Dealing with Sudden Job Loss: A Complete Guide
Dealing with job loss, sudden or otherwise, can be a challenging process. It involves reevaluating your choices and life trajectory and making several tough decisions.
Additionally, losing your job can create several feelings that you may not know how to deal with. They may be confusing, distressing, and you may want to avoid them altogether. However, losing your job is not too different from losing someone dear to you: it comes with grief and must be dealt with in the same way as other kinds of loss.
Here are some ways you can process these feelings:
- Give yourself time to adjust.
- Journal, meditate, and/or share your feelings with loved ones.
- Don't beat yourself up. Be compassionate towards yourself.
- Process your emotions, and let acceptance set in.
- Reflect on your last job.
- Determine your next job and develop a strategy to secure interviews.
- Develop detachment and start applying to new jobs.
Let's explore how you can face and process these emotions, as well as the getting back to work:
Dealing with Sudden Job Loss
Time to Adjust
Losing your job is not an insignificant life event. It will take a fair amount of time to adjust to your new lifestyle. You may feel empty, unfulfilled, and feel like you have nothing to do at the moment. That may not be far from the truth. However, take note of how you are feeling. Try to observe the feeling and realize that it is your guiding compass, not the steering wheel.
Use these feelings to fuel your job search. However, be kind and compassionate towards yourself, and try not to beat yourself up for the job loss. If you lost your job because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are not alone. Several thousand people around the world are going through a similar situation as you. Depending on your career, it may not mean that you will never get a job again; it will just take time, as long as you keep trying.
Depending on your temperament, journaling might be a perfect way for you to process your emotions. You can write out a page about how you feel and then sit back and reflect on those feelings. Effective emotional processing involves a two-pronged approach:
- Sitting with the emotion without getting overwhelmed.
- Understanding the root of the emotion and tracking it back to its origin.
Note: The phrase "sitting with the emotion" is somewhat misleading. Ideally, you want to develop the capacity to sit at a distance from the emotion. You can develop this capacity through practices such as journaling, meditation, taking walks in nature, etc. Even if you find yourself distracting yourself from the negative feelings, try to be aware of the process of distraction within your mind.
Acceptance is not something you can actively do. It is an outcome of dealing with your negative emotions. Once those emotions stop clouding your mind and perception, you can see things for what they are. As a result, it becomes easier for you to accept your current circumstances. This acceptance enables you to become unburdened and take the appropriate steps to move forward in life. Therefore, simply processing the emotions you feel is good enough to take one step forward.
Beating Yourself Up
Try not to beat yourself up for not accepting your situation sooner. Let your emotions take their course. Try to share your feelings with other people who you think will be supportive. Sharing your emotions speeds up processing, and allows you to reach a state of acceptance quicker.
If it helps, try to explain to the other person that you are not looking for a solution; you want to share your feelings and vent. It will be helpful if they sit with you and reflect back what they hear instead of trying to problem-solve for you.
If you find yourself beating yourself up for losing your job, and feeling like it's your fault, then realize that it's a completely natural feeling. Observe the act of you beating yourself up. At the very least, don't beat yourself up for beating yourself up.
Looking to the Future
The future may look entirely bleak, and that is understandable. Often, when dealing with the emotional fallout from an event that hurts us emotionally and financially, it takes time to develop the proper perspective to move forward.
This perspective often develops after you've already moved on practically. That is why things seem so apparent in hindsight. However, with practice, you can learn to develop this perspective while you're still in the process of figuring out how to move forward.
You may feel like you will never get a job again, that you're useless, that you have no worth, or that you have failed the people around you. These are completely normal things to feel, and we will not tell you not to feel them. Let those feelings out, share them with people, and see what happens.
You may also feel a decent amount of anxiety when you look towards the future. If you want to learn about the mechanism of anxiety and how to deal with it, you can check out this video:
Let's go over some practical tips to figure out how you can start to move forward and resume your career.
How Do I Start Over After Losing My Job?
The first step is to figure out why you lost your job. If it was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then perhaps there may not be much reflection to do here. Sometimes, it is just about unfavorable circumstances.
However, if you got fired for a particular reason, reflect on that. Try to learn if there was something that you could have done better. If feelings of shame arise, that is fine. However, try to separate the feeling of shame from the learning process. You can do this by simply observing the feeling within yourself and noticing the kinds of thoughts it generates. Additionally, if your employer did not give you a reason, it is worth reaching out to them asking for one.
If you were not happy in your last job, think about why that is. Here are some potential reasons:
- Was your work environment unsuitable?
