Losing a job can be a huge kick in the gut – regardless of whether it has anything to do with your performance or not. Even if you are a person who doesn’t define themselves by their job while employed, your self-esteem and mental well-being can suffer when you find yourself unexpectedly unemployed. Finding a new gig can mitigate these negative effects, and the good news is there’s a way to get there easier and faster: by having a plan.

Here’s how to get back to work if you’ve recently lost a job.

Stay on top of your industry

As much as you may be down in the dumps, fight the urge to unplug from your industry. To bounce back quickly, and to not miss out on new opportunities, you need to stay on top of the latest technology, certifications, mergers, and developments. Check job listings every day and beat other applicants by applying early – don’t forget that 50% of the new hires apply within the first week of a job posting.

You can also create a job alert on Workopolis to get the latest job opportunities sent directly to your inbox.

Check your previous job description

While you’re checking new jobs, also take stock of all the responsibilities of your old position. What can you use here to enhance your resume? Remember that the key is to match resumes with job descriptions, so the more you can mine your experience for skills and achievements, the easier this process will be. Be honest, but don’t be overly humble. It’s easy to forget tasks and responsibilities, and even easier to undersell past achievements.

Create a portfolio of your past work

No matter how many years of work experience you have, you have probably completed a few projects on the job (or even at school). These can come in handy when applying for new jobs, as they quickly and easily help you illustrate your skill level. Collect as much as you can, and then start building a portfolio of your work. Depending on the kind of work you do, this can be done on a personal website, blog, or an online portfolio site like Portfoliobox.

Prepare to be investigated

Hiring managers these days will not only look at your resume but also your profiles on social networks. If the thought fills you with dread, don’t panic! Be pro-active. Review all your public social media profiles with one question in mind: “If I was an employer, would I hire me?”

Next, get busy updating your resume. On average, a hiring manager takes only 10 seconds to scan a resume, so to get noticed, make sure yours is modern, up-to-date, and succinct.

If you need inspiration, there are some great resources online for resume formats and templates, including Workopolis and social media platforms like Pinterest.

Develop new skills

To get ahead of your peers, take advantage of your time by improving or developing skills that are relevant to your industry or job search (such as learning a new software or taking advanced courses).

Even advancing your knowledge of software you already use can make the difference when in competition for a job. To help, we recently outlined several online resources that can help you boost your career.

Be realistic

Talk to a career coach, recruitment consultant, or a professional headhunter about the current labor marketplace in your industry and set realistic goals and expectations. You can also sign up for the Workopolis newsletter to get job search, resume, and interview tips and advice.

For salary information, check StatsCan, Payscale, or Robert Half to understand what is being offered for similar job titles in your region. Keep in mind, though, that this information should be used as a rule of thumb; your skills, education, and experience can create exceptions.

Network, network, network

Research shows that about 80% of the jobs are secured via networking. Start connecting or reconnecting with your family, friends, professors, former colleagues, and recruiters. There’s no shame in reaching out to these contacts to let them know you’re looking for something new.

You can also build professional relationships by attending events put on by organizations within your industry.

Think positive

Career coach and author Jean Baur recommends using the phrase “in transition” instead of the word “unemployed,” and I think this is a good idea. Being in transition means that you’re going somewhere, and you have a positive outlook on life (and better self-esteem). That, in return, means you will interview more effectively, possibly receive a better offer, and enjoy more career options as a whole.

Regardless of whether you are in transition for the first time or you have dealt with this situation before, adopting these habits can make the process much smoother. Give them a try and good luck with your next job hunt!


Joe Flanagan is the senior career consultant at VelvetJobs – Outplacement Services. His expertise includes hiring, recruitment, interview and resume preparation and when he’s not trying to reduce the unemployment rate you can find him hill hiking and solo traveling the world.