How to deal with job loss
This article was written by freelancer Charlie Duffield
Whether it’s expected or completely out of the blue, losing your job – especially a job you love – can completely blindside your self-worth and sense of identity, not to mention your finances and mental health. But, it’s more common than you’d think, and ranks as one of the top 5 most stressful life-altering events to experience. If you just received some unwelcome professional news, here’s how to bounce back.
Allow yourself to grieve
Like any type of loss, be prepared to grieve. It’s still kind of a taboo, but the end of a job can feel as seismic as the end of a relationship. You’ll probably experience some of the 7 stages of grief, the first of which is shock and denial – essentially a state of numbed disbelief. The second stage is pain and guilt, followed by anger and bargaining, and then depression, reflection or loneliness. After a period of upturn in which you begin to adjust to your new reality, the penultimate phase is a period of reconstruction.
Finally, you’re meant to reach acceptance and hope. Phew. Of course, this model isn’t prescriptive – but just remember not to underestimate your sense of loss. Be patient with yourself because in order to let go you need to process all your emotions.
One of the hardest aspects of job loss is the sense of shame and isolation it can trigger. Georgia* lost her job as an account executive in a PR firm when she was 22 years old. “When I was made redundant I felt this overwhelming sense of shame because I felt like it was my fault, when the reality was that the strategic direction of the company had changed. They no longer needed to employ someone in my position.” For others in a similar situation, Georgia’s advice is to allow yourself time to adjust to your new situation. Nowadays our working lives can be messy and complicated, and the boundaries between the personal, and professional, aren’t so clear.
Focus on yourself and the little steps you can take to move forward. It’s easier said than done, but don’t dwell on the past. If you find yourself feeling overly nostalgic and lamenting your situation, don’t be afraid to distance yourself from your former colleagues or workplace, and unfollow social media accounts which are triggering. In fact – stay off social media as much as possible if you’re feeling vulnerable. Others may be sharing snippets of their dream working lives, but it’s likely they’ve also had to overcome setbacks on the road to success.
For Hayley, her mental state suffered after losing her job in computing aged 23, which made it harder to pursue new opportunities. “The last thing I wanted was to look for work, and rejection when you are feeling depressed just hits you ten times harder. But, finding work had to be a priority due to my finances.” Assess your financial situation and be honest with yourself about your immediate needs. If you’re lucky, you may have stashed some savings to support yourself during your job search. However, if funds are limited your next job might have to be more of a transitional role to keep yourself financially afloat. You could also consider freelance or part time work to boost your cash flow, and make sure to check if you’re eligible for any unemployment benefits.
For Georgia*, even though she had a financial safety net, the search for a new job was tough. “The redundancy took its toll on me emotionally. There would be days when I simply didn’t feel good enough. I was lost and confused as to what direction I should take next, and I wasn’t prepared to just work anywhere.”
According to the World Bank, job insecurity is now a fact of life for young people, and in May 2018 the Trades Union Congress reported that 1 in 9 workers, or 3.8 million people, are in insecure jobs. Nevertheless, jobs help us connect to the society around us, and being fired, or made redundant, leaves you feeling disconnected and dejected. If you’re able to understand what makes you happy outside of your 9 to 5, you’ll be a lot more resilient when managing the inevitable ups and downs of your working life.
Start a side project, volunteer with a local charity, learn a new language, reconnect with old friends, travel, join a sports team…or literally whatever else you feel like doing. Just don’t be defined by your job title and going forward make sure to pursue other interests outside of the office.
Open up and seek help
Now more than ever, surround yourself with people who lift you up and are positive – the radiators of the world – and if you feel that your mental health has been affected consider seeking help via counselling. According to Hayley; “Your mental health is the priority, and you won’t excel in your next position if you are struggling with it.” Losing your job is hard. Nowadays, work encompasses much more than a monthly pay cheque and is a key facet of our identity. Yet when experiencing redundancy or job loss, there will always be something positive to be learned.
For Hayley, it allowed her to reassess her career: “Change is always difficult, but looking back, I’m glad it happened. It gave me the push to start looking for a job I actually wanted, rather than one I needed. I don’t know if I’d have taken the plunge to start my own business if I hadn’t been made redundant.” Also, people generally want to help others – if you’re honest about your situation and new aspirations, you never know what connections or resources might become available to you. Keep the faith that something good will eventually come from such a difficult scenario, and realise that you’re not alone.
Georgia* some names have been changed to protect the contributor’s anonymity