- Were your coworkers not a good fit with you?
- Was your company culture unsuitable for your needs?
- Were you stagnating in your job?
- Did you feel like the pay was low, or you weren't getting rewarded for your work?
If you feel like a switch in career is warranted, you can start by putting your skills down on paper. Evaluate your skills and knowledge. Try to figure out which industries/jobs it could be useful in. Think about any additional skills you can pick up in your downtime. These skills can be beneficial when finding a new job and negotiating your pay.
Talk to other people in the fields that you are interested in. Try to learn more about the culture, requirements, work hours, and your affinity to the work itself. You can talk to friends, look for industry-specific forums and subreddits, and even attend online meetups. Support groups for high-performance people who've lost their jobs (or are unhappy with their current one are also helpful!)
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Looking for a New Job
You can start applying for jobs even before you've made a decision on the industry you want to work in. Applying for jobs is a skill, which you can improve by practicing. Learning to adapt your resume to the job description is an instrumental skill that you can practice before applying to the company you want to work at.
Start sending out job applications to several job boards and see if you get a response. Your goal should be to get the interview, not get the job. This mindset will help you practice for interviews to develop your presentation skills before you interview for the job you want.
You will need to be somewhat resilient to rejection. That might be difficult, especially because you've already suffered significant loss. However, you can develop a kind of resilience by incorporating the following philosophy in your daily life.
What Do You Control?
If you think about what you can control, you will probably come up with a very short list. Often, we are under the impression that we control our environment, and in some cases, even other people. However, it is the height of human arrogance to think that we control other people, let alone ourselves.
There is never a 100% guarantee of a particular outcome, no matter how many variables you manipulate. Managing your expectations is essential, and you can do that effectively by realizing that the only things you can control in this world are your actions, not their consequences. Therefore, apply to as many jobs as you can, and prepare to be rejected from all of them potentially. You might feel bitter about the rejection, and that is entirely normal. Acknowledge the feeling, process it, and apply to new jobs every day.
How Does Losing Your Job Affect You?
Losing your job can have several psychological effects:
- It can negatively affect your self-esteem. Most people tie their self-worth to their work and accomplishments. That is why failure and job loss hit people so hard. It is difficult to extract yourself from that circumstance; your worth gets tangled up in the sudden job loss.
- It can cause anxiety: As a result of human evolution, our mind has developed the capacity to predict problems in the future. This capability has been instrumental in preventing failure throughout human history. However, anxiety manifests when this ability gets out of control. Therefore, the uncertainty that arises due to job loss can result in moderate to severe anxiety.
- It can create financial pressure and stress: Depending on your financial situation and if you have a family to support, job loss can put a lot of pressure on you to get employed again as fast as possible. You may have lesser disposable income, which means you may have to cut back on extraneous expenses that brought you joy. As a result, restraining your wants and desires and the pressure to support other people financially can create stress. If left unchecked, this stress can become chronic.
- It can result in a lack of purpose: For most people, their career is their purpose in life. While this mindset is what often results in a mid-life crisis (or even a quarter-life crisis), it is shared by millions of people over the world. One of the main reasons for that is that it is conducive to material success. However, it is not necessarily conducive to happiness. Therefore, when they lose their jobs, they also lose their life purpose. It can make you feel hollow and feel like you're just going through the motions in life.
How do you Deal with Job Loss Without Damage to Self-Esteem?
As discussed in the last section, the reason is that people often tie their self-worth and identity to their work and accomplishments. As a result, a job loss also feels like a hit to your identity and self-esteem.
If you get fired, that does not reduce your value as a person. However, that is how it feels if your identity has become tied to it. Therefore, to prevent your self-esteem from being impacted, you must learn to separate your identity and worth from your work.
Exercise to Separate Your Identity From Your Work
One of the best ways of learning that you have worth outside your accomplishments and failures is to do something you're very good at with full awareness. Notice how you feel, what part of you becomes happy, and the pull you feel towards the work.
Then, do something you're horrible at. Do the work with full awareness and notice the same things: how you feel, what part of you feels like a failure, and your aversion towards the work.
Try to find the part within you that remains constant during both of these activities. That is not an easy exercise, but it is very rewarding once you get the hang of it.
It may also help to journal about your feelings. Journaling helps you write from a place of emotion and then allows you to take a step back so that you can look at your thoughts and feelings without the influence of that emotion. That is why it is so often recommended for emotional processing.
Additionally, if you've suffered a sudden job loss, reach out to people close to you. While emotional support is the obvious way in which others can support you, it may even be worth asking for financial support if the need arises.