Professional Development

Rebuild your career after job loss

Written by Kate Lopaze

If you’re reading this, it may be because the worst has already happened: you’ve been laid off or fired. Or perhaps you’re prepping for the doomsday scenario, just in case. Either way, know that a layoff or a firing is not a life-ending (or even career-ending) thing. When it happens, the shock and devastation can lead to pessimism about your next steps. But try to keep these tips in mind if it happens to you.

Know that it’s okay to grieve.

Job loss is a huge change. Routine, stability, future planning—all of these are likely upended by the news. It’s okay to let yourself feel the range of emotion after it happens, like anger, depression, fear, and humiliation. You may try to put on a brave face, but don’t try to quash the emotions altogether. Acceptance and moving on mean working through the feelings rather than ignoring them.

Take it as an opportunity.

No, really. It probably doesn’t feel like one—I know when I got laid off, I felt pessimism creeping in right away. But soon I started to realize that I’d hated my job, and this was a chance to start over without having to make the tough decision to quit and walk away. This job loss does take away some of your own agency (we all want things to be on our own terms), but once it happens, embrace it as a chance to start over. Maybe it’s time for a career change?

Don’t lie about it.

You’re going to need to move on to a new job, and that means finding a way to spin what happened at your last one. It can be tempting to lie about the circumstances under which you left out of a sense of personal pride or fear of rejection, but don’t do it. If you were fired for a reason, that will likely come up during either reference checks or background checks (if it was serious).

On your resume, you don’t need to be specific about what happened. But you should be prepared to discuss it in an interview. “Why did you leave your last job?” is a common default interview question, and it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll face it at some point. If you were laid off, a response like “my position was eliminated” or “the company downsized” is totally acceptable. If you were fired, you can give a general explanation as to why, and explain a) what you learned from it; and b) how that knowledge makes you a better employee. Second chances are not impossible, but you have to make a good case for yourself.

Whatever the circumstances, remember that you’re still alive, and you’re still you. The positive qualities you bring to the table are ultimately more important than your past, so as long as you take the time to learn from the experience and think hard about how to repackage yourself, you can turn it into a career opportunity (if a painful one).

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.