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How to avoid freaking out if you lose your job: a step-by-step guide

Losing your job is not an easy, nor a pleasant, experience, but it doesn't need to be a completely debilitating one. People lose their jobs all the time, they do get re-employed, new jobs are created. It’s not necessary to stay in the house until the Euro-zone debt crisis is over.

Usually, if you’re laid off from an investment bank, your former employer will indulge you with some sessions with a careers consultant. In the event that they don’t, or in the event that you’re apprehensive in advance of layoffs, we’ve spoken to careers consultants who work almost exclusively with bankers.

This is what they advise:

1. Look at your budget

First, you need to be realistic.

“Look at your budget and make a realistic timeline of how long you’ve got until you need a new job,” says Julian Rye, head of consulting services at Lee Hecht Harrison. “You need to ask how long your money will last and whether you’re prepared to make any lifestyle changes to make it last longer.”

In the current climate, Rye says people are typically out of the market for six months. If you intend to change careers, you will be out for longer and need to budget for this.

2. Think about your values and what you actually enjoy doing

Before jumping – or trying to jump – into a new job, it’s worth getting a grounding in what you really want to do.

“There’s a high correlation between your values and interests and the things you’re good at,” says Michael Moran, former CEO of outplacement company Fairplace. “Look at what you’re passionate about and interested in.”

Moran suggests creating a "career line": “Go through your resume, job by job, and look at how you spent your time and the elements of each job that you did and didn’t like. Give them a score out of six.”

He also suggests speaking to other people and asking what they think you’re good at. “It’s a technique called ‘best reflected self,'” says Moran. “It will help highlight skills that you may take for granted.

“When we think of ourselves, we tend to think of the big issues,” he adds. “But you might overlook skill-sets like being a good listener.”

3. Conduct a strategic review

Think systematically and analytically about your situation. Based on your skills and values, what do you enjoy doing? Based on your budget, what do you need to do?

“You need to sit down and conduct a strategic review as if you’re a CEO and your family and career are the enterprise,” says Philip Beddows at IDDAS. “Based on your expenditure and career aspirations, you need to come up with several options and a path to achieving them.”

Don’t narrow your options too much. Rye says candidates with banking backgrounds are often able to look for jobs in two or three different silos simultaneously. “Financial services professionals are usually used to working with a level of intensity,” he says.

If you want to make a radical change, it may be worth exploring that option, even if you don’t take it immediately. “Quite often, people will explore something radical, park it and come back to it later after doing more of the same,” says Rye.

4. Write a clear, concise narrative about what you have to offer

“You need to work out what you’re marketing,” says Rye. “What are the things you are offering that can make a difference to people? What will they buy when they buy you?

“You need a transition statement,” he adds. “It needs to be short and succinct, with punchy sentences. It’s something you need to be able to say to people so that you can bring them to a common understanding of who you are and what you can bring to the table.”

If you can provide people with the right kind of language about yourself, they will use it, says Rye. “It’s not enough for them just to be saying you’re a good person,” he points out.

He also advises preparing a way of explaining how you come to be transitioning roles: “You need to find a way of being comfortable explaining your situation: no apologies, no bad-mouthing your former employer.”

5. Build a networking list

Sixty to 70 percent of people who are laid off on Wall Street find new positions as a result of networking, says Rye. “You need to build a very holistic list of all the people you’ve had good interactions with and then have planned approaches – don’t just call everyone and ask if they have a job,” he says.

6. Sort out your resume

“Your resume is your primary marketing document,” says Rye. “It is there simply to get you interviews. It needs to outline everything you’ve achieved during your career, but remember that people typically choose to interview you based on what you’ve achieved in the last three to five years, using the earlier achievements to underpin this decision. So build in lots of short powerful stories, but most should be about your recent successes.

“It’s a document that’s very 'I,'” he adds. “You need to be saying, 'This is what happened faster, more profitably or at less cost, etc. because of my involvement.'"

7. Avoid fear and stasis; persist

“When we fear something, we’re more likely to get it wrong,” says Beddows. “When you avoid fear and pressure, you’ll play a better game.”

How can you avoid fear and pressure when you’re faced with being laid off? “The best way is to stay positively focused and to fill your mind with thoughts that leave no space for the fear to come in,” says Beddows. “It’s very easy to get frozen, but you need to persist, persist and to keep a positive outlook. If you have a negative outlook, that’s the energy you’ll give out to the marketplace. It can be a very grueling war of attrition."

8. Don’t dwell too much on the news

“Don’t be overly influenced by the media,” advises Rye. “They will be constantly telling you all sorts of terrible things about the job market. Things are undoubtedly hard, but you need to be realistic – the reality is that there are always jobs, there’s always churn, there’s always a need for people on Wall Street. Be focused, be persistent and at your best whenever you interact with your marketplace.

“Finding a new job is about controlling the message you put out about yourself, through your network and online and doing as much research as possible to find out what people are buying now,” he concludes.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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