Bouncing back after the ax

Out of work? Don't sulk; you can make a quick career comeback.

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After punching the clock for four years at Chase Manhattan Bank, getting laid off felt like a slap in the face to Raquel Rubens. "We had heard rumors that there’d be layoffs," says the New York native, but she never thought the ax would swing in her direction. "When I got the news, I was shocked and angry. I thought, ‘How dare they?’ and ‘Why me?’"

No matter who you are or what you do, losing your job is a dramatic event. It’s an unexpected upheaval that can change the course of your life. That’s why it’s crucial that you respond with the appropriate action to get you and your career quickly back on track.

But first the pain. "Before you make any major decisions, take time to deal with your feelings," says Mary Brown, a managing consultant with Drake Beam Morin, an international career consulting firm in Boston. "Get mad, cry, scream, bend a friend’s ear–you must allow yourself to grieve in order to move on."

How far, how fast? Next, you need to focus on your goals. For obvious reasons, the closer you stay to your previous job profile and industry, the less time and effort it will take to land your next job. But then you must decide what’s more important: quickly finding a job, or landing a fulfilling occupation?

Look back to the fixture. Oftentimes, finances drive the need to find a job fast. But if you have the benefit of a severance package or ample savings, take some time to reflect on where you’ve been. It’ll help you decide where to go. Ask yourself these important questions:

  • What impact did you have in your job?
  • Were you pleased with your position?
  • What things were you especially good at?
  • Did this position put your best skills to use?
  • What did you like most about your last job?
  • Then, with the same level of honesty, ask yourself:
  • Were there areas of your performance that needed improvement?
  • What areas of your job did you most dislike?
  • Is the work that you were doing the kind you want to continue?

Searching for these answers will help you determine whether you’re interested in–and suited for–the kind of work you’d been doing. No one wants to be out of work, but losing your job provides an opportunity to stop and evaluate your options and, if you choose, select a new path. Incidentally, says Brown, many people finally find the courage to launch their own businesses.

Reach out. Whether you start your own outfit or land a nine-to-five, you should lean on your contacts to help you make the transition. Chances are the "who you know" rule will open the door to your next gig. Let old colleagues and clients know that you’ve left your job and you’re in the market. Even if you’re still feeling angry, try to be upbeat with those who might provide you with contacts–no

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