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Moving Forward After Job Loss

When you’ve lost your job, you may want—or need—to find another job right away. But taking the time to explore all your options now could help you move toward a more rewarding future.

Losing your job could be the catalyst that leads you to new things in life. These 4 steps will help you figure out what you want from life and work, and how to make that happen.

1. Take stock of your situation

When you’ve been let go, it’s easy to think that your old job is all you know. But your life goals and experiences are worth a lot. Many skills you’ve learned will transfer to new jobs and situations.

Because the world of work is always changing, you’ll need to step back from time to time and review what you think you know about the current labour market. Besides thinking about how outside influences like the economy have changed the labour market, you should also consider how your own values may have changed.

What you want from your career in the future may be different from what you wanted from your career in the past.

Visualize your future

Visualizing your future will help you stay focused and energized, and help you make better decisions. You can start with these steps:

  1. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Breathe deeply and relax.
  3. Ask yourself these questions:
    • What impact do I want to make in the world through my career?
    • If I could be or do anything, anywhere, anytime, what would I be doing?
    • What would I be working at?
    • How would I spend my personal time?
    Take your time finding the answers. Try not to limit yourself.
  4. Picture what you want clearly in your mind:
    • Who am I with?
    • What am I doing?
    • How do I feel?
  5. Record your thoughts in detail.

If you need help with visualization, use the questions and prompts in this vision exercise to paint a clear picture of what you really want out of life and work. When you need to make a decision for your career, choose the path that will take you closer to the future you visualized.

You now have a clear idea of where you want to be. Next, take some time to figure out where you are today.

Learn more about yourself

Knowing where you’re starting from will help you make a good decision about the next step to take. Find out who you are and what’s important to you by asking yourself some questions:

  • What motivates me?
  • What do I feel strongly or passionately about?
  • What does work mean to me?
  • What satisfaction does work bring?
  • What parts of work do I value?
  • What parts of life do I value?

To help you dig deeper into who you are, and your likes and dislikes, complete the quizzes and exercises in the Know Yourself section of CAREERinsite.

Also, think about what else may affect your current situation, such as:

  • Do you have child-care or other family responsibilities that could affect your hours of work?
  • How will you get to work?
  • What is the longest time you would want to spend getting to work?
  • Are there other things that may affect the kind of work you can do, such as a medical condition or a criminal record?

Assess your traits and skills

Consider your talents and personal traits:

  • Are you a good organizer?
  • Are you a big-picture thinker, or are you more of a detail person? 
  • Are you a natural coach and teacher?
  • Are you trustworthy? Reliable? Willing to learn new things?

Which talents will help you achieve your future goals? Which ones could use some polishing up? Which of your skills or areas of expertise would you like to share with others?

Pinpoint your special skills:

  • Are you a computer whiz?
  • Are you fluent in a second language?
  • Do you have a knack for helping people get along with each other?
  • Is multi-tasking as natural to you as breathing?

You can put these talents and skills on your resumé, and talk about them in your job applications and in interviews.

“I got my degree in forestry and then worked for the same company for 30 years. When my sawmill closed down, I thought forestry was all I knew. But today, I run my own construction business and serve as my company’s general contractor. The people skills I fine-tuned at the mill have served me well. And every day, I use the planning, scheduling and project management skills I picked up on the way.”

You can use the following tools to help assess your talents and skills:

When you have a good understanding of who you are, you can choose the right options to lead you to the future you want to live in.

2. Explore your options

Start thinking about how you can turn your job loss into an opportunity. The important thing to remember is that you do have options. See if any of the following options will work for you.

Find a new job in the same field

This may be a good choice for you if:

  • Jobs are available where you want to live.
  • The economic outlook for your industry is promising and likely to be secure.
  • You’re qualified for the positions you would apply for.
  • You enjoy the work.
  • Working in this field will help you achieve your personal and career goals.

Another option to think about is changing the industry you work in. Maybe other industries also hire people in your line of work.

Relocate

Think about each location you’re considering by asking yourself these questions:

  • Are there job openings in your field? If not, what is the unemployment rate?
  • What will it cost to move?
  • What will it cost to live there?
  • What is the rental vacancy rate and the cost of housing?
  • How will this affect your family and friends?

