How to respond when you've lost your job: a complete guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 24 May 2022

Losing your job can be a difficult situation for many people, especially if you're not expecting it. Whilst it might feel overwhelming, there are things you can do to cope with the situation and help you move on. Knowing how to respond to this situation can be helpful and can guide you through this experience. In this article, we discuss how to respond when you've lost your job, including the reasons why this might happen.

Reasons you might have lost your job

There are several reasons you may have lost your job. Losing your job refers to your employer terminating your employment with them rather than you choosing to leave your job. Sometimes, you might lose your job because of disciplinary action. It's also possible to lose your job because the business closes down or your employers made you redundant. Redundancy can happen for various reasons including restructuring, having to reduce staffing costs or the business being sold.

How to respond when you lose your job

It's often an emotional time when you lose your job and you might feel uncertain about what to do. Losing your job can impact many areas of your life and you might feel that there's a lot to think about. This is especially true if you feel upset, worried or overwhelmed. Having a guide for how to respond to the situation can make things clearer and help you move forward. If you lose your job, these steps might help:

1. Acknowledge your feelings

Losing your job is likely to be a significant change in your life and it's important to acknowledge and accept your feelings. You might feel shocked, anxious about the future or upset about what has happened. Acknowledging your feelings and taking time to assess the situation helps you to process your emotions. In the immediate aftermath of losing your job, take some time to focus on your feelings before you can manage more practical tasks.

2. Remain calm

Processing your feelings is important but it's also worthwhile to remain as calm as you can. Staying calm can help you to think clearly and do practical things to improve the situation. You might find it easier to remain calm once you've accepted the situation so taking a short break to address your feelings might be helpful. If you frequently start to feel overwhelmed, you can use breathing exercises or relaxing activities like going for a walk to help you.

3. Think about your finances

It's important to think realistically about the financial implications of losing your job. If you've been made redundant, you may receive a certain amount of redundancy pay. It's worthwhile to clarify your situation with your employer. You can use online redundancy calculators to calculate what you're entitled to. It's also advisable to find out about and apply for any benefits that you may be entitled to.

4. Prepare a budget

Once you have a clearer idea of your financial situation, you can prepare a budget. Assessing the money you have available can help you determine how long you can afford to wait before you start working full time again. If your income is temporarily limited, it's essential to stick to your budget so that your money lasts.

5. Talk to your landlord or mortgage lender

If you pay rent or a mortgage, it might be sensible to talk to your landlord or mortgage lender about the change in your circumstances. Sometimes landlords or mortgage providers can make arrangements to temporarily reduce your payments until you find a new job. Mortgage providers might also be able to offer a short-term payment holiday. Mortgage lenders and landlords are more likely to be understanding if you're honest about the situation straight away, rather than waiting until things become more difficult.

6. Consider temporary employment

If you require income immediately, it might be worth considering temporary employment. Sometimes, this might mean earning less than you're used to or doing a slightly different type of work. You can approach recruitment agencies that offer temporary placements to find out more about temporary work. Some agencies might be able to help you find a new permanent job. Depending on your skills and the type of work you do, you might also do some freelance work temporarily.

Related: What is a recruitment consultant and what do they do?

7. Think about what you want to do

Whilst losing your job can be stressful, you can use it as an opportunity to think about what you want to do. You might be confident that you want to continue on your current career path which can guide you in finding new relevant opportunities. If the situation makes you realise that you'd like to start working in a different field, take some time to consider what the options are. Once you know what you want to do, it's a good idea to think about any new training or qualifications you might require for the new role.

8. Talk about your situation

Talking openly about your situation might feel uncomfortable at first but it can help you move forward. Being honest about looking for new work is helpful because your contacts might know about opportunities for either permanent or temporary work. Being open about losing your job can also help you accept what has happened and feel more comfortable about it.

9. Invest in your development

Whether you want to pursue your current career path or try something new, you might use this time to invest in your development. There is a wide range of free or low-cost courses you can take. If you can afford to, you could take a more costly course if you think this is beneficial for your career. You could also seek advice from a career coach to help you move forward.

Related: 18 examples of personal development goals for your career

10. Review your CV

Before you apply for new jobs, it's sensible to thoroughly review your CV. If it's been a long time since you last looked for work, it can help to update your CV to reflect your current skill set, experience and achievements. After amending your CV, it's important to proofread it carefully. You could also ask someone else to review it for you.

11. Decide on your narrative for the situation

When you apply for new jobs, employers are likely to ask about your circumstances so it's a good idea to decide what your narrative is. Be sure to portray yourself positively .Consider how to explain the situation and practice having those conversations. If you lost your job because of disciplinary action, be honest about what happened, what you learned from it and how things can be different in the future.

Related: How to answer 'why are you looking for a new job?'

12. Apply for new opportunities

When you first lose your job, you might require some time to recover but it's important to then start applying for new opportunities. This is the case even if you've already secured temporary employment. You might want to find a new job as quickly as possible but it's still worth being selective about the opportunities you apply for. Doing so can help you find a new job you enjoy and want to do.

13. Keep an open mind

Whilst being focused is important when you're searching for a new job, it's also sensible to stay open-minded. This means you might consider new or slightly different job roles. Depending on your circumstances, you might start to look for jobs in other locations nationally or internationally if you're willing to relocate. It's still important to carefully evaluate opportunities before you apply while being open to new ideas can help you find work more quickly.

What to do if you feel you lost your position unfairly

It's common to feel that the situation is unfair when you lose your job but in most cases, employers end employment contracts legally. In some situations, you might feel the explanation for your dismissal is unreasonable, for example, if you believe it's a consequence of bullying or discrimination. If you suspect this is the case, it's still important to follow the guidance for losing your job to help you move on.

It's also advisable in this situation to seek legal advice. You might also research your circumstances independently before deciding whether it's worth contacting a solicitor. A solicitor can advise whether you have grounds for unfair dismissal and can help you navigate the system if you make a claim.