a sudden it is not your schedule that rules, but everyone else that you want to see and you will need to fit in with them. Impose a structure on your search routine. Be intentional, even when it is a day or an activity to look after yourself!  Plan, set goals, prioritise (from all the people you could see in your network, for example), take manageable steps. Try to do something every day. Keep active. Keep on track. Follow up. All the things that you were supposed to do when you had that job!

6. Concentrate on the future but use the past positively

Even if you were really hard done by and treated badly by your previous employer, you will do yourself no favours by dwelling on it. (And if there are more of you beware you don’t start complaining to each other). Perspective employers will not be impressed by you complaining about your previous employer! Make sure you spend time with positive people. Concentrate on the positives that you did, the great things you learned and look forward to the future. Enthusiasm and positivism is infectious. Potential employers will also be positive to you. And you will feel a lot better whatever happens.

7. A footnote on headhunters and your market value

One of my favourite maxims is that headhunters do not find people jobs, they fill the jobs they have with people. However they do know their market and at least a part of what is going on, and they have to get their candidates from somewhere. So talk to them of course. But in most cases it won’t be enough. You will have to do the work yourself. And I have always suggested to people who have been with a company a long time, that staying should be a positive choice not a status quo acceptance. Know your market value before you need to.

So good luck. But start, if possible, whilst you are still employed!


  1. Irina Belozerova

    Great article, thanks for the tips. I am russian, took time off my job. Now, how can I explain that russians do this sometimes in the motivation letter to european HRs? 🙂 any suggestions?

    • Gary Hays

      Hi Irina. Yes it’s a difficulty. European managers (and HR people) often wonder why people headhunters propose to them in Russia are not in jobs. In Europe the received wisdom is that it is better to apply for a job from a job and if they are ‘unemployed’ that is a bad sign. Whereas in Russia we know better! I think you have to state that it is culturally acceptable and actually the worst candidates stay in jobs whilst looking for others and the better candidates take some time off because they are confident and will be refreshed when they start their new challenge!


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