Whether you've been laid off or fired, being out of work is never ideal. While the situation is sure to get you down in the dumps, you can't stay down there for long -- unless you're independently wealthy and don't need money to live on. After a little bit of moping, you'll need to shore up your reserves of energy and work on bouncing back and into a new job.
Take some time for yourself. In the best-case scenario, you'll have some savings that will allow you time to re-evaluate your life, collect your thoughts and reflect on your performance in the last job. Get some exercise, go to the beach or the mountains, or do something that you enjoy but haven't had time to do while working. Use this as a time of self-healing to help you deal with the grief and disappointment of losing your job. At the same time, avoid indulging in a pity party.
Seek support from your network of friends, family and colleagues. Allow your network to help you get through this difficult time by taking you out to a movie, cooking you dinner or holding a party in your honor. In short, don't be afraid to ask for help. And speaking of that network, now's the time to tap into your list of professional and personal connections to let them know you're on the hunt for a new job. Since so many people get hired through a personal connection, you shouldn't overlook your network as a resource for getting a new job.
Apply for unemployment with your state's labor department. If you were fired for being grossly negligent or doing something illegal, you're probably not going to qualify, though it's still worth a shot. If you were laid off, you'll probably qualify. Getting some cash in the door can alleviate the financial strain of being out of work.
Adopt a positive tone in your cover letter and during the application process. Focus on the skills, education and training that you have that make you a great candidate, and don't hesitate to discuss any awards or recognitions you've received in past jobs. This is your chance to toot your own horn. Don't let the fact that you were recently let go overshadow your ability to speak positively about your own strengths.
Prepare a statement about your past job that you can share with future employers. Chances are you're going to be asked why you left your last job, so come up with a response that paints you in a good light. If you were laid off, don't be afraid to mention downsizing or company restructuring. If you were fired, tell the truth -- but keep it positive. Saying you had a "personality conflict" with your boss is better than saying you hated one another; saying the job was not a good fit for your skill set is better than saying you botched a crucial job.
Don't rule out jobs that you may consider being below your current status. While it may mean that you won't get paid as much as you did before, being in a lesser-paying job while you look for your "real" job may give you some perspective on life and help you evaluate what's important.
When you find yourself in a job interview -- or in a new job -- avoid bad-mouthing your former employer. It's just bad etiquette, and it shows the new employer you haven't fully bounced back from your previous disappointment.