How to Recover From Job Loss
Dealing With the Practicalities of Moving On
Losing your job can be one of life's harshest experiences.
Whether you've been laid off or fired, a job loss can be devastating. Your career, finances and self-esteem can all be hit hard and, in an instant, doubt and uncertainty wipe out any satisfaction and security.
But, while losing your job may be out of your control, the way that you react to it is not. With the determination to bounce back and a focus on the positive aspects of your situation, you can turn adversity into opportunity. This article will show you how.
Actions to Avoid
You lose more than just your regular salary when you lose your job. Status, routine and your social network, for example, can quickly disappear, along with less tangible assets like self-esteem, purpose and identity.
As the reality of your situation hits you, you might feel sad one minute and annoyed the next, and it can be tempting to vent your frustrations. However, reacting on impulse is almost always a bad thing, and it can make an already difficult situation even worse.
Here are some actions to avoid.
Becoming Openly Angry
Venting your anger at managers and colleagues when you're told that you've lost your job might make you feel better temporarily, but it will damage your career in the long run.
Your employer may be reluctant to give you a good reference and a decent severance package if you leave "under a cloud." And if you cross paths with your former colleagues later in your career, they'll likely remember your aggressive behavior.
It's far better to leave gracefully, with your dignity and integrity intact, than to "burn your bridges" before you've even left the building.
Once you have left, never criticize your manager, your colleagues, or the company behind their backs, as they may hear about your comments. Talking trash about them can make you look unprofessional, bitter or disloyal.
Also, in doing this, you may unwittingly sabotage your replacement's chances of making a success of his or her new role – it may unsettle him, and make him unsure about whether he's made the right choice.
Taking it Personally
If you were laid off, you might feel that you lost your job because you weren't good enough, you did something wrong, or your "face didn't fit." But, no matter how personal it feels, the chances are that your departure really wasn't down to you.
Companies routinely downsize and restructure as business circumstances change, and sometimes they have to let people go. Bank of America, for example, laid off 30,000 people in September 2011, and IBM laid off twice that number in 1993. In these instances, job loss isn't down to personal failure, and you shouldn't beat yourself up or feel needlessly guilty if this is the case.
However, when losing your job was unquestionably your fault, there will likely be several issues that need to be addressed so that you don't repeat the same mistakes. We'll look at some of these in the next section.
Meanwhile, you should try to guard against self-pity. Even the best people get fired – take Steve Jobs at Apple, for example – so avoid dwelling on your situation and focus on creating a plan to move forward.
How to Recover From Job Loss
Here are 10 tips to help you to find a new role:
1. Find out Where You Stand
Make sure that you know your employee rights before you leave your organization. Find out what you're entitled to from your employer and from the government – benefits, severance packages, and pension schemes, for example.
Also, ask about references, accrued vacation, sick and overtime pay, and your eligibility for unemployment insurance and continued health cover.
Severance packages vary enormously so, if your settlement doesn't cover everything that you need, check with your manager. Being able to use your company laptop might be useful while you're looking for another job, for example, or you might want to ask whether you could remain on a part-time or freelance basis. The company may not say "yes," but you won't know without asking.
If you struggle to get information from your employer, check with governmental or non-profit agencies. In the U.S., for example, the Department of Labor can tell you what you're entitled to. Citizens Advice would be an excellent starting point in the U.K.
2. Review Your Finances
Your finances will inevitably be squeezed without the certainty of a regular income. Knowing how much time your resources will allow you for job hunting can help you to keep stress and anxiety in check. After all, having time can be the difference between rushing to take the first mediocre job you can find, and finding a satifying job that you'll love.
Start by writing a list of your major household expenses – mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, and so on. Then, note down all of your assets and sources of income – your severance pay, any unemployment benefits, savings, and food stamps, for example. Finally, revise your budget to fit your new circumstances.
Trim any unnecessary outgoings, develop a plan for spending less, and consider contacting creditors to refinance your mortgage or reschedule any repayment plans. (You may be able to take a mortgage "payment holiday" in the short term.)
You may also need to consider taking on temporary or freelance work to bring in short-term cash. Keep this in mind, and look into it in the first few days after your departure.
If you have the slightest warning that you might be "shown the door," get ahead of any potential financial crisis and carry out this budgeting exercise right away. Start saving as much as you can, ready for any rainy day that comes your way.
3. Rally Your Supporters
You may feel flat or embarrassed, and your instinctive reaction may be to hide away. Confiding in positive-minded family, friends, former colleagues, and even career counselors and support groups can make a huge difference to you, and can help you to gain a new perspective on your situation.
