13 MIN READ
How to Recover From Job Loss
Staying Strong and 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. This can have an immediate impact on your security and well-being, as well as knock-on effects for your family.
But, while losing your job may be out of your control, the way that you react to it is not. With a determination to bounce back, and a focus on the positive aspects of your situation, you can turn adversity into opportunity, even in tough economic times.
In this article, which includes 10 practical steps to cope with job loss, we'll show you how to come back stronger.
"I Lost My Job!" – What Happens Next?
You lose more than just your regular salary when you lose your job. Your status, routine and social network, for example, can quickly disappear. You can also suffer loss of self-confidence and a diminished sense of identity and purpose.
As the reality of your situation hits you, you'll likely go through a range of emotions. You might feel shocked one minute, angry the next, and then sad. (Our article, Life After Job Loss, explores the different phases you may experience.)
You may be tempted to vent some of these feelings, but reacting on impulse is almost always a bad idea. In fact, if you lose control of your emotions, it can make an already difficult situation even worse. Here are some actions to avoid, for example:
- Venting at your boss when they give you the bad news. This might make you feel better temporarily, but it could damage your career in the long term – especially if you need a reference for future jobs.
- Criticizing former managers and co-workers behind their backs. This may also come back to bite you, and it can leave you looking unprofessional, disloyal or bitter.
- Taking the job loss personally. Being let go can cause you major emotional distress. However, no matter how unfortunate the situation is for you as an individual, you may have to accept that your company needs to restructure or downsize to survive. In many cases, your performance and personality will have had nothing to do with the decision.
COVID-19 has already forced many organizations to cut jobs. According to the U.S. Labor Department, at the height of the pandemic, more than 20 million people lost their jobs in just one month in the U.S. alone. And millions more people around the world will likely face job loss in the coming years – brought about by something that was simply beyond their control.
In some cases, of course, people lose their jobs as a result of poor performance or bad behavior.
If you've been fired – and you are unquestionably at fault – seek feedback from your employer (if appropriate) and try to learn from your mistakes. Be honest with yourself, as this will help you to understand your current situation better and to come up with possible solutions.
Dismissal and Discrimination
If, however, you feel that you were dealt with unfairly due to discrimination, it's important to take action. Our article Dealing With Discrimination explains the many different forms that discrimination can take, and what to do if it applies in your case.
Although it can be complex, difficult and time consuming to pursue a discrimination claim, it may help you and others to access the employment rights that you are entitled to. It can also be important for your self-esteem and confidence in the future.
10 Tips for Bouncing Back From Job Loss
If you've lost your job, here are 10 ways to get back on your feet – and to secure your next 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. You might need permission to use your company laptop for job searches, for example, or you might want to ask whether you could remain on a part-time or freelance basis.
If you struggle to get information from your employer, check with governmental or nonprofit agencies. In the U.S., for example, the Department of Labor can tell you what you're entitled to. Citizens Advice is an excellent starting point in the U.K.
2. Review Your Finances
Without the certainty of a regular income, your finances will likely be squeezed. So, look at your situation carefully and figure out how long your resources will last you if you don't find a new job straight away. This can help you to keep your anxiety in check, and to make the best decisions about your next steps.
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 and consider contacting creditors to refinance your mortgage or reschedule any repayment plans. (You may be able to take a mortgage "payment holiday," for example.)
You could also consider taking on temporary or freelance work to bring in short-term cash.
Family members will likely be affected by your job loss, too. Financial pressures may bite almost immediately, and family roles may have to shift. Our article, Personal Financial Stress and Well-Being has useful guidance and support.
Children can be particularly sensitive to these problems, so help them to understand the situation by talking to them about any changes to their daily lives.
3. Rally Your Supporters
You may feel flat or embarrassed, and your instinctive reaction may be to hide away. But confiding in positive-minded family, friends, former colleagues, career counsellors, and support groups can make a huge difference to how you feel. And they can help you to gain a new perspective on your situation.
Social networks such as LinkedIn can be valuable, too. Your contacts (and their contacts) may be able to advise and encourage you, and they can be a great source of information about new job opportunities.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
It's vital to deal with the emotional disruption of losing your job. It's equally important to look after your physical health by exercising, eating well, and getting enough good-quality sleep.
If you can, allow yourself time to decompress. A gap between jobs might be a good opportunity to take a short vacation, or simply to rest at home and reset.
Be alert to the impact of stress, and look for any signs that you might be suffering from depression, such as difficulty concentrating and remembering details, excessive tiredness, lack of sleep, and overeating.
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.
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 one that you want to have, and by adopting an upbeat, forward-looking mindset, will be crucial for making a fresh start.
Times may be tough, but the flip side is that many companies need motivated, resilient, open-minded people more than ever.
6. Consider Your Goals
When you're ready, start thinking about what you want to do next.
If the prospect of returning to the same sector appeals to you, think about why you lost your job in the first place. It may be hard to predict what will happen next in your industry (and in the economy in general), but do your best to resist moves that might put you back in the same situation a few years down the line.
Losing your job can be an opportunity to reassess your career goals, rediscover your values, and reconnect with your passions and interests. It might even be a chance to take off in a new direction. In challenging times, being open to new ideas can be a great asset.
If you like the idea of switching to a new career, try doing a self-assessment to match your skills, values, interests, and personality to new career paths.
7. Make a Plan
Knowing where you want to be in your career is one thing. Working out how you'll get there is quite another. So, you need a job search strategy.
This involves analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, working out what skills and expertise you need to move into a new role, and connecting with the people who can help you to move forward. Our article, Developing a Career Strategy, takes you through these steps, and more.
8. Refresh Your Job-Hunting Skills
Next, turn your attention to improving your Interview Skills. Fully research any positions you apply for, so that you make a great first impression if you go to interview.
But also be honest with any prospective new employer. Remember that they might already know your job history and why you were let go. Explain the reasons for your departure, what you've learned from it, and what you'll do in the future to avoid repeating it.
Our article How to Answer Interview Questions contains detailed guidance on answering the 50 most commonly asked questions at interviews.
9. Hit the Job Listings
Cast your net wide and keep an open mind. Scour job 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 role was in journalism, for example.
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. Even in difficult economic times, new opportunities can arise – especially as organizations take a fresh look at their priorities, working practices, and future plans.
Losing your job can be a crushing blow. But, however devastated you feel, it's essential to react calmly and professionally. Avoid behaving in ways that might harm your future prospects. Instead, try to learn from your job loss as you work out what to do next.
Understand your rights, make a short-term financial plan, and get as much help as you can from co-workers and contacts.
Prioritize your well-being as you decide on your next steps and formulate a strategy.
Then, polish your résumé, shape up your interview skills, and stay positive as you seek out your next professional opportunity.
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