A job loss can be overcome by hard work and imagination

Whether it's the financial-services sector, the newspaper industry or elsewhere, you don't have to look far to find news of steep job cuts.

As long as it's not happening to you, they're simply sad statistics. But when it comes close to home — when it's you or someone in your family or circle of friends — suddenly, the job losses become frighteningly tangible.

A job is often an integral part of one's identity. Without work, It doesn't take long for some people to drift so far out to sea they can't find their way back to shore up finances, as waves of bills threaten to drown them.

It doesn't have to be that way. If you face a sudden job loss and you haven't had the opportunity to plan your next career move, be smart about your unemployment situation.

1. File fast. File an unemployment claim immediately so that income will start to flow to cover your mortgage or car payment. You can always cancel the unemployment benefits if you get a job tomorrow.

2. One month. Give yourself one month to find a new job of your caliber. Period.

If you don't find a job right away, make arrangements to earn money somehow, so you don't lose your home.

3. Get in touch. Start your job search by deciding where you want to live. Get in touch with your contacts. You know people; talk to them. If they know of a good fit, they'll help you. Your contacts are the fastest way to get re-situated.

4. Go to the job boards. Scour the high-end job sites, including TheLadders.com, Robert Half, CareerBank.com, Execunet.com and the regular lists, including Monster, Craigslist, etc. Get your resume out there.

5. Practice. If you haven't had to look for a job for a while, you need practice interviewing. Start with jobs you know you won't get, just for the interviewing practice. Pick interesting jobs that pay well enough. Why? You might accidentally get a job offer.

6. Schedule. Once you've developed a functional interview style, wardrobe and confidence, schedule interviews with jobs you really do want.

7. Go temp. If this is taking more than a couple of weeks, find a temporary agency or job shop where you can get some immediate revenue. Specify that you need to have time off for interviews; perhaps you want one day a week set aside for that purpose. This will give you enough income to cover some expenses. Incidentally, companies often hire their temporaries after seeing the caliber of their work, and it's a great way to get your foot in the door without an interview. You will have access to top executives in a more casual atmosphere.

8. Rethink your options. You're not getting hired right away? Perhaps it's time to rethink your career path. This is a good time to look at what you really want to do with your life. Is there something you always wanted to do, and set it aside to make a living? This is your opportunity to start over in a new direction.

9. Back to school. Use the time to get re-educated and retrained. Some state unemployment systems will pay for retraining. Also, some corporate exit services will help you.

10. Start a business. Many businesses can be started from home with very little capital, and will start generating revenues quickly. You'll add excitement and freshness to your life.

11. Get real. Whatever you do, don't sit at home and mope because you can't get a job that pays what you used to earn. Deal with reality. Do any work you can, even if it means fast-food service, to cover your family's essential living expenses.

12. Talk it over. Have conversations with your family, get them to understand that everyone is going to pitch in and actively cut costs. If your children offer to get part time jobs to help out, let them. They may be your lifeline until you get reestablished.

Don't let your job loss or business failure overwhelm you. Don't go it alone. Accept help. Make your entire family and circle of friends and contacts a part of your solution and strategy. Be prepared to do any work at all to cover your costs.

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