'13 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Unexpectedly Lost My Job'

Women back to work When I lost my job I wasn't exactly shocked. I didn't expect it to happen, but I'd seen the upheaval in our company and could read a room.

So when the "efficiency consultant" and the publisher asked me to come in "for a chat," I knew I'd soon be packing up my desk.

It was a week before Christmas and I wasn't the only one. The leaders who dismissed us told us all to be out by the end of the day.

After I received the news, I called a friend who worked nearby. "Can I store my stuff at your office? I need to go get a drink," I asked. He said of course, and within an hour of having been "let go," I was out of there.

I had never been unemployed in my life. I got my first job, a paper route, when I was 12, and started an after-school job at McDonald's on my 15th birthday.  So to be unemployed suddenly was a slap in the face.

I didn't take it well.

I got drunk. I got angry. I "took a holiday" for three weeks when I really should have been job hunting, and I allowed myself to wallow in my hurt for way too long.

For the most part, I was in denial. I couldn't believe I was unemployed. I was completely unprepared for what that would feel like.

So in the spirit of helping someone else avoid the extended pain I inflicted on myself, here are all the things I wish I knew before I lost my job.

1. Have savings

Look, it's obvious, I know. But if you don't start putting away a little bit of your paycheck every month now, you're going to struggle immediately when you lose it.

Make it easy. Get an account you can't withdraw from easily and set up a direct transfer on the day you get paid. That way you'll never have to think about it and eventually, you'll forget that money even exists until you really need it.

2. Have a plan

No one wants to think about losing her job. We all want to leave on our own terms (to a great new job!). Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way.

So have a backup plan. Keep your resume updated. Have a list of companies you'd like to work at and keep up to date on what's happening at them. Make contacts at those places and maintain relationships with people you've worked with before.

3. Have no shame

Call your old bosses, people who you know like you and respect you as an employee and ask them if there are any jobs going. If there are, chances are that people who know you, who you parted with on good terms, will want to help if they can.

Use your networks and work them as hard as you can.

4. Don't ditch your routine

Did you usually to get up to work at 8 a.m. every day? Did you eat dinner at seven? Keep doing those things. Keep going to the gym or hot yoga or whatever your exercise jam is. Don't throw your routine out the window just because you're unemployed.

5. Don't be afraid to ask for help from friends and family

Being unemployed is scary—and can be isolating. After I lost my job I felt like a total failure. I was ashamed of myself and spent a lot of time on my own, hiding from all my "successful" friends. But your friends don't care if you're "successful," and they want to help you. Take advantage of their help and speak up when you need support.

6. Be honest about your finances

Don't accept invitations to brunches, dinners, movies, gigs, whatever, if you can't really afford it. Your friends want to spend time with you, not an Instagramable matcha latte and whole wheat berry waffles.

Suggest free things, like strolling in the park or window shopping on your favorite street instead of the expensive outings you might have agreed to when you had a salary.

7. Get professional help if you need it

Listen to yourself, and listen to your friends and family. If you aren't coping, seek out professional help. Being unemployed sucks. It really makes you feel worthless and hopeless. Try not to succumb to those feelings—and if you do, ask for professional help to get you back on track.

8. Don't be hard on yourself

After I lost my job I had two job interviews where it ended up being between me and one other person. I didn't get either job.

The first one went to someone who was already filling the position on a temporary contract, while the second went to someone with 15 more years experience.

I didn't do anything wrong. I just ran out of luck. There was literally nothing else I could have said or done that would have secured either of those jobs for me. It sucks, but it's true. And beating yourself up about it isn't going to help.

9. Build your resilience

Going to interview after interview is exhausting, and can be a really soul-destroying process if you are constantly being turned down. Always be prepared for no. Don't set all your hopes on one job or one path. Have a plan for what you'll do when you don't get the next job.

10. Make time for fun

Host a pot-luck dinner, get your friends round for board games, keep up with your book club (or join one), have outside interests.

Don't let your search for work consume you entirely. Equally, if you have a job, don't live and breathe it. Because if you do end up out of work, you will need a network of other things to do with your time and other people to spend your days with. Don't neglect this stuff, employed or not.

11. Be prepared to compromise

Working as a barista might be some people's ideal job, but if it isn't yours, that doesn't mean it's not something you should consider while you wait for your ideal job to come along.

You need to pay your bills. Take the work you can get and keep looking for that job-unicorn. It's out there somewhere.

12. You do have a job: Applying for jobs

Oh boy. You've rewritten that cover letter 65 times and you've lost count of how many ways you can sound enthusiastic in 100-word answers to bland questions.

The important thing is to put yourself out there, every day, for every single job you think you'd be good at. Don't let the rejections knock you around. Don't succumb to the lure of bed and Netflix.

I promise, getting up, having a shower, getting dressed and "going to work," even if work is just your kitchen table, will make the whole applications process much more palatable.

13.  And always remember, it won't last forever

Yep, I know, it seems like it will. But if you keep your chin up, you'll get through.

This story is part of Spring.St's Back to Work series. You can find more here.