13 steps to help you deal with losing your IT job

Even talented IT pros can be the victim of a downsizing or reorg. These tips will help you work your way out of a worst-case scenario

Most would agree that losing financial stability is the worst of it. Whether you're single, a sole provider or married with kids, just the thought of suddenly being unemployed can bring many sleepless nights. However, beyond the financial impact, we oftentimes don't consider how much of our identity is tied to what we do professionally.

"Job loss is an understandably emotional time. Many people use this time to be upset or lash out, and that's understandable, but you still need to be thinking about the next steps necessary to move forward," says career strategist and resume writer Stephen Van Vreede. Experts agree that the only way out of this situation is to build a plan and then work the plan.

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To help you get back on track as quickly as possible, we spoke with a CIO, a career strategist and IT staffing firm Modis to see what they advise people in their network to do when they wind up in this scenario.

Step 1: Accept your situation

The first step, according to Matt Ripaldi, vice president of Modis, is to accept it. "The most common thing I see is that people have a difficult time accepting it right away. Some people waste time thinking 'maybe I can save this or is this really happening,' but you just have to accept it," says Ripaldi.

Step 2: Take a moment to reflect
"Getting things rolling is important, but you want to know what you're moving towards," says Van Vreede. Unless you have a good severance package, you can't always afford to take an extended break and examine what you want to do and then re-educate yourself accordingly. However, anyone in this situation should take at least some time to step back and take stock of their professional goals.

"Are you not passionate about your previous job? In that case, although it's unfortunate you've lost your job, you can use this as an opportunity to move in a different direction. A lot of times you just need to take a deep breath and ask yourself, 'is this really a blessing in disguise?'"says Ripaldi.

Step 3: Bridge the gap
If you aren't already doing what you're passionate about, perhaps now is the time to build a plan to get there. "Job loss often forces people to assess the direction of their career. It may even be an opportunity to change careers and find a profession that is more fulfilling or more aligned with your skills and aspirations,"says Caitlin Sampson of Regal Resumes. From a certification standpoint, there a number of different online choices depending on what your specializations are. Local state and county colleges are also a great place to start to add IT skills and certifications.

Step 4: Clean up your social media profiles
"We always recommend clients update their social media profiles like LinkedIn right away, and then their resumes second. The first place most recruiters and hiring managers look is your LinkedIn profile," says Ripaldi.

Be sure your LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ profiles are up to date and are focused on the role you are trying to attain. Update your personal brand via your social profiles and resume by articulating what value you add to a prospective employer's company. Try looking at the social profiles of people in the position you are applying for to find the commonalities like keywords, skills highlighted and so on.

Step 5: Avoid surprises
You also want to Google your name, says Ripaldi. "You want to find out what comes up because a lot of times you need to be aware of what's out there in regards to your personal branding." You don't want to go into an interview and be blind-sided by some thought you posted two years ago or a picture that needs explaining.

Step 6: Update your resume
When it comes to your resume, says Ripaldi that "you want it to be no more than two pages and almost like a basic template, then as you respond to different openings that's when you'll decide what skills to highlight in your resume. If you've been in the IT world for any length of time then your skills will likely fill up more than two pages. You really need to target to whatever position you responding to."

Your resume should be up-to-date with all of your latest work experience, education, training and career highlights, according to Sampson. "Review your performance reviews and include applicable achievements, training, courses, and/or relevant responsibilities.

Getting help writing a new resume is probably good idea, especially if you haven't updated it for some time. According to Ripaldi, statistics show that a professionally written resume tends to get a better response so help with writing a new resume is probably good idea. That may be especially true if you haven't updated it for some time.

There's also a lot of material out there that you can purchase or read yourself. For example, books, articles and tips walk you through resume-writing and brand-building process.

Step 7: Reach out to your network
Be active, communicate and talk to your network. Try to make your messaging positive and upbeat. "Some people are hesitant to talk about it, but we counsel our clients and candidates that it can happen in the course of your career and it's OK to talk about. If your company was in the middle of a reorg or layoff and you were affected by that, it's OK," says Ripaldi.

When it comes to social networking, says Ripaldi, you should act immediately. "Reach out to your network and let them know you're looking for a change or a new opportunity. If people ask what's causing the move, simply explain that the company is reorganizing and you're looking for your next contract position, your next full-time position or for the next opportunity."

Depending on the contact, you can go into more detail or not. Just make sure you're focusing on where you're going next. That is, focus on the next opportunity and what your skills are that can help that contact.

"How you frame it is very important. You don't want to appear like a charity case," says Van Vreede. "You don't want to put too much pressure on people and make them feel as if you're counting on them to get you a job."

You don't want to burn any bridges here, so again keep your messaging upbeat and when people ask, be prepared to articulate a solid answer. "People take job loss personally and because of this they speak poorly about their past employer, manager and/or co-workers. It is crucial to remain professional throughout the process. If you maintain a neutral relationship with your previous employer, this can provide the opportunity for a potential reference in the future," says Sampson.

Step 8: Use tradeshows, groups, projects and user groups to network
IT pros can also reach out to the LinkedIn groups they participate in and any relevant developer groups that they are a member of. If possible, attend any relevant trade shows that are in your area.

Step 9: Create an elevator pitch
The other thing you want to work on, according to Ripaldi, is your elevator pitch -- a short, well-articulated story that highlights what separates you from all the other people out there doing the same job. "When you tell people that story, they should know what you do and, if it's done the right way, they should remember you," says Ripaldi.

Step 10: Consider contract work
As an IT pro, taking a contract position can be a way to build new skills or fill the financial gap that losing your job causes. "You've got to pay your bills, but experts warn that the stopgap measure that gets the funds rolling in oftentimes turns into a situation where a year later you're asking yourself, "How did I get here?"

"You've got to ask yourself, what do I want to do moving forward?'" says Van Vreede. Remember taking a contract position is a stopgap measure unless you plan on remaining independent indefinitely; you still need to devote the proper amount of time to finding a new position that matches your skillset and needs.

Step 11: Use the right email address
A lot of job searching happens online so make sure you are using an appropriate email address to conduct your job hunting. "Always use a personal email address for your job search. Ensure that the address is professional -- for example, firstname.lastname@serviceprovider.com. Another affordable option is to purchase a personalized domain from a domain registry, such as www.godaddy.com for as little as $6/year. This ensures privacy, provides customization and separates work from personal emails," says Sampson.

Step 12: Speak with HR
Make sure you take the time to find out from HR how to apply for Cobra health benefits. Alternately, if you have a spouse you could get put on his or her policy.

Depending on how many people are being terminated, outplacement services such job search and resume help may be available.

Step 13: Don't be too hard on yourself
Losing a job is difficult, but it's important to remain positive and focused on the task at hand. If you just sit back and listen to yourself that's when doubt sets in and that will make your transition more difficult. Try to not listen to yourself; you'll be focusing on the challenges a little too much. This may put you in a negative frame of mind. Try giving yourself words of encouragement and go over your plan. Tell yourself: "Here's what I'm going to do, these are the companies I'm going to target, these are the companies that I could be of value to, here is my plan for this week." Give yourself the opportunity to get through this period of transition.

Rich Hein is a senior writer for CIO.com. He covers IT careers. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and onGoogle +.

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This story, "13 steps to help you deal with losing your IT job" was originally published by CIO.


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