When you have lost your job, you need to do four things: Get help. Get good advice. Get stabilized. Get busy.

Don't try to tough it out on your own. As soon as the ax falls, negotiate your departure; finding another job may take longer than you anticipated. Protect your interests as well as you can.

Whatever is being offered, make sure it's fair. You can, and should, ask for more severance, reimbursement for unused vacation and sick leave, outplacement services, office space, office supplies, secretarial help and even tuition.

Are they getting tough? You get tough. Hire a lawyer if necessary. Management bigwigs don't let themselves get fired without hiring the best legal advice available.

Government assistance for the unemployed? Why not? You've been paying for it.

Now is the time to talk to friends, relatives, old schoolmates, customers, vendors, business associates and professional advisers. Put the word out that you are on the job hunt and would appreciate any help.

Focus on the positive. You have something to offer. By helping you, those whose assistance you solicit are helping themselves as well by putting you back in a position where you can do them some good.

Know where you stand and where you're going. You need to take an inventory -- financial, professional and emotional. It's time to revise your budget, but you can't cut down on your medical needs. Keep lines of communication and transportation open; you need to be accessible and available for prospective employers.

Borrow if you must, perhaps from yourself. Can parents help you start your own business or go back to school? Self-improvement is the area in which you should increase your spending, not decrease it.

Upgrade your skills. The workplace is filling up with people who graduated long after you did and who have newer, more efficient skills. Pick up new material on topics such as computers, language, public speaking and writing.

Nothing impresses me more as an employer than someone out of work who's still going to school. What excuse is there for not being in a school of some kind when you're not employed? It's the true test of your determination to present an up-to-the-minute, trainable, quality package to a potential employer.

If you were fired, it's a great way to prove to yourself and others that you're capable of bouncing back. It's a real confidence builder. It's the best single thing you can do for yourself. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker will have 12 to 14 job changes and five career changes in a lifetime.

Get a routine. Like yourself again. Spend extra time with the kids. Read. Have a little fun. Get some exercise. Get busy. None of us has time to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. There are worse things than not working. Like not getting ready to go back to work.

Mackay's Moral: Getting fired should get you fired up!

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or send e-mail to harvey@mackay.com. His column is distributed by United Feature Syndicate.