The Painful (and Helpful) Overlap Between a Layoff and a Breakup
I’m a career coach with a sub-specialty of helping people who are changing careers, sometimes after an unexpected job loss or layoff. [Check out my article, “Got Laid Off? Here’s How to Deal”] When Allie Volpe, a freelance writer contacted me to ask whether I might be available as a resource for an article she was writing for The Cut called Getting Laid Off Taught Me How to Cope with Breakups, I had a mental forehead slap: Duh! Of course, there’s so much in common between these two topics – why hadn’t I written about it myself?!
I often liken a job search to dating, but now, thanks to Allie, I have another paradigm that, after she connected the dots for me, I can’t stop exploring in more detail.
Take a look at the article that Allie wrote about breakups and layoffs because it includes details about her own anguish and search for answers following her layoff and how she recognized the connection to a breakup. She seeks input from several professionals who touch on the turmoil that disruptions in habits bring, suggestions about bouncing back, mourning, and harvesting lessons.
Painful Similarities Between a Layoff and a Breakup
Both breakups and layoffs can have the same flavor, including:
- If you don’t see it coming, both a layoff and a breakup can be like a sucker punch to the gut and make you question your worthiness.
- After a layoff or a breakup you’ll likely experience an emotional cocktail, including grief, anxiety, self-doubt, anger, hope, and more. [Read: “Getting Over a Breakup? How to Cope With the Pain“] It can be intense and sometimes seem disproportionate to the event because it may dredge up old wounds and past losses.
- As with any loss, both a layoff or a breakup may lead you to experience grief bursts, which is an unexpected wave of emotion that washes over you with a strong force. An offhand comment or an article or an email rejection notice can trigger tears or anger that seems to come out of nowhere.
Helpful Similarities Between a Layoff and a Breakup
The good news about the often-difficult experiences of either a layoff or a breakup is that we can look to each of them for wisdom and insight for healing for the other. What may seem insurmountable and spiral us into deep despair can shift. Here are some suggestions for moving through both struggles:
- Find a Way To Process Your Emotions. It can be very helpful to get professional support or use a mechanism such as journaling to make sense of your inner experience so that your emotions don’t bleed into your interviews. One of my favorite coaching teachers told me, “Your mind is like a dangerous neighborhood. Don’t go in there alone.” The same is true of a breakup – if you can harvest the emotional dimensions of your split and process them, they’re less likely to cloud your next relationship.
- Whether a Former Employer or Lover: Don’t Bash Your Ex. Anger and resentment are normal and often very reasonable responses to both a breakup and a layoff, so it’s important to attend to these emotions. A budding romantic relationship may not bear the weight of bitterness from a recent partnership. And when you’re in a job interview, it’s important that you speak professionally about your former employer. No matter how much of a mess it was at your former workplace, it’s not helpful as a selling point in marketing yourself for your next job if you detail or even hint at the problems you encountered there.
- Pay Attention to Your Self-Talk. Are you blaming yourself for not seeing this coming? Don’t judge your younger self for missing cues or bypassing exit opportunities. There’s a great quote from Maya Angelou that fits here: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” If your self-talk has an unworthiness theme, that’s important to process, too. Just because something didn’t work out (even something that you invested deeply in) doesn’t mean that you won’t find fulfillment and fit in your next chapter.
You’re not alone in your worries and pain as you move through a breakup or a layoff. The universality of the fallout from them offers a small element of comfort because, as with any loss, strong emotions tend to surface – that’s a tough part of being human. If you find that you’re not able to pull yourself out of either one of them or if you’d just like some extra support, we have experts on our team who specialize in both career coaching as well as breakup recovery work. [Meet Our Team]
All the best,
Maggie Graham, M.Ed., LPC, CPCC
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