The First Thing To Do When You Lose a Job

Losing a job can be a major shock, especially if you didn’t see it coming. You have an array and range of feelings – including grief and anger – to navigate and a new set of concerns to contend with. Panic may be one of the first emotions you experience. Where will your next paycheck come from? How will you pay your bills, feed your family, stay afloat?

In the midst of post-job-loss fear, it’s easy to scramble erratically to get back on your feet – fast. You pitch out as many resumes as you can as quickly as possible, contact all of your networking connections to let them know you’re available for hire and work diligently to win back the self-worth you associated with your employment status.

Surprisingly, your best first course of action may be none of those activities. There might be a more beneficial first step: doing nothing. Pause.

Not taking any immediate action may seem like a luxury that the newly unemployed can’t afford since not all job loss comes with a severance to tide you over to the next gig. But even a day or two to be quiet and let the loss sink in and flow through you can be a benefit before moving on.

"Sitting still, even briefly, can be your best step forward.”

Take longer if you can. “Rushing into a new job after a loss, can be similar to rushing into a new relationship after a breakup,” said Jennifer Hains, Licensed Professional Counselor and human resources executive. “You take the pain of the past into the new union before processing it and putting it to rest. Those raw feelings can impact performance and human interactions in your next role. Sitting still, even briefly, can be your best step forward.”

Ponder and reflect on what went right and what went wrong in the role you are stepping away from. Evaluate what you want in your new position. Feelings can cloud judgment, so the more time you have to move away from the negative emotions of loss, the more positive and clear you will be about what you want in a future position or workplace.

“It’s a lot easier to get somewhere if you know where you want to go,” said Hains. “Our impulse is to immediately replace what we lost. It’s a comfort zone. But doing the same job or something similar may not be what you really want deep down. Put your thoughts to paper or talk to a career expert to help chart your best course forward. That will also help you prepare your plan of attack that will be much more organized than if you dive into your job search willy nilly. You’ll feel more in control.”

Loss is painful, and healing from it is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you can speed it along using a few cognitive tools to help:

  1. Will to accept the reality of what happened and let it go. The more you hold on to whatever injustice you perceive happened to you, the less able you are to heal and move on with peace of mind.
  2. Forgive anyone you hold responsible – including yourself – for your job loss. It will free you from anger and get you on track to a brighter future. The less time you waste on nonproductive thinking, the more energy you will have to search for your next great adventure. Forgiveness is a gift you can give to yourself.
  3. Vow that you will learn all that you can from your job loss to grow into a better human being, employee, teammate and leader.
  4. Believe that you will turn this experience into a new and even better opportunity.

In the face of a job loss, you may take longer sifting through your emotions, resulting in a decrease in job search focus. Not everyone moves at the same pace. However, you don’t want to stay stuck for long. Use the cognitive tips above, and you may also consider outsourcing your job search and application processes, which can help relieve stress, keep your job search progressing and give you more free time when you are still working through your loss.


danapeebles profile image

danapeebles 8 weeks ago

Good afternoon, I agree with your assessment of post job stress . I recently left a job on my own because the company was preparing to go out of business . The grief , though not as profound now did effect my choices and I went into a position that was not appropriate for me and it did not work out . I knew from the start that the new job was not right for me. I actually verbalized this to the owner of the company . I offered to assist in improving the orientation process which was lacking and verbalized my concerns about some issues . I felt there was some kind of block that prevented communication . I felt that my experiences and knowledge were dismissed .I now wish I had not taken the job. Thank you for your posting. It is a very valid article .

laidbacklady profile image

laidbacklady 8 weeks ago from Plumsted Township, NJ

Hey Theresa--

Excellent article! I could not have said it better myself!

I was recently let go from a job, just prior to the 90-day probationary period ending. Truth be told, if I had not been let go that day, I would have left 3 days later anyway--at the end of the pay period. She had figured that out, I think. We talked about that when we had our meeting.

Anyway, I had taken that particular job on impulse. My then current boss had been pushing my buttons for so long and finally I just snapped. I leaped on the new job without a thought to spare as to exactly what I was headed for.

So now here I am, no job to speak about, and of course the first impulse is to jump into the hiring pool and get my feet wet. But after speaking with my husband when I got home that day, I told him pretty much the same thing you have stated here. Yes, we are in financial trouble right now, but I am not going to allow that to push me into another snap decision. Thankfully he is in complete agreement! I am taking the time to breathe (although it was an amicable split from this employer; we are still friends!) and decide in which direction I would like to go. Part-time work, part-time school? Full-time work, part-time school? Full-time work, screw school?

I am 50 years old now and the thought of all this would overwhelm me if I let it. Happily, I am not letting it. I am taking my time and thinking it all through. I am giving myself a few weeks at most. Things always work themselves out in my life for some reason, and all things happen for a reason. Just like the old saying, "When one door closes, another opens!"

Again, great article! Good advice for all.

Theresa Lawrence 7 weeks ago

Thank you @laidbacklady for your kind words. I am glad this Hub article resonated, and I am really glad that you are taking your time to process your experience before moving forward. And I agree; things do have a way of working out -- and in our favor. I'm wishing you the very best!

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