Man sitting with his fist on his chin. How are layoffs like breakups?

The Painful (and Helpful) Overlap Between a Layoff and a Breakup

At Growing Self, we have career coaches and Denver career coaches with a subspecialty of helping people who are changing careers, sometimes after an unexpected job loss or layoff.  [Check out this 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, as well as offering 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:

  • 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. These emotions can be intense and sometimes seem disproportionate to the event because it may dredge up old wounds and past losses. 
  • As with any loss, either 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,an article, or an email rejection notice can trigger tears or even anger that seem 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 either circumstance for wisdom and insight that aids in the healing of the other. What may seem like an insurmountable loss which can spiral us into deep despair can actually shift into an invitation for personal growth. 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 self care tools 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.
  • Don’t Bash Your Ex- Whether a Former Employer or Lover. Since anger and resentment are normal and often a very reasonable response to both a breakup and a layoff, it’s important to attend to these emotions. These emotions should be processed in a healthy manner before moving forward. After all, your next budding romantic relationship may not bear the weight of bitterness from your last partnership. Additionally, 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. Despite the fact that you may have invested deeply in a job or relationship that didn’t work out, you can still look forward to future possibilities.  Just because something didn’t work out doesn’t mean that you won’t find fulfillment and fit in your next chapter. Perhaps this is just what you needed to spring you into action to find your purpose and create your best life.  

Remember: You’re not alone in your worries and pain as you move through a breakup or a layoff. The universality of the fallout from either of these losses can offer you a small element of comfort because this is a collective pain that unites us in empathy with those who have suffered in similar ways. 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.

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