How to Move On Successfully After a Job Loss

raised hand

Raise your hand if you have ever lost a job.

Most people have found themselves in that unfortunate predicament at least once in the course of their career. 

Some experience job loss as young, inexperienced and immature employees. Others may experience job loss in the midst of challenging family life, college tuition bills, or health issues, making the loss even more painful and stressful.

Job Loss Scenarios

Case scenario 1:

You were doing your job. Things weren’t perfect, but you were getting the work done, working harder than most. And you were still laid off in the first round of downsizing.

Case scenario 2:

man experiencing work misery

You were having a rough time personally, and it was revealing itself in your work, your lack of focus, lack of energy, perhaps some laziness. But you were just so tired, not sleeping, a hundred worrisome things floating around in your mind. You made a mistake at the office, just one, but there were repercussions, and now you are without a job.

Case scenario 3:

You were a loyal employee for 20 years, but someone younger with better skills came along. The company replaced you with him. Now you’re wondering where and how to start again - hoping that someone somewhere will hire you.

Case scenario 4:

lies or truth

Someone reported you for sexual misconduct. You want to deny it, say it’s a false accusation, but it isn’t. You did corner the woman and make her uncomfortable - more than once. You spoke and acted in ways you’d rather no one know about, and she reported you. You responded to management by calling her a liar, but she had proof of your lies. You were guilty and fired promptly. Now what?

There are numerous job loss scenarios, each one with its own explanations and excuses. We deal with corruption (sometimes our own), personal and family issues, inexcusable workplace injustice, theft, layoffs, sickness, unfortunate circumstances, point systems, habitual tardiness, drug use or drunkenness, and poor driving records; you name it, and someone has lost a job over it.

Reacting to a Job Loss

What typically comes to mind when a person is let go from a position may be thoughts similar to these: “Why me? What did I do that was so wrong?" or on the flip side, "I've messed up big-time! What am I going to do now?”

man experiencing loss and grief after job loss

We want to blame someone, anyone other than ourselves, but when that can't happen, we are inclined to wallow in self-blame and self-pity. The loss is great. So is the grief.

The reality of any job loss and the pain it causes is real and emotional. It can leave a person feeling completely rejected and depressed, and angry, even if the loss came through no fault of their own. This is normal, but this is also why you must do everything in your power to respond wisely to the loss.

In our lives, loss is unavoidable, but it is also a reality with which we must learn to cope. As stated above, oftentimes when dealt a job loss, the temptation is to blame yourself. We may say, “I deserved it,” “I knew I’d be the one to get the boot first,” “It’s all my fault,” “I’m a failure,” or, “This always happens to me!”

Whether the blame is outright yours or not, the only legitimacy I will give statements like these is this: We are all human and imperfect. That is the absolute truth. As human beings, we are subject to mistakes, failures, weakness, competition, poor decisions, wrongdoing, weariness, sickness, and depression. All these things are common to mankind. Yet when we face these things, we may feel like we are alone in that misery.

The Choice to React to Job Loss Differently

BUT what if misery and self-blame do not have to be tattooed across our foreheads for months on end while we mourn our loss and job hunt with the most lackluster, hopeless disposition ever!

What if we were to train ourselves to react differently to loss? Is it even possible? I suggest that it is.

emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is something which has garnered quite a bit of attention in recent years, and the following fact is something which greatly impresses me: People with high emotional intelligence tend to work through their anxieties more quickly and easily. 

Emotionally intelligent people are more self-aware. Instead of dwelling on the past, they contemplate what can be done to move forward successfully as soon as possible. However, when working through a job loss, know that these things will be required of you: time, honesty, and humility.

Respond to Job Loss by Asking the Right Questions of Yourself

In one of their blogs, TTI Success Insights recommends moving forward by asking yourself the three questions listed below and then reflecting thoroughly upon those answers.

  • What did I do well in the job?

positive versus negative

Think it through, then list the positives. Consider the job responsibilities you held, but also attitudes, friendships and other work relationships established, accomplishments, and new skills obtained while with the company.

  • Is there anything I should do right now to try and make things better?

If so, do it without delay. You will have a sense of accomplishment and a brighter outlook knowing that you have done the right thing. It may involve taking an immediate albeit undesirable job just to get some cash flowing. It may involve trying to make things right toward someone you wronged at your former place of employment. It may mean going through the process of registering with some of the local staffing agencies. If there is literally nothing you can do to improve your situation, then it is out of your control. As the song goes, let it go!

But do give yourself time to search for a new position and also time to mourn. Job loss recovery takes time, and the mourning process is real, especially if you invested many years of your life with the company. Until another job comes along, striving to maintain hope will be a challenge. Accept the challenge and face your days with hope by your side.

  • What will I do differently next time?

Record your responses and determine to follow through. There may be changes you need to make in your personal life and/or on-the-job changes.

Moving On and Taking Back Control

To move on after a job loss, you may need to consider what went wrong (if anything, on your part), but please do not overthink or rehash the loss for days on end. Sort out the details, write down in a journal exactly what happened, and then close the book on the loss and whatever regrets, mistakes, and unfortunate circumstances it may have involved. It’s over. You will do yourself no favor in bemoaning what once was, whether quietly reprimanding yourself or voicing it aloud to others. It is time to move on with your life and work.

When you attempt to work through the anxiety of job loss in this manner (managing yourself and your anxiety by asking and answering the right questions), you are actually improving your emotional intelligence. That is, you are taking control of your life by taking immediate action rather than allowing anxiety over the bad experience to rule your life for weeks, months, or even years.

life is a journey

Self-awareness can lead to greater self-management skills. Later, when potential employers ask what you learned from the job loss experience, your will have plenty to share. Life is a journey, and loss is part of it. So are mistakes. Accept the loss, work through it, and look toward the future. It may take time, additional education, networking, patience, diligence, even admission of guilt, but most people find that next job. So, be thankful in all things, learn from each experience and mistake, stay hopeful, and continue to grow in your career.

We wish you the best in your job hunt, and if we can be of service to you, please contact BRANNON PROFESSIONALS at your convenience.