Change your occupation

If changing the type of work you do makes sense, think about these things:

Upgrade your skills

A job loss can be an opportunity to upgrade your skills, retrain, or start a new course of study. Consider some points:

  • Will going back to school advance your career?
  • Can you pay for your learning? This can include getting special funding or student loans.
  • Have you researched your education options? Do you have the prerequisites you need? To find out, visit Post-Secondary Programs on OCCinfo.
  • Have you looked at the short-term training programs offered in the Employment and Training Services Directory?
  • Have you looked into certifications that don’t require you to go back to school full time? For example, getting a driver’s licence or changing your licence class can open up new job opportunities.
  • Can you get recertified if your training is outdated?
  • Does your union, professional association, local library, or post-secondary school’s alumni centre offer any training options?

Try self-employment

If you enjoy a real challenge, you may want to think about becoming self-employed and setting up your own business:

  • Buy a franchise.
  • Set up or join a partnership.
  • Run a home-based or mail-order business.
  • Create and market a new product or service.
  • Research business startup programs in your community.
  • Check out Business Link for help with turning your idea into a business.

Find an alternative to traditional work

In today’s job market, you can choose many ways to work, including freelancing, job-sharing, telecommuting, and much more. You may be able to earn money in the gig economy using platforms that give a worker with skills short-term or long-term work. Some platforms focus on delivery services, odd jobs, or even caring for pets. Discover other alternatives to traditional work.

Retire

It isn’t an option for everyone, but if you’re thinking about retirement, consider the following: 

  • Do you really want to retire, or do you feel you have no choice?
  • Can you afford to retire?
  • Have you done any retirement planning?
  • Will retirement or semi-retirement help you reach your goals?

Volunteer

“A good friend encouraged me to volunteer with a not-for-profit. I was wallowing in self-pity. But I had nothing else to do, so I decided to give it a try. As it turned out, they really needed someone with management experience. Within 5 weeks, I was hired as their executive director. It was like a dream come true!”

It can be rewarding to support your community by offering your time and skills. You can build your career, learn new skills, and get work experience. Volunteer Alberta can help you find a placement.

3. Make your choices and set goals

Once you’ve gathered information about your options, it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of each choice and make a decision.

Do your homework

To make a wise choice, research the ins and outs of all your options. You can do this in many ways:

  • Use resources on the internet, in government or community resource centres, or in the public library. 
  • Talk to people who work in jobs that interest you.
  • Use your support network to find out about possible work or to connect with people who can give you information or advice.
  • Use informational interviews to learn more about a job, an employer, or an industry.

Make a decision

Now that you’ve gathered your facts, you’re in a good position to make a choice that’s best for you. Think about the pros and cons of each option as you decide:

  • How does each choice match up with your wants, needs, values, and circumstances?
  • What’s the best choice for you at this stage of your life?

Gary went back to school to prepare for a new career.

Gary was the manager of a gas drilling rig when his notice of termination came. After several years of low natural gas prices, his company could no longer compete.

Weeks of checking online and scouring the classified ads led to 2 drilling companies asking for his resumé.

“A resumé? I’d been working in the same place for nearly 18 years. I didn’t have a resumé, and I didn’t have a clue how to do one.

“A buddy who was out of work last year told me where he got his done. So I went to Alberta Supports and they showed me how to do my own.

“The guy there asked me a bunch of questions that got me thinking. Anyway, the long and short of it is that I decided to go back to school.”

After doing some career exploration, Gary enrolled in a computer technology program at a post-secondary institute.

“I was kind of tired of doing the same thing for so long, and I had always wanted to get into computers.”

Set goals

To change your life, you need to turn your dreams into goals. To reach your goals, you need to be clear on what you want. You need to be SMART about it. That means breaking your goals into pieces that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-related

When you don’t define your goals, it’s like leaving for a trip but not knowing where you’re going. Read some examples and try setting your own SMART goals.

4. Develop an action plan

Dreams are wonderful, and coming up with specific goals is even better. But you need to take action if you want to move toward your imagined future.

Where do you begin?

An action plan is a step-by-step strategy to reach your goals. Start with your goals and plan backwards. Break each goal into smaller steps—short-term goals—and figure out how you’ll achieve them.

Take the SMART goals that you set for yourself and develop an action plan for each one using this form as a template.

If you choose the option of finding another job, let everyone know that you’re looking for work. Use your network, both online and in person. Someone you already know may be the key to finding your next job.


Lots of people just like you have lost their jobs and moved on to build successful and meaningful new careers. You can too, by knowing exactly what you want out of your career, setting some goals, and making plans for a great future.​

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