You are now unemployed. What should you do?

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal May 18, 2020

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, over the past two months many people have been laid off or furloughed as employers were forced to close their businesses or significantly curtail operations. Hopefully, many of those individuals will be recalled, but some won’t.

For those individuals who sense that the pandemic will bring structural change to their company and there may not be a job for them moving forward, this article provides some advice. In my book, “Be Different! The key to Business and Career Success,” I wrote a chapter titled, “You are now unemployed. What should you do?” This article is an update of my thoughts on this subject.

It could happen to anyone during their career – you lose your job. You never know when it could happen to you. Your employer could part company with you for any number of reasons, including those outside of their control like this pandemic. If you don’t think you will be called back to your job, you need to move forward and search for another job. The following guidance, developed over years of personal experience and coaching others, will help you in this process.

Never burn bridges

If you depart your employer on good terms, they may be willing to help you obtain future employment by being a reference or introducing you to potential employers in their network. Remain on friendly speaking terms with your former boss and the HR department. By not burning bridges, they may be more willing to help you land your next job through their industry connections and provide a recommendation for you.

The process of landing your next job starts with your reputation

A future employer will perform due diligence on you. To the extent possible, they will ask your former bosses and colleagues with whom you have worked about your character, ethics and integrity, your accomplishments, and your strengths and weaknesses.

Did you have the respect and trust of those who you led? Did your people have confidence in you? Did you work collaboratively with your peers? Did you have a tyrant working for you who damaged the organization below them and you didn’t address the issue?

If you feel that you have a legal case against a former employer, think twice about filing a suit, which becomes public information. You need to consider the pros and cons of doing so and weigh how it may affect future employment opportunities. You are much better off negotiating a settlement, which by its nature never becomes public.

Differentiate yourself from your peers in every job you hold

Just as businesses differentiate themselves to gain competitive advantage, individuals need to do the same. You will need to differentiate yourself from all of the other individuals applying for a job.

In your resume, differentiate yourself so you are one of the few candidates invited in for an interview. In both your resume and during your interview, talk about innovations that you have developed and initiated. Describe the results you have achieved that have helped your previous employers advance their business. Give examples of how you are tenacious, customer/client focused and embrace continuous improvement.

Describe how you are team-oriented and how you have empowered your direct reports by encouraging them to develop a feeling of personal ownership in what they do.

Get out of your comfort zone to build additional skills

At each job you hold, take advantage of opportunities to advance your skills and build experience and expertise that will qualify you for future assignments. Volunteer for projects outside of your comfort zone.

Manage your personal brand

Ensure your bio, resume, and LinkedIn profile are always up to date. Write and publish articles in areas of your expertise and of interest to readers on industry trends. Speak at industry events. Build a Twitter following and become known as a thought leader and influencer in your industry.

Be careful not to reveal confidential business information in what you say or write. Develop a reputation as being a top performer by potential employers, so you are the one they seek when a job opens within their organization.

Network, network, network

Most likely, you will get your next job through people you know who are aware of a job opening within their company or within the company of a colleague. Meet with those who you know and ask them for job search advice. Ask them to introduce you to others who might also give you guidance.

If you are the boss…

When it comes time to part company with one of your direct reports, treat that individual with dignity and respect. That’s how you would like to be treated.

The day you start a new job, you are preparing for the search for your next job by building your resume. You will look back and realize that going through the job search process, albeit challenging, was an opportunity to grow as an individual and as a professional.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at

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