Job loss is a terrifying, confusing experience and may be a confidence/morale shatterer. Well-meaning friends and family may pepper you with practical advice on job search, lend you a helping hand with your CV, or recommend you to work in their companies. They put on their “problem-solving hat” and get straight to work.
But behind just the physical loss of a job is a huge emotional rollercoaster that few people are equipped to tide through.
Giving Yourself Permission to Grieve
For many people, a job may be their primary identity. After all, one may easily spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else. When we lose our primary identity, we mourn a lost sense of self. This grief is compounded especially if you had not been able to control the situation, or if the news came too swiftly and tactlessly.
You may also lose your sense of safety and autonomy - experiencing a decline in mental and emotional wellbeing from the financial consequences of the job loss, and feeling destabilized and uncertain. Then there is the potential loss of dreams. Perhaps we had put our hopes in a bright future with our company (especially if they had been a great employer). It can be very disorienting and discouraging when our effort seems to have come to naught.
While doing the “practical thing” like job hunting and updating your CV, don’t forget to give yourself space and permission to grief & recover. Only then can you move forward powerfully and put your best self forward in the better days to come.
Riding the Change Curve
When faced with a loss, people often follow a change curve based on the five stages of grief (Kubler-Ross). Understanding the typical emotional responses to change is the first step to moving powerfully forward in overcoming the slump, promoting a more positive outlook.
When the unexpected announcement of the job loss came, you may have faced a strong wave of shock and denial - it is hard to accept the sudden news so it may be easier for a while to pretend it is not really happening. This is the phase where you’re still slightly optimistic and try to find the silver lining.
The feeling of shock may start to wane as you move to a more powerful and choking emotion - anger. You may start to direct this anger at external forces - e.g. at the company, your senior management, or the economy.
As time progresses, some of this anger may be turned inwards and you may start to experience self-doubt/blame and bargaining. “Was I not good at my job? Could I have prevented it from happening if I had done X? Can’t we do Y to turn things around?”
This may lead to depression and confusion, especially when you have internalised that the change is real and final. You may feel lethargic, lost and unmotivated. Some people may lie in bed all day thinking “what’s the point? I can’t change anything.” You may be upset at yourself for feeling such emotions, but it is completely healthy to feel such emotions.
What is important then is to hold on to a belief that there is still hope for the future. Whatever goes down must eventually come up - that is the cycle of life.
Eventually, with acceptance comes the renewed energy of exploration. This is the stage where we start to adapt and ask curious questions on how we can leverage and maneuver around this change. We begin to experiment with new solutions - this stage is where some people venture into doing their own business, or even try out another industry.
Resources To Get You On Track
Finally, as we gain traction with our problem-solving, we start to feel positive about this change. This opens the path to exploring tangible solutions that can aid in your career development.
It’s common to not know where to start. If you want some direction on your new path, we welcome you to explore our pro-bono consultation service for Resume, LinkedIn and Career Coaching. It is a judgeless session to help you reframe what you have done into what you can do in the future.
When things get turbulent, an anchoring framework is crucial for guiding your thoughts and actions. We would like to share our SPARK framework which equips you with checkpoints to prepare for during career setbacks like being laid off.
New and greener pastures await. Empower yourself with the chance to explore them.