in Career

“I got fired yesterday. I have $35k in savings. What should I do now?”
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Getting let go can be scary. Here’s what I recommended to a software developer who got fired and had a little money saved up.


The question

I got fired yesterday from my programming job. I have $35k in savings. What should I do now?

My answer

I was laid off in 2009, but I didn’t have $35k in the bank at the time, so your situation is much better than mine was. Still, I know how stressful it can be.

Here’s what I did when I lost that job—there may be some practical things you can do right away: Out of Work and Loving It: How I handled my four-month jobless stint (Part 1 of 3)

But that’s not necessarily what you should do because you have money in the bank. Your time off might look more like when I left my job in 2011. In that case, I had some money saved up and I used the time to learn new things and think about my next career move: What I did during my hiatus from the working world (Part 1 of 3)

I took this post’s picture in Seattle during that hiatus in 2011. I’m from Florida, so I was a long way from home. It was an amazing trip that I wouldn’t have taken if I was working full time.

Don’t rush it

You’ll notice a trend with my suggestions: Most of them are ways to get out of your head and find somewhere to focus the energy you were expending at work. You have some money in the bank, so it’s not imperative that you find a new job tomorrow.

In this case, I think quantity is better than quality—the more ideas you have, the more likely you’ll find something that resonates. So here are a bunch of things you might want to do.

I’m sure people will definitely disagree about this, but I recommend resisting the impulse to go get a job–any job–just to get back to work. Odds are you wouldn’t choose the best job for you. Take some time and think about what you want to do next. It’s ok to take some time and spend some of your savings—that’s what it’s there for.

Consider freelancing

Depending on what stack(s) you have experience with, you may have expertise that’s in demand right now. You might be able to find work immediately by freelancing. You can probably think of one or two people who might make introductions to potential clients—give them a call, let them know you’re available and see if you can pick up some work.

You could also put out a call on social media letting your network know that you’re available for freelancing work with XYZ technologies.

Take a couple weeks and relax

If you were fired, it’s a safe bet you were under some stress before you were let go. And you’re definitely under a lot of stress now. But you were smart and saved up your money so that this isn’t catastrophic for you. Take a couple weeks and relax, clear your head, think about your next steps.

The reason I didn’t list this first is that freelancing work will likely take some time to come to fruition, so you might as well get that process started now and then relax while things come together.

Travel a little bit

$35k isn’t enough to go travel the world indefinitely, but you can go visit some friends, see a new city, or just get out of town for a little bit. Take advantage of that. If you’re in a cold part of the country, go somewhere warmer for a little while. You might as well travel while you relax.

Learn something new

You’ve probably been itching to try a new language for a while now. Now’s your chance to immerse yourself in something new to see how you like it. This has the added bonus of enhancing your resume for when you start job hunting again.

Make something

You could write a short eBook or build a prototype for an app or game that you’ve been thinking about. I don’t recommend starting out with a 1,000-page novel—do something small just to get a quick win. My friend Justin Jackson just started the 2016 Maker Challenge—maybe the challenge could motivate you and give you somewhere to focus your energy while you think about what’s next. Here’s a link: 2016 Maker Challenge

Do a small home improvement project

Paint your living room. Replace the old faucet in your bathroom. Do something with your hands. I like to do these projects with a podcast playing in the background. The focus needed to paint a wall and listen to a podcast helps me forgot about other stress for a while.

Read my book so you’re prepared when it’s time to start interviewing and negotiating

This could be an opportunity for you to find a great new job and get paid what you’re worth when you do—don’t squander it.

Fearless Salary Negotiation on Amazon

Or at least download the free chapter on “How to ace your next interview” so you have it handy when you’re ready to jump back into the workforce.

Just don’t waste this opportunity. It is an opportunity, even if it doesn’t seem that way. You prepared for this day by saving up—most people don’t do that. Now you have an opportunity to think about what you want to do next, learn something new, and position yourself for the next phase of your career.