Unexpectedly losing your job can be one of the most stressful experiences in life. Our careers give us the means to support ourselves and the ones we love financially, and they’re also integral parts of our daily routines and identity. After months or years of dedicating ourselves, our ideas, and our labour to a career or company, it’s natural to feel emotionally and psychologically invested in where we work.
No matter how we receive the news, for that foundation to be suddenly taken away from us isn’t just bad news — it’s traumatic. Throughout our lives, it’s difficult enough to deal with changes we choose for ourselves or have an element of control over. Significant life changes made for us, especially against our will and best interests, can feel impossible to get through.
Your emotional reactions and the ways you choose to think about your sudden job loss can have a major impact on how it affects you. How you frame your thoughts during this time can be just as beneficial as your actions.
Before anything, give yourself time to grieve
The key word in “job loss” is loss. Something that mattered deeply to you has been taken away, likely against your will. This is a big deal, and you should give yourself space to feel how you want.
You might feel pressured to brush it off or immediately begin working on getting back to work. Everyone will react differently. The key in the days and weeks following the news is to give yourself compassion and allow emotions to come as they want to.
This is a great time to try the “talk to yourself as you would to a friend” technique:
● Think of what you would say if your best friend or loved one lost their job.
● Write down a list of the encouragement and understanding you would give to them.
● If you feel negative about yourself and your job loss, go to your list and read it to yourself.
It’s common to feel an immediate push to start working on your new job or career move. Losing a job is incredibly difficult, especially if it comes without warning. Yes, you will have financial and life obligations, but you also need to give yourself space for rest, reflection and healing.
Care most about the things you can control
This is generally great advice for almost any area in life, but it’s especially pertinent when it comes to your career and finances. If you or someone you’re close to is part of a large layoff, there was most likely nothing you could have done differently to prevent it. You can’t go back in time and save more money, hang out with your boss, take more clients out to lunch, or do any number of things that might be on a list that keeps running through your mind.
A strategic way to frame your thoughts during this time is simply to note if it’s something that you can control now or not. Anything beyond your control is a thought that doesn’t serve you in the present, and you can identify it as something to let go (or work toward letting go). Anything inside your control is a solid place to focus your valuable energy and consideration.
So, what are some things that you can control right now?
● You can always have some control over how you react to a situation. This can be easier said than done, but practicing self-awareness skills can open the door to greater feelings of resilience, satisfaction and well-being. You might already practice some of them; if you don’t, this is a great time to begin. Physical movement and exercise, daily walking, journaling, meditation, or scheduling a session with a therapist or career coach are all excellent ways to boost your self-awareness and give you mental room to process your feelings.
● You can take charge of your financial plan. Make a budget, research if you have savings or other financial means you can tap into, and take charge of how you’ll need to adapt your spending temporarily.
● You can think of how you control your time. If you suddenly have more free time or space than you did while you were working, what are some ways you can channel it today that will make your life feel better? It could be more time with your children or loved one, re-engaging with a forgotten hobby, or trying something new for the first time that you’ve always said, “I don’t have time for that.”
Re-frame this temporary time off to your benefit
This moment in your career story is a blank page; with that comes fresh power to figure out how you want to write it. Many of us can get bogged down in the routines of everyday work life to the point that we don’t know what fulfills us anymore. Over time, we can lose touch with the fundamentals of our values and the types of work that enable us to thrive.
● Reflect on your past and think of evolving for your future
You’ve been given an incredible opportunity to take stock of your work life and prioritize what matters to you most. Think of ways to spend the extra time you’ll now have to recuperate and proactively think about the basics of your career and how it makes you feel.
What makes you truly happy? What kind of impact do you want to have on the world? Is it time for a pivot or change to a different job type than you had before?
● Remember that you’re not alone
Traumatic situations, whether short- or long-term, have a sneaky way of making us feel isolated. Almost as if we’re the only person who even endured a situation. Though we know intellectually that’s not true, it can seem that way emotionally.
There is a relief, a sense of community and self-awareness in feeling that we are part of a larger, shared experience. Re-framing feelings of negativity and sadness into part of a cycle that others have felt before us and are feeling right now can help you process unpleasant emotions. We can tap into a greater sense of calm and purpose when we think of our situation as universal instead of individual.
When you’re ready, start framing out your future
At some point, it will feel like time to get back in the game. Don’t allow shame to hold you back from utilizing all the resources available. Feeling driven to gloss over or even hide your job loss from friends and professional networks is entirely normal. The amount of details you choose to divulge is up to you, but don’t miss out on the power of your connections.
There is incredible strength in vulnerability. Trust that the people around you will treat you with empathy and root for you. It’s a leap of faith, but it’s worth it. Especially when there are waves of layoffs across an industry or the economic climate, folks will be used to rallying together to support one another.
● Announce that you’re on to your next adventure
You don’t need to hunt alone. Tell the people around you that you’re looking for a new job or career move. Give as many details about your former job as you’re comfortable with. More importantly, focus on the future. Be explicit about the type of job you’re looking for, the skills you have, and the types of company cultures that make you happiest.
Make it easy for someone to see what you’re looking for and be able to send you a tip about a posting or role without having to ask you for more information. Do the work for them and make it fast and simple for anyone who sees your news to know automatically what it is you’re looking for and how they could potentially help you out.
● Keep up with your connections
Now is the time for every catch-up and coffee chat you thought you didn’t have time for previously. Don’t assume that people will see your post or other announcements unless you’ve contacted them directly. Reach out with a quick message being honest and upfront about your new job search and make it clear that you’d love to connect with them for guidance, advice or just a friendly ear to speak with.
There is great power and strength in asking for help. Even better, think of how you’ll commit to helping others once you’re back on your career feet. This will give you a greater feeling of purpose and a north star to follow, no matter where your next professional journey takes you.
Jeremy Elder is a Toronto-based content marketer and copywriter with over a decade’s experience telling stories for some of the world’s biggest brands. He’s an expert at finding WiFi wherever you least expect it.
Jeremy Elder is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.