Sharing your feelings about what has happened can help you to deal with stress and reduce any sense of isolation that you might feel. Social contacts can advise and encourage you, and they can be a source of information about new job opportunities, too.
Stress can cause severe health problems and even, in extreme cases, death. You should take the advice of a suitably qualified health professional if you have any concerns about stress-related illnesses, or if stress is causing you significant or persistent unhappiness.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
It's essential to deal with the emotional disruption of losing your job (our article on Life After Job Loss looks at this in more detail.) It's equally important to look after your physical health by exercising, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep.
It's also wise to allow yourself time to decompress if you can afford to do so. Take a short holiday, read "War and Peace," or spend a few weeks getting your garden into shape. Whatever you do, taking time out to absorb the shock is important.
Look for any signs that you might be becoming depressed, such as difficulty concentrating and remembering details, excessive tiredness, lack of sleep, and overeating, and seek professional medical help if you feel that you may be suffering.
Family members will very likely be affected by your job loss, too. Financial pressures may bite almost immediately, and family roles may have to shift. Your partner may need to find a new job or take on more hours, for example.
Children are particularly sensitive to these problems. So help them to understand the situation by talking to them about the changes that might be coming, and by spending quality time with them.
5. Reframe Your Situation
To move forward, you need to reframe your situation, so that you don't view yourself as a victim or think of your job loss as "the end of the world." Switching your focus from the job that you just lost to the job that you want to have, and adopting an upbeat, forward-looking mindset, will be crucial to your success in making a fresh start.
If you lose your job because you've been fired, try to learn from your mistakes. Think about the reasons you were asked to leave. Were you performing? What would you have done differently? How much of the dismissal was your fault? Try to be honest with yourself, as this will help you to understand your current situation better and to come up with possible solutions.
Be honest, too, with any prospective new employer. Remember that they might have already heard about what has happened from someone else. Carefully and humbly explain the reasons for your departure, what you've learned from it, and what you'll do in the future to avoid repeating it. This will help you to rebuild your reputation, as someone who accepts uncomfortable truths.
6. Consider Your Goals
Now is the time to think about what you want to do next. Grasp the opportunity to reassess your career goals, rediscover your values, and reconnect with your passions and interests. You have the chance to reaffirm what matters to you or to take off in a new direction.
If the prospect of returning to the same sector appeals to you, think about why you lost your job in the first place. Are there industry trends that could affect your future job security? Try to avoid anything that might put you back in the same situation a few years down the line.
If, however, you like the idea of transitioning to a new career, try doing a self-assessment to match your skills, values, interests, and personality to new career paths.
7. Develop a Plan
Knowing where you want to be is one thing. Working out how you'll get there is quite another. So, you need a job search strategy.
A job search strategy involves analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, working out what skills and expertise you'll need to move into a new role, and reconnecting with your network of friends, associates and former colleagues. Our article on Developing a Career Strategy takes you through these steps, and more.
8. Spruce up Your Job Hunting Skills
It's always a good idea to dust down and revise your covering letter and resumé, so that they're in great shape as soon as you need them. Make sure that your resumé is current, concise, clearly written, and accurate, because you'll need it to work hard for you.
Next, turn your attention to improving your interview skills and fully researching positions that you apply for, so that you make a great first impression when you go for an interview.
9. Hit the Job Ads
When you're looking for vacancies, cast your net wide and keep an open mind. Scour job search engine sites, local newspapers, business-based social media networks, company websites, employment agencies, and networking pages.
Extending your search beyond your target profession may open up opportunities in related fields that you may not have initially considered, such as public relations, if your previous field was journalism.
10. Stay Positive
So you've come through losing your job. You've dealt with the emotional shock, got yourself back on your feet, and forged a plan for moving forward. You're bouncing back!
But, however well prepared and optimistic you now are, you can't control everything. It might take longer than you'd like to land your dream job, so stay proactive and think positively, and all that hard work will eventually pay off.
Losing your job can be a crushing experience. However devastated you feel, though, it's essential to react calmly and professionally, and to avoid doing anything that might tarnish your reputation or integrity.
Try to avoid becoming openly frustrated and venting your anger at managers and colleagues, and whatever happens, avoid taking things personally. Once you've left, never criticize your manager, your colleagues, or the company behind their backs, as they may hear about your comments.
Be honest with yourself and others about any mistakes that you might have made, and be sure to learn from them.
Tending to the emotional fallout, assessing your present situation, and making a plan for moving forward will enable you to go beyond losing your job and on to a more satisfying, rewarding future.
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