When you have been downsized, the first inclination for many people is to hit the job boards and begin searching for their next job. But doing that right after a layoff or termination may be more difficult than you think. Many people start a new search before they’ve had a chance to prepare and unwind, and they rush to find a new job, not even waiting to make sure it’s the one they really want.

Steps to take before looking for the next job

Here are four steps to take when you’ve been downsized or let go from your last job.

1. Decompress for a Few Days

You’ve just been given a vacation, hopefully a paid one. Enjoy it for a few days before you start working again.

Chances are you’re going to be released on a Friday, so in no uncertain terms should you start polishing your résumé or looking at the job boards. For one thing, your emotions are frazzled, you’re stressed, and you’re not in a good place mentally to start this process. Take the weekend to unwind, and then take a few more days. There’s no reason to hit the ground running on a Monday.

Take a couple days to work around the house and enjoy the time off. Sleep in, spend time with your family, hang out at a couple local coffee shops and read a book. Then, by Wednesday or Thursday, you’re ready to get started.

2. Line Up Some Informational Interviews

Call some people you’ve never met, but who work in the industry you want to work in. Schedule an informational interview with them — be sure to explain why you want it — and meet them for coffee or lunch. If you can swing it, buy their coffee or lunch. If you can’t, meet in their office.

Find out who the big players are in the industry, whether there are any industry associations or networking groups, and see if you can attend. Find out what path the person took to get to the position they’re in. And when you’re all done, ask “who else should I talk to?DO NOT ask for a job. Don’t ask if they know of any positions. They’ll know why you’re looking, so if they know of anything, they’ll tell you. They’ll also be more willing to share contacts with you if you’re seeking information and not begging for work.

3. Start a Consulting or Freelance Business

It takes a laptop, a mobile phone, and some business cards. You don’t need an office, a desk or cubicle, or a company car. You need a phone number, you need email and a website (a WordPress.com site and a domain name will be plenty), and you need a way to tell people how to get a hold of you. This isn’t going to be a permanent move, but a way to keep your résumé up to date, your knowledge fresh, and your skills sharp.

Reasons you need to take these steps

You need to do this for a few reasons:

  1. You need to generate some income while you’re looking for a job. And you might end up being successful enough that you don’t need a new job.
  2. You need to keep your skills and knowledge sharp. If you don’t get a job in your chosen industry right away, you could miss out on some important new developments while you’re still searching.
  3. You don’t want any gaps in your résumé. “Ran my own business for 1 year” looks much better than “perused the job boards and hoped someone would call.”
  4. Best of all, you’re going to meet with the decisions makers who hire consultants. Do you know who else they hire? Employees. Know how they got there? Through the long and arduous hiring process through HR. But you’ll have front door access to the decision makers; just pick up the phone and ask for a meeting to discuss how you can help them. Help them enough, and you’ll either make a decent salary, or they’ll eventually decide to make you full-time.

Then, when you land a new job, you can “shut down” your business, unless you find you’re making way more money than you were in your old job.

Your first client call? Your old employer. See if they need any contractors — they usually get paid from a different budget than salaries, so no layoffs — then charge at least 25% more than your original salary; 50% more if you think they’ll pay it. Or go to work for a contractor and get hired back at your old company.

Also if you’re freelancing, your informational interviews (#2) can often lead to this type of work.

4. Find Some Networking Groups in Your City

Most people who work for corporations never get a chance to join any networking groups, so now’s your chance. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce and any business networking groups. Start attending their events, and be prepared to meet new people. This is where you’re launching your “consulting business.” Meet decision makers and influential people, schedule one-on-one meetings with them, and see how you can help each other. Conduct more informational interviews.

Being laid off is very stressful and carries a lot of fear. Don’t let the fear and stress cloud your judgment or cause you to make hasty decisions. Take some time to plan your next move, and then use some nontraditional methods to find a new job, instead of the same tired tactics everyone else is using.


is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. His new book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, which he wrote with Jason Falls, is in bookstores and on Amazon now.