1. Career Advice
  2. Career development
  3. How to recover from a job loss
How to recover from a job loss

How to recover from a job loss

Artwork by: Alexandra Shevchenko

  • Phase 1: Shock
  • Phase 2: Anger
  • Phase 3: Sadness
  • Phase 4: Reality

The words 'recession', 'unemployment', and 'lay-off' have been driven into the minds of anyone with a television set. Unfortunately, this is because these words apply to a significant portion of the population. If you're one of those people who has recently lost a job, you may find yourself going through quite an extraordinary array of emotions.

Some people assume that once a person is laid off, that they become immediately depressed. But this couldn't be farther from the truth. Just as one grieves the loss of a loved one in stages, so does he/she/they when a job is lost. No matter the special circumstances surrounding your situation, you'll probably find that your emotions can be divided into four specific categories.

Phase 1: Shock

Whether you've gotten advanced notice of a lay-off or an immediate dismissal, you will most definitely experience a shock in being separated from your job. Shock is a difficult emotion to describe for the person experiencing it. The immediate emotion is sometimes a strange sense of "calm"-especially if rumours of lay-offs existed previously; employees are merely relieved that they no longer have to wonder about their jobs. Others who have secretly harboured a desire to leave their positions may even feel oddly "thankful" for a way out. For the most part, the shock will be different for each person, and can last anywhere from a few days, to a few weeks. How to deal with it: The best thing to do is to let the shock settle in. Embrace whatever emotion sets in first. It's important to take the time to get through this phase. This is perhaps the wrong time to make any swift life-altering decisions.

Phase 2: Anger

Most people, despite complaining about their jobs, don't wish to leave them unless it is by choice. When companies decide to "restructure" their organizations, the decision will always upset those affected by the decision. Being dismissed from a job is a huge blow to the ego. Even if you're confident in your performance, the ultimate feeling left behind is that you were somehow not good enough to keep your job. It is at this point that anger sets in. You may find that you resent your managers, directors, and even fellow co-workers. How to deal with it: Vent, and vent often. You will need to completely purge yourself of these emotions in order to move forward. Anger is an emotion that makes former employees feel like lashing out at others, especially those "responsible" for the job loss. Call your career consultant, a therapist, or trusted person to talk about your feelings. Remember that in today's job market, there is a chance that you might see some of your former coworkers in another work setting; burned bridges may later prevent you from moving ahead.

Phase 3: Sadness

After you have purged yourself of any bitterness about the snag in your career, you will probably be overwhelmed with sadness. It is not uncommon for people to break down into tears very easily, even if not immediately provoked. The separation from your normal routine may cause you to feel lost and disconnected from society. Feelings of self-pity may creep in, especially as you watch those around you continuing on normally in their daily lives. How to deal with it: Allow yourself to cry whenever you feel the need. The tears are a direct response to any subconscious emotions that have continued to build since you discovered the news. If the feelings become too overwhelming, seek out a trusted friend to be your sounding board. It is during this time that you'll need moral support to help you gain perspective.

Phase 4: Reality

As you try to pick up the pieces, you will most definitely deal with recurrences of the previous three emotions. But as they alternate in your subconscious, the fog will begin to clear, and your immediate needs will become apparent. During this phase, you'll start to mentally address all the tedious details involved in survival. Knowing that a disruption in income will present certain problems, for most people this period will be the most important and perhaps the most difficult. How to deal with it: To avoid feeling too overwhelmed by the "trivial" details of life, take out a sheet of paper and jot down all the immediate concerns that come to mind. Rent/mortgage, car payments, and utilities are the most obvious responsibilities that determine a family's quality of life. This would be the time to contact creditors; in some cases, payments can be deferred. Mortgage payments can be refinanced. Begin paring down or cutting out unnecessary monthly expenses right away. Streaming subscriptions like those offered on Netflix can sometimes be suspended for a period of time without canceling your entire account. Taking baby steps in handling these personal affairs will prevent you from becoming too overwhelmed in having to "restructure" your lifestyle.

Going through this process of change and transition can be very stressful, but just recognize it is a process. All the best in your transition.

Share this article