OK, you’ve been fired. Breathe in. Breathe out. You can handle this. (Really, you can. I promise.)

Here are some tips to get you through today and the next few days:

  1. Don’t burn your bridges. Even if you won’t be using this job on your resume or you are certain you will be changing fields, do not make a spectacle of yourself. Don’t yell or cuss or scream. Don’t trash your boss or the HR manager or even the physical office space. Cry if you must (I did), but keep it professional. You never know who is listening/watching and who will re-surface in your work life again. Everyone is connected, whether in person or on social media, and you don’t want to be remembered as someone who lost their job then lost their cool.
  2. Your stuff. If you are still on the premises, take anything important with you. Do you have awards or honors you can take home? Any materials that might be included in a work portfolio? If the writing was on the wall, hopefully you printed some things out and already have them at home. If management tells you not to take anything, then you must comply. Don’t try to be sneaky because getting caught could do you a lot more harm.
  3. Put yourself in a bubble. Go to a safe/comfortable place and process what has happened. If you have people who will love and support you (not berate or question), go to them. Don’t go get drunk at the bar. Don’t sit in the dark alone and sob. Don’t do anything you would regret tomorrow or next month. It’s not worth it. Truly. Give yourself time. It may take you a few hours or a few weeks to wrap your head around getting fired or laid off. For some, it’s a relief. For others, it’s practically a death sentence. Time helps.
  4. Make a list. When you are in a clear-headed place, grab a notebook or your favorite app to jot some things down. There are some immediate things to do like assessing your financial picture: can you make rent or pay the mortgage? for how long? do you have savings? what can you trim from your spending? Get your resume shiny and ready to go. If it’s been a while, have someone knowledgeable review it and give you honest feedback or higher a professional to help you. Make a list of places to apply to and who you want to use for references, both professional and personal. Can you apply for unemployment? Do you have insurance options? Look in to both.
  5. Look before you leap. Do not, I repeat, do not apply for any jobs yet. You will, but not right away. Start searching for positions and sign up for job alerts, but wait before you apply. Take time to craft your resume and cover letter; it should be tailored to each and every position you apply to. Don’t just apply now because you are panicking or fearful…each application should be treated with care and effort. Update your LinkedIn profile. Start to network.
  6. Give yourself a break. This thing that happened to you does not need to define you. It is a major life event, yes, but it is not your whole life. You may grieve. You may howl at the wind. You may cry on your pillow. It’s ok. You are ok. Make time for yourself. Go out to lunch with friends. Go see a matinee. Walk in the park with your dog. See your family.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.