What to do if you lose your job

Avoid acting rashly and take time to get back on your feet.
By Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA

There may come a time in your career when you lose your job. This could be due to reasons outside of your control—a merger or acquisition, or having your employer shut down or relocate. Or you may have done something (that you were possibly not aware of) that caused you to be let go. Whatever the reason, losing your job can seriously disrupt your career plans—and your emotions. Getting back into the job-hunting frame of mind can be a challenge.

Regardless of whether you left your job, or your job left you, there are some steps you should take to get your career back on track. Consider the following:

Take time to regroup. Take a few days or more off to think about your next steps and a strategy for the next few weeks or months. Losing your job may cause you to feel fearful or even angry, which could lead to poor judgment or behaving badly in a reactionary mode. Be aware of how you're feeling, since it may come out during the search process in your tone or attitude.

Understand why you lost your job. If you are unsure of why you lost your job, try to find out. Ask what information your previous employer's representative will or will not share with a prospective employer. If you do know why you were let go, be honest with yourself and others in the process. If necessary, seek out advice on how to tell your story from someone such as a lawyer, a recruiter you trust, a coach, or a mentor.

Don't email blast your résumé. Though you may be tempted, don't immediately blast your résumé off to recruiters, friends, and job postings. Wait until you've had another set of eyes to review it.

Have a plan of action. Update your résumé and any online presence such as LinkedIn. Put together some ideas as to what roles and salary range you will seek. Try to be realistic and flexible: I've known some highly paid CPAs who were rudely awakened as they began their search and were offered lower salaries than they expected. Assess your financial situation so you can determine if you need to find project, temporary, or consulting work while looking for a permanent position.

Try to avoid taking the first job that comes along due to financial pressures if it is not a good fit for you. Otherwise, you could find yourself set back in terms of salary or title. Or you may be unhappy in your new role and find yourself searching for your next job sooner rather than later.

Represent yourself accurately and transparently. Whether applying for a job, interviewing for one (on the phone or in person), or meeting with a recruiter, be forthcoming about why you lost your job when appropriate. Make sure there are no omissions or incorrect statements on your résumé. More than once I have had clients tell me that omissions are not intentional, or even rationalize them by saying they are trying to keep their résumé to one or two pages. However, put yourself in the shoes of hiring personnel. If you were interviewing someone whose résumé had gaps or omissions, or who wasn't clear about why he or she had lost a job, how likely would you be to hire that person?

Apply for unemployment. If you're not sure whether you're eligible for unemployment, ask your previous employer. The employer may tell you it will contest your unemployment claim. Otherwise, you will find out upon applying. Don't be ashamed to apply, either; it is there for a reason.

Don't badmouth your prior employer or its staff. If your situation has left you with negative feelings, figure out a way to share what happened in as positive and factual a way as possible without disparaging anyone. If necessary, seek out a professional, such as a recruiter or a career or life coach, to help you hone your story.

If you haven't had to look for a job recently, review job hunting basics. Research opportunities posted online to better understand the job market and skills employers are looking for. Pick the right references. Vet recruiters. Network and attend professional seminars and events, and request informational interviews.

Losing your job is something that can happen to the best of us. Take it in stride as much as possible, embark upon your journey to find the next role, and hopefully, you will look back and realize it was a blessing in disguise. Good luck!

Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA, is an independent recruiter based in Maryland. To comment on this article, email associate editor Courtney Vien.


Year-end tax planning and what’s new for 2016

Practitioners need to consider several tax planning opportunities to review with their clients before the end of the year. This report offers strategies for individuals and businesses, as well as recent federal tax law changes affecting this year’s tax returns.


News quiz: Retirement planning, tax practice, and fraud risk

Recent reports focused on a survey that gauges the worries about retirement among CPA financial planners’ clients, a suit that affects tax practitioners, and a guide that offers advice on fraud risk. See how much you know with this short quiz.


Bolster your data defenses

As you weather the dog days of summer, it’s a good time to make sure your cybersecurity structure can stand up to the heat of external and internal threats. Here are six steps to help shore up your systems.