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 Recovering From Unexpected Job Loss

By Joe Stein

It happens to just about everyone in today’s modern economy…the unexpected loss of employment. I am personally like most and have been subject to a corporate restructure or downsizing in my career.  It really can happen to anyone at any time (a really sobering thought).

It is, of course, very difficult to lose your job.  Especially when it is a situation where you did not have previous warning unlike where you are being performance managed or subject to poor annual reviews.  There could be many reasons, such as a business downturn causing a layoff, or even a closure.  You may also fall victim to a situation where, due to a merger or purchase, your position is “redundant” and now no longer needed.  Finally, the days of a company setting its permanent roots in a community is long gone and it is not shocking to see an employer picking up and leaving, especially for the tax breaks that always seem to be available.

There are so many emotions that individuals may go through, such as denial, shock, anger, confusion, concern, and self-loathing.  All of this is personally normal, as I think I felt all of these when I was downsized.  There are some areas you can focus on, however, to assist you in recovering from your unexpected job loss.  Let’s take a look at some of the areas for you to consider.

• Stay Confident – It is easy to fall victim to some level of depression or self-loathing.  You naturally feel like you have let people down, or that you somehow have less value than you did prior to your employer’s communication to you that you have been released.  Right or wrong, most Americans will identify themselves, to a large degree by their work.  Think about it… one of the first questions that people will ask about somebody is “what do they do”, or “where are they working”. I can’t stress enough that, in most situations, your release was not because of you. It was simply that the company did not need your skill set as much as others, or you provided more economic relief due to your salary (or some other business reason).  Don’t be afraid to rely on your support group of friends and family for assistance.  Consider opening up to them regarding how you feel and what you need.  If you do not have people in your life that can assist, please consider professional assistance via a local not-for-profit, or perhaps via your medical benefits.  You are going to have to sound positive and confident in your interviews, so you can’t be down on yourself.

• Eliminate the Anger – It is human nature to be angry towards your old employer or its management staff.  This emotion, however, makes it very difficult to move forward in order to focus on your job search.  It is also hard to suppress these feelings in the interview (which you never want to express to the Interviewer). Finally, it is just not healthy for a person to carry this with you and will work to erode your confidence (please see above).

• Keep Busy – The more free time you have, the more time you have to think. Once you have a clear direction regarding your job search focus, then dive right into it.  Schedule a significant portion of each day to search for jobs, respond to positions of interest, and network.  Beyond that, use your time to volunteer (it looks good on the resume and helps your community), catch up on errands, and visit friends and family (time that also can be used for networking).  Do whatever you need to do to keep your mind off of your job loss.

• Assess Making a Change – Losing your position this way can be a great impetus to do something different.  Assess what you would really like to do and what you can reasonably be employed at to determine if a change in career or industry can work for you. Keep in mind that while this can be a great way to get a fresh start, it can serve to make your time off of work longer as you find someone willing to give you a chance.

• Do What You Can Financially – What may be the toughest part and the hardest to offer any time of advice is your financial concern.  I hope that you find yourself in a situation where you receive some type of financial support in terms of a severance package from your previous employer.  There are some tasks to do, such as file for available government assistance, as soon as feasible.  There is no stigma to receiving help from these sources because, as a taxpayer, you have paid into many of these programs.  Try to get back to work as soon as possible, even if it is a temporary or contracted position (it will also serve to help keep you busy).  Budget and prioritize your expenses so that you can do your best regarding bills.  Finally, reach out to some of the companies you use, such as utilities and credit cards, to see what is available to you in terms of payment options. 

If you have recently lost your job (or is in danger of doing so), do whatever you can to limit the impact of this situation both personally and in terms of your career.    The quicker you can recover from this temporary setback, the faster you will be able to move on to future success.

As always, best of luck in your job search!