6 Steps to Apply for a New Job After Being Fired or Laid-off

11 April
4 min read
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Here’s a shortlist of people who were fired at least once in their lifetime: Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Edison, Mozart, J.K. Rowling…you get the point.

All of these famous people used the experience of getting fired as a springboard to bigger and better things.

So believe it or not, getting fired or laid off can be a good thing. It can lead to amazing new opportunities that you never imagined while working at your previous job.

Of course, this post is not suggesting you try to get fired from your job. Trying to get fired by doing something rash is a sure way to taint your reputation and will hurt your chances of getting hired elsewhere.

If you’re unhappy with your current work situation, you should go about resigning in a professional and respectful way.

Step 1 – Take it like a pro

Being fired or laid off can come as a shock. You might take it personally since you placed a certain amount of trust in your former employer. But no matter how hurt or angry you feel, take the bad news in a professional manner. 

Once you’ve been let go, your old company can be useful to you as you look for a new job. Sometimes being fired or laid off isn’t about your personal shortcomings or mistakes so much as it is about your employer needing to downsize.

In that case, your former manager should be willing to provide you with a reference as you apply for positions elsewhere. You can also treat the situation as an opportunity to get feedback on your work and how you might improve in certain areas.

Step 2 - Reflect

After the dust has settled, take a step back and reflect on your previous job. Ask yourself questions like “What did I enjoy about my job?”, “What would I have changed about my work?” and “How could I have improved?”

By asking yourself these questions, you are trying to get a clear picture of whether you should pursue a similar role with a different organization or whether you’d like to have more of a career change. 

If you decide that your former job was the perfect fit for you and that you want something identical, then think about how you could improve your skills or expertise in that area. In other words, what would increase your chances of getting hired for a similar role?

If you decide that you’d like to pursue an opportunity that’s a bit different, think about the skills or experiences that you need improve upon to make that shift possible.

Step 3 – Be productive

Becoming unemployed can be stressful; for instance, financial commitments or needing to provide for loved-ones might mean you need to find a new job right away.

For other people, they may treat getting fired or laid off as an opportunity to be free from working life for a little while. But it’s important to realize that even if you aren’t working, you should stay productive.

When recruiters see long periods of unemployment on a job application, they can’t help but ask why the person has not been working.

You want to be able to prove to these recruiters that even though you didn’t have a formal job, you were committed to improving or learning new skills and gaining new experiences.

As already mentioned, time off is a chance to upgrade your qualifications and knowledge.

You may choose to go back to school, pursue certifications, volunteer or do some freelance work. In each case, you are doing something that increases your value to a future employer.

Step 4 – Update your resume or CV

Part of being productive involves updating your resume or CV. Often people don’t update their resume or CV until they consider or experience a job change.

Therefore, you should have plenty of elements from your previous job that should be added to your resume or CV. Also, be sure to find room for new skills or experiences that you may have gained while unemployed.

Finally, to make sure your resume and CV will be effective for your job search, you need to become familiar with how best practices for resumes, cover letters and CVs may have evolved since the last time you applied for a job.

That way you increase your chances of giving recruiters exactly what they are looking for.

Keep in mind as you prepare your job application materials that you should avoid highlighting the fact that you have been fired or laid off. This is something that the employer will bring up in an interview if they feel it is relevant.

Step 5 – Finding a new job

There are countless ways for finding a job – read about the best job search strategies here

One of the most common and effective job search methods is networking. If you want to get a new job right away after being fired, reach out to existing personal and professional contacts to see if they know of any opportunities.

Beyond speaking with people you already know, you can search for and attend industry events or conferences where you can make new contacts who may provide an entry point to companies you are interested in.

As you network, you will probably be asked why you are looking for a new job. It’s important not to hide the fact that you were fired or laid off.

Be honest about your situation. The same applies for when you get to the point of interviewing for positions.

Step 6 – Interviewing for jobs

When it comes to interviewing for positions after having been fired or laid off from a previous role, most people are afraid of one particular question: “Why did you leave your last job?”

The worry is that once the recruiter finds out that you were fired or laid off, your chances of being hired will go down the drain. Don’t worry. This is not a make or break question.

Recruiters will be more understanding of your situation than you think. What’s most important is that you have a carefully planned answer to this question that will explain to recruiters that you have learned and grown as a result of becoming unemployed.

If you were laid off from your last job as part of a downsizing or restructuring, explain these circumstances and talk about how you have turned the negative event into a positive – for example, by using your time between jobs for learning new skills, volunteering, etc.

If you were fired from your previous job for poor behavior or performance issues, then you may feel a bit hesitant to share the truth.

You don’t have to give specific details about your mistakes; instead, provide a quick overview of the situation, then transition to what you’ve learned from the experience and how it has helped you improve professionally.

Talking about your failures in a truthful and confident manner will be received by recruiters as a sign of someone who is honest, reliable and mature.


So, to recap, if you have the misfortune of being fired or laid off, don’t despair. It happens to most people over the span of their careers.

The important thing is that you treat the situation with professionalism and see the opportunity that comes with it. A great resume and positive attitude will help you get back to work in no time.

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