When you lose your job or learn that you are about to lose your job, you may experience a wide range of emotions. The reaction to this news can include sadness, anger, fear, numbness, and shame. Experiencing these emotions is normal.
Job loss, like any loss, means letting go of something valuable. Job loss is considered a major life event not unlike the death of a loved one, divorce, or serious injury. It’s painful, shocking, and depressing. Don’t be surprised if you go through all five stages of grief as defined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying:
- Denial (this isn’t happening to me!)
- Anger (why is this happening to me?)
- Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
- Depression (I don’t care anymore)
- Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes)
Here are some immediate steps to take…
1. Try not to panic.
When you get the official notice, take a deep breath and sit down. Once you have had some time to sort through the events surrounding your job loss, you will (more than likely) find that several mechanisms are in place which will ease the trauma of your transition. If you’re laid off, you should be entitled to unemployment benefits, possible severance pay, and, in most major corporations, career transition services. You can also check your state government agencies to see if they have dislocated worker services which can help you with emergency services including paying a mortgage, electrical or automotive loan payment. This varies from state to state, so please check with the state Labor Department in which you live.
To assist you, please check out the Job Recovery Checklist. This will give you a blueprint to work from and keep your panic level to a minimum.
2. Don’t spread rumors.
Maybe you’ve been hearing rumors that there was going to be a layoff and everyone in your department has to leave next week. If you haven’t received your official layoff notice, don’t buy into the rumors and don’t repeat what you hear. The fact is, you don’t know what’s happening with your individual position until your employer tells you directly what’s happening. You may be one of the people they need to stay until the business closes or reorganizes, so…
3. Don’t burn bridges.
If we feel that we have been wronged, we may lash out at those around us. The anger we express may make us feel better at that moment, but it could affect us later on. It is important to resolve pent-up anger, but it is better to wait until one has a chance to take stock and carefully think about what needs to be done. Stop and think before you speak negatively about the company or anyone who works at the company including your supervisor, co-workers, staff members, etc. Remember that these people are going to be looking for work also and may find something better at another company. Wouldn’t it be great if they gave you a referral as a hard worker who would be an excellent candidate for another open position in that same company? You might get one if you can hold your tongue when you lose your job.
4. Don’t lose control.
Most people can handle serious situations because they have successfully handled them in the past. If you have survived other major life events, you have developed coping skills which will help you in this situation. If, however, you are feeling that you may lose control and harm yourself or others, now is the time to ask for help. Go through your Human Resources department or use your own health care doctor for referrals regarding mental health issues and to help you navigate through the emotions of losing your job. It’s OK to cry and process all of the negative feelings you’ll have, but it’s not OK to take it out on others you’ve worked with.
5. Drive carefully.
Your mind will be racing and you may not be concentrating on your driving. Resist the urge to take out your feelings in traffic. Drive slowly. Pay attention. If you’re crying or upset, don’t drive. Call a friend or family member to pick you up. Go home, change your clothes and relax or go for a walk. Do anything to take your mind off of your crisis, if even for a few moments at a time. Don’t drive until you can concentrate on driving.
6. Talk to your spouse and family members.
Your immediate family is your closest support system. They need to know about your job loss from you. While it may be very difficult to tell them, you must do it as soon as you can. Reassure them by explaining what happened. Tell them about your severance package, unemployment benefits, career transition services and other resources that will help you and your family get through the next few weeks. If you have school-age children, share the news with them in a positive light. Let them know that you’re going to find another job and keep them informed or your progress. They are directly affected and, in some cases, it might be wise to let their school counselor know that your family is experiencing a transition. Remember, your family members may experience some of the same emotions that you have: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. If they do, it’s a good idea to either get some counseling for them or take them to counseling with you.
7. Have an Ongoing Strategy.
Postpone your job search until you are ready to face the public. In a state of panic, some job searchers execute a false start. You may want to spend the first few days with family and close friends. If you have plans, keep them. A weekend trip, dinner with friends, or projects around the house are all ways to keep yourself busy while you adjust to the news you have received. By completing a project or two, you demonstrate to yourself that you can fulfill short term, self-directed goals, something you will need to do often during your job search.
8. Prepare Yourself For the Job Search.
Think in terms of marketing your talents and skills to prospective employers. Accept the fact that there will be both good and bad days. There will be times when you will feel that you are making no progress. Resist the temptation to blame yourself or others. The job search process can feel lonely at times. Take a break and then come back to your task. Expanding your network and talking to new people takes time. Now is the time to renew your effort.
9. Ask for Help.
And, finally, don’ be afraid to ask for help. We are experienced at working with those who have lost their job and we will do everything we can to help you through this transition. Come back to the website often. Check for updates, blog, ask questions, learn about yourself, what you like, dislike, etc. Get your resume started. Check out hot job leads. Talk to others in networking groups. Call your best friend. Call your old co-workers. Don’t forget that clergy people, counselors, and state agencies are all good places to seek help and if they can’t help you, they can give you a referral to someone who can.
Now that you have read “Coping with job layoff”, may we suggest that you take the next step and watch ILostMyJob.com’s Career Doctor, Robert Shindell ‘s interview with Jill Konrath, author of “Get back to work faster”?. It is important to us that we are able to help people as they recover and prosper after job loss, so please contact us with suggestions, corrections, and even your personal experiences. If you found this article or video to be helpful, we’d love for you to share it with a friend.
Also, be sure to check out all of the amazing resources for your career transition in theILostMyJob.com Book Store!
By Robert Shindell