Woman staring down at her desk with her hands on top of her head. Coping with job loss.

What to Do When You Lose Your Job

As of March 18, 2020, U.S. government officials are concerned that due to COVID-19, the nation’s unemployment rate could reach 20 percent. State unemployment websites have crashed as applications have surged, leaving job seekers coping with job loss amidst a sea of questions.

If you recently lost your job, you are not alone. Unexpected job loss is something many Americans are either currently experiencing or are worried about.. After losing your job, your mind might go immediately to concerns like loss of finances and security. You may have no idea what to do when you lose your job, and the lack of clarity likely has you feeling petrified. 

These feelings are completely understandable, but I encourage you, while balancing these serious concerns, to also be open to finding some perspective in this experience. This is a difficult time in your life, but it’s possible for you to manage it. 

As an online life coach  and career counselor, I often work with people who unexpectedly find themselves jobless and feeling like their world has just been turned upside down. When you suddenly lose employment, you can start to question everything that felt secure previously. If these negative thoughts are left unmanaged, you could suffer long-term issues of self-image, confidence, hypervigilance, and increased anxiety.

If you’re coping with job loss, you are not doomed to a life of being unemployed and depressed. Instead, you actually have a lot of power in the experience of losing your job — but you have to be willing to use it. You can recover, and more importantly, you can thrive again.

How to Cope with Losing Your Job: Slow Down and Process the Emotions

“A Plan B life can be just as good or better than a Plan A life.”

– Shannon Alder

So much of coping with an unexpected job loss is letting go of what we thought our life was supposed to look like. If you’ve planned your life around the ideals of a career, after losing your job, you may feel lost in general.

It’s okay to feel disappointed, stunned, sad, and confused after job loss. You may even be experiencing some “unemployment depression” after losing your job. This is all completely normal. Being unemployed can bring on some difficult feelings. Allow yourself time to grieve in this process of healing after loss. That’s healthy. What’s not healthy is allowing the loss to overcome you, or turning job loss into a broader statement about who you are as a person.

By giving yourself time to process the feelings of loss and understanding your anxieties (for some help with that, check out this article: “How to Stop Your Anxiety, Right Now”), you can open yourself up to being more honest with all of your feelings. Instead of feeling only fear and anxiety about your job loss, you can start opening up to seeing the bigger picture. 

This job loss might have had nothing to do with you, instead being the result  of a tumultuous economy, poor management, or a million other reasons. The main point here is to be honest in how you are evaluating your circumstances.

If there is something you think you could have done to improve, be honest with yourself. Try to view this new insight as an opportunity for professional growth. If there is something you have no control over, be honest about that too. Giving yourself compassion with your emotional experience is an important part of building trust within yourself.

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Coping with Job Loss: Create a Timeline, Prepare, and Adjust Behaviorally

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be: Take a couple of days off. Take time away from ruminating about what happened or what your next steps are going to be. Slow down for a moment in time before you collect yourself to get back on your journey. 

This can be hard for some who define themselves by their career. You can feel a strong urge to attach yourself to a new job as soon as possible. But making rash decisions due to anxiety can impact your career longer-term. Not only could you find yourself in a career path that you don’t enjoy, but you’ll also be enforcing the concept that you don’t have control in your career. Rather, you are making decisions based on fear. This will keep you functioning at your lowest level — survival. Instead, brainstorm ways to test drive a new career, so that you can go into the experience with clear eyes. 

After you take a break, ground yourself in your timeline. Ask yourself how you can best position yourself to get through this career rut, as well as how to launch yourself into your successful career future. This might mean you take time to find your focus and fully evaluate your current career path. What are you willing to change? What are you not willing to compromise in your career?

Lastly, be an informed worker. Take a look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook website. This website offers information on most careers and is an invaluable resource when researching aspects of a career, including salary ranges, educational background and experience required, and details about what to expect on the job.

If you need more support, you can also work with a Career Coach who will guide you through your experiences and interests to help you find a career path that aligns with how you see yourself.

Adopt an Empowered Mindset after Loss of Employment

If there is one thing we could all probably agree on, it’s that things change. And if there’s one thing I know as a Licensed Professional Counselor, it’s that people don’t like change. 

When change occurs, especially when we don’t have control over it, we can feel resistant to accepting the new norms. The longer we take to accept the reality of change, the longer we stay stuck. The quicker you can accept that things are not going back to the way they were, the quicker you can make adaptations to prepare yourself for your future.

One way to do this is by checking in with how you’re framing the situation in your head (aka your self-talk). If your self-talk is repeatedly framing your situation through a disempowered/resistant mindset, you most likely will stay trapped in the resistance, making movements forward feel extremely difficult.

I invite you to allow yourself to be empowered while jobless. Try to reframe your thoughts to be surrounded by opportunity and new chances rather than fears as you begin coping with job loss.

For instance, a disempowered/resistant mindset looks like this:

“What’s the point of looking for something, no one’s hiring.”

By listening to this thought, you are choosing to believe that anything new is not sufficient. The new norm could never be as good as the past.

A healthy, empowered mindset looks like this:

“I’m going to see what opportunities are out there for me. I’m not sure what’s out there, but if there is something, it will be me who finds it.”

By choosing to take the empowered approach, you are being honest about what you don’t know yet and what you are willing to do to figure out how to adapt. It’s not overly optimistic or pessimistic. Rather, it’s based in reality and your will to try and find your way in unknown territory.

After Job Loss, Know This…

You are not alone. There is no need to feel shame. You can recover from job loss.

Wishing you success,

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