Dealing with your job loss is ever hard, no matter the circumstances. When you are a part of a layoff, your bank account isn’t the only thing that takes the first hit. The emotional impact many times goes beyond financial stress. Our jobs are usually more than just the way we get the salary. After a job loss, you might be questioning your identity, grieving all that you have lost, and feeling anxious about what the future will bring.
Losing your job and being pushed into an imposed career transition is probably one of the most professionally and personally challenging experiences you will ever encounter in your career.
But, as difficult as losing your job may seem right now, it can lead to something positive. I am a firm believer, and I had seen so many individuals when their breakdown moment, job loss or any other after it was processed, turned out to be their breakthrough moment. Yes, unexpected events disrupt us and our habitual routines, take us out of our comfort zones, and lead to ask questions about what matters most to us and what is worth doing.
First, everyone needs to bounce back from devastating job loss. And shifting from the shock and grief of job loss to the hope of new possibilities takes time, effort, and intention. With that and some coping techniques, you can come to terms with losing your job, deal with your stress and anxiety, and move on in your career with conviction.
When dealing with a job loss, these important phases will take you from shock and emotional stress to growth:
1. Grief and emotions regulations to find true acceptance and be ready to move on
It is hard to think straight when your system is flooded with emotions. And there is a lot to feel emotional about when you are dealing with your job loss. Many emotions can arise. A range is from a sense of humiliation, failure, and vulnerability, to anxiety, anger, resentment, sadness, and even self-pity.
Acknowledging your emotional state is a crucial first step. And managing your emotions, so they become less intense but not completely numbed out is a part of it.
Grief is our response to any loss, and that includes the loss of a job. At first it comes with the loss of income and sense of security. But being out of work also comes with other losses, which may be just as challenging to acknowledge and face. Such as losing a feeling of control over your life, your professional identity, your self-esteem and self-confidence, your daily routine and meaningful activity, friendships, and a work-based social network.
You can anticipate going through five stages of grief when it comes to losing a job.
As each individual is his own story, each deals and moves through the stages differently. While everyone grieves differently, there are healthy and unhealthy ways when having to face reality and your feelings.
Your grieving process depends on many different factors, such as your personality and coping style, your self-awareness, your previous career and life experiences, your faith, and how significant the loss was to you.
It can be easy to find your (short-term) comfort in quick fixations, distracting yourself with obsessive thoughts, mindless entertainment, or addictive behaviors. Watching television for hours, drinking, overeating, playing computer games, and spending hours on social media are common ways people do to avoid dealing with true feelings. But these will only provide fleeting relief and, in the long-term will make you feel even worse.
Dealing with your job loss first means you have to be able to move on, which is only possible with fully acknowledging your emotions and challenging your negative thoughts.
It is OK to take time to adjust, give yourself a chance to feel your new situation, including acknowledging emotions that are many times also under the surface. Writing them out helps. It will help you to recognize all your negative thoughts.
Be intentional about taking care of yourself, and make a conscious effort to stay positive.
➡ Think about what you are grateful for and be kind to yourself. Try to find your sweet spot during the day to lift up your spirits. And most of all, don’t beat yourself up about what has happened; it is not your fault. It is hard not to take it personally when you are dealing with your job loss but try to think about the situation as objectively as possible.
➡ Make sure you are eating well, spending time outdoors, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
➡ Think of the obstacles you have dealt with in the past and what you have achieved. Making a list of your small and big accomplishments and things you are proud of can be a great reminder of that.
➡ Acknowledge which of your knowledge, skills, talents, and strengths enabled you to accomplish everything that you are proud of. No one can take all this from you.
➡ Also, other people are essential when you are dealing with the stress of job loss. Surround yourself with positive people that make you feel good and open up. Talking it out to a good listener helps.
Adopting these practices doesn’t mean you will not have your downs and experience moments of stress and anxiety. But it means you will build your resilience and resistance to emotional exhaustion.
2. Focus on the future and getting career clarity on what is that you want next
After acknowledging and regulating your emotions, you can start to figure out what has happened, why it has happened, and what it actually means for you. Psychologists call this sense-making. The most significant determinant between those who succeed after setbacks of any kind is how they interpret them.
Further on, the experience of liminality — that is, of existing between the past that is gone and an uncertain future, basically between “holding on” and “letting go,” is a necessary part of the dealing with your job loss, because it allows you and is time to process a lot of conflicting desires.
Taking advantage of the liminal time to do that “inner business” may be more beneficial than you might think.
It is time to take stock and an opportunity to define what your next goals are. This is an opportunity for you to take a break and reflect on your career. And get clear on what you want in the future.
Focus and deeply think about how elements of your career and prior experiences can be extended and create the basis for your growth rather than entrapment.
What you focus on grows, so focus on getting clarity on what you really want, not on what you don’t want in your future career.
Therefore, it is vital to know your signature strengths, real career drivers aligned with your values. So you can diligently integrate all this new self-knowledge into your future career journey with a desired next career move.
Let yourself imagine a different set of possible professional selves in the future. Embrace that process and explore as many of them as you can to get your clarity and focused goal.
A lot of people who are forced out of their jobs do manage to create meaningful futures. For many, even more fulfilling than before.
This can happen as you come to terms with your circumstances and start seeing new possibilities. It will mean answering some big questions, and many times also discovering parts of yourself you barely knew existed.
And this is at your choice. It is how you respond when dealing with your job loss, that will set you apart from others when it comes to your career future.
3. Move into your job hunt process
Now comes the time for action-taking.
You could be surprised at how little you can do if you aren’t intentional about what you want to get done. As when it comes to a successful job hunt, attitude defines a lot.
After reflecting on and processing the experience of your job loss, you can see your forced transition as a “catalyst” for your next career move. With renewed self-esteem and courage, and clarity on what you want, you can start to craft your job hunt plan with goals and small manageable steps. Then prioritize, structure your day and treat finding a job as a job.
As stepping into making your career transition does not need to be intimidating.
It is possible to get the positive out of dealing with your job loss.
An unfortunate circumstance can provide a valuable opportunity to grow in self-awareness, re-evaluate priorities, and build resilience.
You define who you want to become in the future.
Do it by taking the time to take stock, hold on, and let go. As only from this, you can envision the future career design, acknowledge the possible, and set your road map towards your clear goal. And move forward with conviction and renewed self-esteem.
Career transition is ever an opportunity to reconnect with your self, and your next career move fully.
We don’t need a breakdown moment, such as job loss, to change our careers or even lifestyle. Yet, for many people, one of the biggest challenges of making a career change is creating the time and headspace to think about what the change they want actually is, and then finding the courage to make the leap.
If you have lost your job in this time of uncertainty, think of the idea that this may be an unexpected opportunity to reconnect with who you are, rethink what you want, and start building a path towards a career more enlivening and fulfilling.
And by consciously choosing your aims to acknowledge your feelings, reflect on your situation, and take intentional action for positive revelations, you can design a narrative of your career and yourself that provides a springboard for your next steps and make it a positive change.