You Lost Your Job – Now What?
Stop the Grief and Depression With Resilient Attitudes and Actions
Ronald L. Krannich, Ph.D.
In normal economic times, 10-15 million Americans are unemployed each day. This also means that nearly 50,000 people lose their jobs daily. If you lost your’s during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic (unemployment hit a high of 23.1 million or 14.7% in April 2020), your employment failure was probably due to a case of bad luck attendant with a massive economic downturn!
During the first few weeks of job loss you probably experienced the classic stages of grief – shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. Hopefully, you quickly moved on to acceptance and resilience where you began taking positive and purposeful action for surviving and bouncing back – from putting your financial house in order (filed for unemployment, cut and tightened spending, secured backup funds, renegotiated payment terms, budgeted) and rearranging your daily routines to launching a well-organized job search or starting a business. Along the way you probably experienced rejections and depression as you learned to overcome employment barriers.
From Grief to Greatness – Discover the Silver Lining
It hurts when you lose your best friend – your job. If you really loved that job, you also lost a loved one and the family you worked with. Now, you’re out in the cold. You miss going to work, seeing co-workers, having a purpose, and feeling productive. You’re probably grieving, starting with shock and anger!
Don’t take this experience personally. Trust me – this, too, shall pass, and perhaps for the better. Surprisingly, you may soon discover there is a silver lining to job loss. Like many others who have suffered similar losses, someday you may reminisce with gratitude that this was the best thing that ever happened to you, especially if you re-imagined your future and launched a successful new career and lifestyle.
But in the meantime, you’ve got lots of work to do in order to bounce back. Indeed, being very busy helps overcome grief. Most fired people survive and eventually thrive in new jobs. In some cases the job loss was their own fault – got fired for legitimate reasons, didn’t see the warning signs, quit before lining up another job. But in most cases, they lost their job because of workplace changes beyond their control – reorganizations, off-shoring, internal politics, technology, or major economic downturns.
When your paychecks stop coming in, bills pile up, health insurance runs out, and unemployment compensation doesn’t keep your boat afloat, a loud wake-up call tells you it’s time to take action – do things you never thought you would have to do. Here’s what you need to do in order to survive job loss, find another job, and move on with your life.
Don’t Get Angry – Get Smart, Focused, and Effective
- Be realistic, quick, and decisive. Stop messing with your attitude and depressing yourself by replaying the injustices and unfairnesses of your job loss story or rehearsing what you coulda, woulda, or shoulda done. It’s only a job, which you will have many throughout your worklife. Get over yourself: your job is not coming back, and thinking too much about it will not improve your mental health. Perhaps you learned a few lessons about “being valued or undervalued,” but LET GO since that job is over and it’s probably not worth keeping even if you got it back. Yes, it’s time to move on.
- Focus your mind laserlike on goals, plans, and implementation.
- Shorten your grief and depression time by keeping busy.
- Put your financial house in order – take a hard look at your income and savings as they relate to ongoing expenses during a layoff. Tighten your belt accordingly.
- Develop an aggressive 30-day lifeboat job finding plan.
- Implement your plan with attitude and enthusiasm – show your spark and be positive.
Do the Basics the First Week Out
- Involve your family – you’re in it together, so do it together. File for state unemployment compensation – visit this useful website for details on each state: fileunemployment.org
- Review your health insurance; what’s your coverage over the next 12 months?
- Check the status of your retirement plan – pension, 401(k), IRAs, etc.
- Examine your health care insurance – extend it if possible.
- Investigate government-sponsored retraining opportunities.
- Send a thank-you letter to your former employer, a thoughtful action that creates goodwill for the future!
- Let people in your network know you’re looking for a job.
- Take a few days off to smell the roses and clear your head.
- Avoid making any big decisions with major consequences, such as buying a house or moving long distance.
- Get very busy working on finding a job – make job hunting a full-time job starting with the 30/30 approach!
Manage Your Money Well
- Make a list of your assets and liabilities. How are you doing? What needs to be tweaked?
- Determine what you need to live on and start budgeting.
- Change shopping and spending habits (TIP: use 1-2 credit or debit cards and limit online shopping to one day a week).
- Contact your creditors if necessary about your challenging financial situation (TIP: ask for new payment terms)
- DON’T touch your IRA or 401(k) – you’ll need them for long-term financial security and avoid 10% penalties.
Join a Support Group or Job Search Club
- Join or form a support group with other job seekers, such as The 40-Plus Club in Washington, DC, or search for a job club near you on CareerOneStop.org; many such clubs are sponsored by career centers or churches.
- Contact friends and relatives for assistance – let them know you’re looking for a new job.
Change Your Attitude, Question Your Purpose
- How’s your attitude? (TIP: take the attitude quiz attached to The Quick Job Finding Pocket Guide)
- Prepare for several rejections with a positive attitude. Remember, you may need to experience ten “No’s” before encountering one “Yes.”
- Answer this key goal-oriented question – “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?”
Use the Right Resources
- Government assistance – contact your local CareerOneStop.
- Alumni groups – revisit your school for information.
- Online social networks and media – start with LinkedIn and then move on to other job-relevant social media.
- Websites – begin with www.livecareer.com/resources, www.servicelocator.org, careers.org, and monster.com.
- Books and DVDs — search for hundreds of such resources at www.impactpublications.com, especially these 6 products:
- Overcoming Self-Defeating Behaviors and Bouncing Back Kit
- The Quick Job Finding Pocket Guide
- Putting America Back to Work: The Ultimate Job Re-Entry Tool Kit
- Surviving Layoffs in a Jobless Recovery
- Ultimate Job Loss and Recovery Kit
- The Ultimate Job Loss Survival Kit
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