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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Vow that you will learn all that you can from your job loss to grow into a better human being, employee, teammate and leader.
- 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.