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Mental wellness

March 27, 2012

Five key strategies for coping with job loss

Losing your job can be a painful experience. But when one door closes another can open. The key is to be prepared to knock before you can walk in.

It hurts to lose your job. I know: I’ve lost mine three times. But on the roller-coaster ride of emotions that often accompanies one of life’s big changes you don’t have to go off the rails. In fact, for many people, losing a job is one of the most liberating experiences in their lives.

The first time I was let go was definitely a wake-up call. It hurt. How could a company that I gave so much to just walk me out the door? Although they always say it’s “just business,” it’s difficult not to take it personally. It was so personal to me, in fact, that I vowed never to be caught by surprise again.

Everyone is wired differently and, as a result, your frame of mind will greatly influence how you react to being fired. But getting your mindset straight comes easier to some than others. I was fortunate. I sought out assistance and landed in the offices of a career transition coach; that decision is still paying huge dividends today.

Dennis Hobbs is Vice-President, Client Services at Eisen Consulting Group. His organization is one of many that offer career transition support to those who have recently found themselves out of work and are often in a state of shock. Hobbs is the guy you meet right after you’ve been hit with the news that your services are no longer required. “When you lose your job, get selfish, because it's all about you,” says Hobbs. “Learn what you can about why it has happened, take ownership of those aspects in your control and dismiss the others. Then close that chapter and do something for yourself.”

With over a decade of career coaching under his belt, here are Hobbs’ five key strategies for dealing with job loss:

1. Take some time off if you can

Be polite but non-committal about follow-ups when friends come calling with early opportunities. Buy time for yourself to look honestly at what has happened and make an informed and realistic decision about the future. Get out of town without guilt and do some of those things you have been putting off because of the time pressures of your previous job.

2. Take stock of your personal situation

Revisit your financial plan, skill-set, family circumstances and career goals. See how big your “window” is – how long can you be off work before it affects your lifestyle? Taking control of your affairs will put you in the right frame of mind to move forward.

3. Settle with your employer

Try to do this amicably. It will pay dividends particularly around how quickly you get back in the game and what kind of support or reference you can count on.

4. Be realistic about what you can achieve and when

You may need some help with this, particularly if your job loss came after a period of emotion or ambiguity. Training or upgrading your education or skills takes time, so make your plan realistic.

5. Sharpen your marketing plan before beginning your search

Wandering around in today's competitive market without a clear and compelling message will add time and disappointment to your efforts. Seek out your network for informal feedback on your plan before asking for referrals.

I’ll admit my first job loss was tough, but the second and third were a cakewalk. The clichés are true: When one door closes another one opens, but the key is to be prepared to knock before you can walk in. Someone once said, “90% of success is not in showing up. It’s in showing up prepared.” If you have suffered a job loss, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, heed this advice and be prepared.

And finally, to those who are currently in job transition: Hang in there; everything will work out. “People react in a myriad of ways to job loss, but virtually all come to the same place after settling into a new job,” says Hobbs. “The majority say that the fit is so much better they cannot imagine why they had so much anxiety at the start.”

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