Whether or not you saw the pink slip coming, the exit meeting with human resources can still feel like getting hit with a ton of bricks. With the right mindset and attitude, you can certainly get back on track. After all, life isn't about getting knocked down – that's inevitable – it's how you bounce back that truly counts.
1. Take time to grieve. Remember to exhale. Get mad – it's completely OK to feel anger, resentment and sadness – and take it out on a punching bag at the gym. Treat yourself to low-cost retail therapy (celebrity or sports magazine escape, anyone?). Talk to your loved ones and friends. Escape your troubles with laughter at a comedy club. Before you can move on, you have to accept the card that's been dealt and, in many cases, that involves taking time to acknowledge the loss. Let it sink in. Embrace it.
We're not talking a pity party. Rather, recognize it, accept it and then pick yourself up. Yes, this sounds easier said than done but you can do it.
You have no choice but to move forward, and you may be able to see the silver lining here. This could be a blessing that's not-so-in-disguise. Maybe you felt stuck in your job, weren't thrilled with your recent non-challenging workload or had a commute that was physically wearing you down. This could be the exit door you sorely needed.
In any case, without this first step in place, it's much harder to effectively and energetically propel yourself into creating opportunities for the next chapter of your career.
2. Think and dream. Once you've made up your mind to move on (and by the way, it's normal to still feel resentment and other feelings while proceeding to this step, there may not exactly be a hard stop), you can figure out what's next. What do you want to do? Something similar? Maybe a similar job but different industry? Completely different? Take time to pause. Dream. Write in a journal. In her book, "The Artist's Way," Julia Cameron suggests doing morning pages: writing down your stream of consciousness as soon as you wake up every morning.
You don't have to figure everything out in one day. Sit on it. Take your thoughts with you on the treadmill. Dance with them. Bounce them off a mentor and friends. You can always reinvent, rethink and restart. But you have to begin where you are.
3. Plan your elevator pitch, revamp your résumé and work it. Now we get to the action steps. What's your spiel? Even if you don't have clarity about your next steps, at this moment how would you describe yourself succinctly to someone new at your religious service? To the person sitting next to you in the hairdresser's chair?
When there's a gap on your résumé, how will you explain it? In this economy you're not alone. Although October data reflected an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent, the Department of Labor reports the peak was 10 percent in 2009. Telling a prospective employer you were downsized probably won't raise too much concern. They will focus more on what you've done since the termination occurred.
So, since you've been laid off, exactly what have you been doing? Volunteering? Taking classes? Shopping around your résumé? That is, you'll need a revised one. Even if you hadn't updated your CV at your old job to keep it current, you have to start somewhere. Dust it off and incorporate your most recent job responsibilities. Then the real work comes into play: networking.
4. Re-energize your soul. See step No. 1. Repeat. Once you get to the tactical nuts and bolts of preparing your elevator pitch, polishing your résumé and getting out there to network, revisit step one and flesh it out. Instead of dealing with the emotions and financial stressors of the pink slip, now you may have job search stress and fear of the unknown. This is normal but it's all the more reason for taking precious care of yourself.
How are you doing in the business of simply being you, a human being not like any other? How's your energy level? Are you getting enough sleep? Eating healthy? Feeling grateful to be alive? Look at the big picture and how you present yourself to the world. What's your energy like? Your tone of voice? In a sea full of navy and black interview suits during an interview day, do you rock out mentally to a vibrant shade of fuchsia? Make yourself more marketable, approachable and consequently employable.
Vicki Salemi is the author of Big Career in the Big City and creator, producer and host of Score That Job. This New York City-based career expert and public speaker possesses more than 15 years of corporate experience in recruiting and human resources. She coaches college grads individually with an intense Job Search Boot Camp, writes and edits the MediaJobsDaily blog on Mediabistro, and conducts interviews as a freelance journalist with celebrities and notable names. BlogHer named her one of the country's top 25 career and business women bloggers worth reading.