The 10 Step 'I Just Got Fired' Action Plan

Robert Berger

America is slowly, and I mean slowly, climbing back from soul-crushing unemployment. As the recovery lurches forward, however, there are still many people losing jobs. It's a frightening experience, but one that doesn't have to end badly. Here are 10 steps you can take to get back to work as quickly as possible.

1. Stay calm. Do you remember Chesley Sullenberger? He's the U.S. Airways captain who safely landed an Airbus A320-214 plane in the Hudson River after it struck a flock of Canada geese shortly after takeoff. Throughout the ordeal, he was as cool as a cucumber. The sudden loss of a job is scary. In difficult situations, however, staying calm allows us to think more clearly about our options.

2. Keep the peace. It may bring instant gratification to give your boss or co-workers a piece of your mind as you head out the door. Don't do it. Leaving a job in a hail of fire and brimstone could cost you a much-needed recommendation or leads on a new job.

3. Evaluate your legal rights. A job termination may trigger certain legal rights for the employee. An employee may have the right to severance based on an employment contract or past practice. In addition, discrimination laws may have been violated, depending on the circumstances. The key is to evaluate your legal rights, seeking the advice of an employment attorney if the situation warrants.

4. List your contacts. You likely have many more contacts than you realize. Write down every potential job contact you have, including friends, family, former co-workers and any groups or associations you've joined. The length of the list may surprise you.

5. Update your résumé. It's a good practice to keep your résumé updated at all times. But if you've let yours go, update it now and have a friend review it. There are plenty of online resources with sample résumés to give you ideas.

6. Get connected online. There are plenty of online resources that can connect you to people who may be able to help. Perhaps the best resource is LinkedIn.

7. Search for jobs online. Check out The site is a search engine for job openings and it is very easy to use. You can filter your search in many ways, including by location, field, employer and salary.

8. Consider freelancing. While you search for a job, freelancing is a great way to keep your skills sharp and earn some money. Some who give freelancing a try never return to traditional employment. A recent blog post on FreshBooks lists 17 websites that have freelance opportunities, including oDesk, Elance and iFreelance. If you give freelancing a try, make sure to charge what you're worth. Many freelancers tend to underestimate the true value of what they have to offer.

9. Generate extra income. Until you find your next job, you'll want to generate as much extra income as possible. This may mean taking a temporary job, finding ways to earn extra money from home or both. Give it some thought, and you'll discover many creative ways to make some extra cash.

10. Tighten your belt. The flip side of earning extra money is reducing expenses wherever possible. The first step is to reduce those monthly expenses that don't require a significant change to how you live. Beyond that, you may need to cut expenses to the bone. While it may not be fun, you'll want to prepare yourself and your family for the worst, while hoping for the best.

Rob Berger is the founder of the personal finance and investing blog the Dough Roller.