Careers advice

What to do when you suddenly lose your job

Stepping stones to help you get back on your feet.

What you’ll learn:

  • What to do when you lose your job
  • How to upskill yourself when you lose your job

Losing a job is never easy to cope with, but can be especially rough if you didn’t see the layoff coming.

Being made unemployed can feel like having the rug ripped from under your feet, and it can take a while to process what this means, both now and in the days and weeks to come. 

If you’re in this situation, and not sure which way to turn, we hope the advice in this article will help you make a plan. You got this.

What to do when you lose your job

1. Acknowledge your emotions

It’s perfectly normal to feel a whole host of emotions when you lose a job. This can range from sadness, to embarrassment to anger – all of these are perfectly normal. While different people deal with setbacks differently, it’s important you give yourself time to take in what’s happened.

In particular:

  • Avoid beating yourself up: while a degree of self-reflection can be helpful in these circumstances, there’s nothing to be gained from putting yourself down and blaming yourself for what happened. Not only is this damaging from a mental health perspective, you’ll need to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses, in your upcoming job interviews. 
  • Use your support networks: talking to other people not only allows you to vent, it can help you see different perspectives. This can be particularly helpful if you’re struggling to get past what happened, or unsure of where to go for new opportunities.
  • See this situation as temporary: this is a lot easier said than done, but it’s crucial to avoid seeing your current situation as permanent. There are opportunities out there for new jobs, you just need to position yourself to grasp them.

Your support networks will be invaluable resources in stressful periods.

2. Look after yourself

As well as not beating yourself up about losing your job, it’s important to take proactive steps to look after your wellness. This type of life hiccup can have a broad range of impacts on your physical health as well as your mental health, including not sleeping due to stress about money, to eating poorly or neglecting your social life. It’s important that you don’t become so fixated on resolving your employment situation that all of this other important stuff falls by the wayside.

3. Don’t define yourself by your job

A big part of achieving both of the above points is by realising that you’re more than your job. This can sound obvious, but it’s often easier said than done. Most people spend the majority of their week at work, so it’s easy for this to become a defining feature of who you are, after all, think about how many times one of the first things someone has asked you has been “What do you do?”.

While losing a job is an unpleasant experience at best, it does offer an opportunity to sit back and take a bird’s eye view of where you are and what you want. If you think that you’ve become too wrapped up in your professional life, and perhaps don’t have the best work-life balance, this could be a moment to consider how you could improve this situation moving forwards. For example, you might realise that you want to spend time doing more of the things you love, and look for a next job that will allow you to do this. Alternatively, you may want to spend more time with your friends and family, and therefore seek out employment that provides you a bit of additional flexibility.

4. Take stock of your financial situation

One of the greatest stressors when you lose your job is how you’re going to cope without an income. There are two particularly important things to do to get on top of this:

  • Reassess your budget: look at how and where you’re currently spending money. Are there any expenses you could cut out or reduce until you’re back in full-time work?
  • Are you eligible for support: there are government support schemes for Kiwis who are looking for jobs. You can check out whether you’re eligible and how these systems work on the Work and Income website.

Getting into this hard stuff as early as possible will help you avoid additional stress further down the track, especially if you can’t find a job for a while. Budgeting and organising your finances can also help you feel like you’re regaining control over your situation following the turbulence of job loss

5. Think about your next steps

If your only concern is getting back into work ASAP, and you want to continue in your former field, you can probably give this section a miss and head straight to point four.

However, if you’re not so sure that you were in the right place, this could be a good time to take an objective look at your career and where it's heading. If you weren’t really enjoying what you were doing prior to losing your job, why was this? People fall out of love with jobs for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The company: did you feel your former organisation wasn’t the right culture fit for you?
  • The field: maybe it’s time for a bigger shift and you’re considering changing careers. This can be scary, but with the right preparation you can make it work.
  • The role: perhaps you’re happy with the sector you’re in, but weren’t getting what you wanted for the specific role you were in. In this case, it’s time to consider whether it’s time to change jobs.

Dedicating time to assessing whether you were heading in your desired direction means you can tailor your next job hunt accordingly, and hopefully your next job will be more aligned with your career goals.

This could be an opportunity to reflect on where you want your career to go.

6. Begin your next job hunt

By definition, sudden job loss means you weren’t expecting to be on the job hunt. If you’re out of practice in searching, and applying for, jobs, you should think about:

  • Creating, or updating, your Trade Me Jobs Profile: our online job profile allows recruiters and employers to find and approach you with relevant job vacancies based on your skills and experience. This helps you cast your job hunting net further than the roles you actively find.
  • Polishing your CV and cover letter: CVs and cover letters remain the bread and butter of job applications in New Zealand. We’ve got heaps of advice on how to write CVs and cover letters that will help you stand out from the crowd.
  • Job interview preparation: once your CV and cover letter have grabbed their attention, you need to seal the deal by putting your best foot forward in a job interview. This involves preparing answers to common job interview questions. Note, this might include questions around why you lost your job, so be prepared to explain this as well as you can.

How to upskill yourself when you lose your job

One of the best ways to spend time when you’re between jobs is looking to find ways to upskill yourself. Not only can this help to restore confidence in yourself during your next job search, employers love to see candidates who take their own personal development seriously, so this will be of benefit when you start applying.

There are two particularly good ways to upskill yourself when you aren’t working:

  • Online courses: there are heaps of good free or cheap online courses available that you can use to upskill yourself, ranging from coding to Te Reo Māori and everything in between.
  • In-person learning: many colleges and schools offer evening or weekend courses for adults, if in-person learning is more your cup of tea. Again, there are a huge range of courses available. A great place to start are the ACE courses which run out of local community centres, schools, polytechnics, institutes of technology, wānangas or private training organisations.

*We hope this article has provided some helpful information. It's based on our experience and is not intended as a complete guide. Of course, it doesn’t consider your individual needs or situation.