Whether you’ve been laid off, fired or even quit voluntarily, losing a job can land like a kick in the crotch. It’s not just the vanished paychecks, you may feel like a door has slammed behind you, shutting you out from an identity, a community. You may find yourself in a storm of difficult emotions: shock, anxiety, shame, anger. That’s all normal, but it’s hard to handle.
Here are 7 ways you can bounce back from losing a job:
1. Grieve privately and develop a public “exit statement”
Many of us process our feelings by “venting.” Okay, but be careful who you complain to about what went down with your job, because everyone you know is potentially part of your job hunting network. Any acquaintance might become influential, however indirectly, when you start looking for a new job. If you seem upset or bitter they may well sympathize, but they may hesitate to recommend you or to make introductions.
So avoid talking about your job loss to people other than your closest friends and family until you’ve had a chance to calm down. Meanwhile, prepare a brief statement you can use to answer the question “What happened to your job?” Keep it short and sweet, like this:
“A business decision was made that eliminated 10 positions, including mine. There’s a silver lining to it, because now I can look for an opportunity that’s a better fit.”
If you were fired, your exit statement might sound more like this:”I’ve left X company. There have been some changes in the company/my role/my interests that make it not as great a fit for me as it was in the past. The bright side is, this gives me an opportunity to get out and find something better. I’m going to look for opportunities doing . . .”
Prepare your exit statement as soon as possible after leaving, because there are many situations where your “between jobs” status may come up in conversation. And whatever you do, don’t freak out on Facebook, traumatize on Twitter and sniffle on Snapchat. The Internet is Forever. Keep your online image positive.
“Success is measured by how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” – George S. Patton
2. If you’ve been fired, know you’re in good company
Many extremely successful people have gotten the axe, from Lee Iacocca to Madonna. They went on to bigger and better things. If you’re angry, just remember that living well is the best revenge.
3. Give immediate attention to any safety nets available to you
If you’re eligible for unemployment insurance, file for it without delay. Consider COBRA or another health insurance option; it may be expensive but a medical emergency while unemployed can be crippling. Contact your creditors and ask about short-term hardship programs that might let you miss payments without penalties.
4. Nurture your natural resilience and heal yourself
We all have some amount of resilience, an ability to bounce back. We can build it up, according to the American Psychological Association, by doing these things:
- Accept that change is a part of living.
- Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.
- Move toward your goals.
- Take care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself may not come naturally if your job separation was traumatic, but moping around the house watching TV, drinking and drowning your woes in junk food will leave you more depressed than you started. Treat your brain and body with respect.
Effective ways to heal include brief therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), hypnotherapy, prayer, meditation, journaling, exercise, and learning to encourage yourself.
Just waiting for time to “heal all wounds” is not always such a great plan.
5. Take some time off if you want but beware of the gap
Employers are suspicious of job seekers who linger in “long-term unemployment,” generally defined as six months or more. The longer that gap grows, the harder it gets to sell yourself. Don’t let that happen to you. Take a renewing vacation or “staycation” for a few weeks, but set a date to get started on your job search.
If you’re determined to take a lengthy sabbatical, do something constructive that will look good on your resume. Volunteer, travel, go back to school, join the Peace Corps, write a book. Have something to say for yourself when you’re ready to go back to work. If it’s work-related, all the better.
“When everything seems to be going against you remember that an airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford
6. Review your career direction if necessary
Does losing your job make you want to rethink your career? Now is the time to explore your options. Use the “Advanced Search” features on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn to enter various combinations of skills and qualifications. See what jobs come up. Do informational interviews, read a book or get career counseling.
Free-lance work can be a great test flight and gap-filler, and it may develop into something more. When I was laid off from my corporate training department job in 2008 I assumed I wanted to continue in the same field. I found myself on the verge of being hired, only to realize I had zero excitement about taking the job. I turned it down, thinking there must be something better.
With unemployment benefits running out I needed cash. Since I had some background in writing resumes and coaching job seekers, I put an ad on Craigslist and started getting clients. I discovered I loved the work and being self-employed. It grew into a profitable new career and I’ve never looked back.
There are endless possibilities for operating your own business. If entrepreneurism appeals to you and if you’ve got what it takes to be happy in it, go for it. Most people, on the other hand, prefer the stability of a regular job.
7. Plan a “best practices” job search
You may have lucked into jobs in the past. Maybe you were referred by a contact or recruited by headhunters. That may happen again this time, or it may not. You may be surprised how much you need to work hard – and work smart – this time around.
Don’t just sit in front of the computer applying to jobs hundreds of other people are applying to. Get out and do some networking meetings and informational interviews.
Make sure your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letters and interview skills are the best they can be. Study articles and books by job search experts. Consider hiring a career coach. All of this can help you get back in the game a lot faster.
In the long run, losing your job may be the best thing that ever happened to you. A few months down the road you may find yourself in a better role, thinking what a blessing in disguise it was to leave that old job in the dust. Turn losing your job into the start of a better life.