To lose a job: 7 things to do about it

Contemplative Man

There’s a saying in the career development world: “You’re not in my club unless you’ve lost a job.” It’s not a kind saying, but it puts things into perspective. Many people have lost a job or two or even three. No one will ever say, “Losing a job is fun.”

To lose a job for any reason can be a blow to one’s self esteem. Even if you were let go because the company had to cut costs, usually to offload salary, you may think you failed. That the company chose you instead of Sam who was also in your department.

If you were let go because of performance issues or you didn’t see eye to eye with your manager, this can be particularly devastating. You may feel that you’re incapable of returning to the productive employee you once were.

The same applies to having to quit under pressure. Your boss was constantly harping on you for small mistakes or accused you of missteps that you know, deep in your heart, were correct actions. But because they’re the boss, they hold the power.

No matter how you wrap your head around what happened, you can’t let go of what went wrong. You lose sight of what you did well. Negative thoughts swim around your mind. People who look at your situation objectively assure you that you weren’t to blame. What can you do to get back on track?

1. Don’t deny your feelings of despondency

Being unable to concentrate on what’s going around you is natural. Your mind circles back to the fact that you’re out of work. You might have been told to hold it in. I believe this applies to only when you’re in public. When alone let it out, but not at the expense of loved ones.

You may be experiencing feelings you’ve never had before: bouts of crying for no apparent reason, short temper with family members and friends; a diminished sex drive; lack of motivation. These feelings, and more, are symptoms of unemployment; you’re not going crazy.

When I was out of work, I tried to recognize the feelings I was experiencing. It wasn’t always easy, but I realized my unemployment was temporary. You should also realize your situation is temporary.

 

2. Take a hiatus

You’ve heard of the saying, “Get back on the horse.” This is true, but you don’t have to do it immediately. I’ve talked with job seekers who say they’ve taken a week off to regroup, to get their bearings. While some might believe that you should begin the job search the day after you lost your job, it would be better to clear your mind.

To get back on the horse immediately might be more detrimental than helpful, as your head might be swimming in negative thoughts of self-doubt. Or you wouldn’t have the energy you need to succeed. Proper mental health is required to be successful in your job search.

This said, don’t take a “vacation,” as many of my job seekers have. They figure summer is time to vacation, right? Wrong. The best time to look for work can be the summer, when many employers are talking with potential employees.

3. Evaluate the situation and be able to explain why you’re out of work

Given three reasons why you are unemployed—your were laid off, let go, or quit—determine which it was and assess the situation. People who possess self-awareness are honest with themselves and with others.

The first reason—being laid off—is easiest to explain. One of my customers said, “I had no choice. The company could no longer afford my salary.” While this is true, it would be best to go into a little more detail, such as, “We lost two major accounts that I was working on (as a software engineer). While my work was stellar, our accounts decided to pull out.”

The second and third reasons—being let go, or quitting—are a bit harder to explain. These answers must be short, while giving an honest description of the situation, and, most importantly, explain what you’ve learned from the situation.

4. Tell people you’re out of work

I tell job seekers there’s no shame in being out of work. And I’m sure they’re saying under their breath”What would you know?” Plenty. I’ve been out of work myself and came to find out that my feelings of self-doubt were wasted.

In order for others to help you, they need to know you’re looking for work. The people you tell aren’t limited to your former colleagues and supervisors. They should include family, friends, and acquaintances. Even your brother who lives in San Francisco might hear or read of an opportunity local to you.

(Read 5 reasons why you should tell your children you lost your job.)

5. Be willing to accept help

I find this to be one of the largest roadblock for many people; they just can’t bring themselves to ask for help. There are two things to remember: one, your job search will be shorter if you have help. Two, most people like to help those in need. It gives them a sense of fulfillment. Look at it this way, you’re helping others by asking for help.

(Psychologist assert that helping others gives people a feeling of achievement. As someone out of work, you will experience the same. So pay it forward.)

This isn’t to say you should approach everyone in you community and ask, “Do you know of any jobs for me?” To tell people you’re out of work (related to #2) should be enough. For safe measure, however, “ping” people to stay top of mind. An occasional request like, “Please keep your ear to the pavement for me” should suffice.

6. Don’t sleep the day away

As difficult it may be, develop a routine. You don’t have to rise at 5:00 am so you can go to the gym before the work day. But getting up every morning at 6:00 am, taking a walk, eating breakfast, and getting out of the house would be much more productive than sleeping til 10:00 am every morning.

You’ll feel much better if you are productive, not if you rise late and watch television. I honestly believe that developing a routine is essential to your mental health and finding a job. Another suggestion is to attend your local One-Stop career center for career-search help.

7. Seek professional help

You’ll probably experience many feelings, including anger, fear, self-doubt, etc. If you become consumed with these feelings, it might be best to seek the help of a therapist. This is not unusual, trust me. I went through a plethora of feelings and, yes, I did talk with a professional. It allowed me to clear my mind.

If it gets to the point where all you can think about is the past and present, and fail to see the future, this can be an indication of depression or stress. It’s worth talking to a therapist when you reach this stage. Most insurance policies cover mental health services.


It’s hard for people to understand how difficult being unemployed can be. It is a loss of self-esteem, a familiar routine, and might be a cause of embarrassment. The above are some simple suggestions to follow.

If you get to the point where you need to talk with a professional, don’t hesitate. Those around you may notice erratic behavior in you. This can be a sign of depression and anxiety. Don’t ignore it.

Those who are in my club of people who have been unemployed at one one point can be the best people to speak with. Seek us out. We’re here to help.

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