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How to Survive a Job Loss and What Actions You Can Take

A job loss can significantly impact you emotionally, financially and psychologically. The extent of the impact varies depending on several factors, including your personal circumstances, coping mechanisms, support network and the overall context of the job loss. Here are some common ways in which a job loss impacts you.

Emotional Well-Being

Losing a job can trigger a range of emotions, including shock, disbelief, anger, frustration, sadness, and even a sense of failure or identity loss. In addition, you may experience decreased self-esteem and confidence and increased anxiety, stress, and depression.

The emotional impact of losing a job can be significantly pronounced if the job loss is unexpected or occurs during a period of economic uncertainty. Discussing your emotions with others to get support from your family or friend network is wise. It’s important to ensure that you do not continue to wallow in a personal pity party, as that will not solve your problem.

Financial Instability

The lack of a regular paycheck can impact you and your family. Job loss can lead to financial difficulties, especially if you don’t have substantial savings or a backup plan.

The loss of income can strain your ability to meet financial obligations, such as paying bills, writing a rent check or mortgage payment, and paying for your family’s other needs. This financial stress can create anxiety, limit lifestyle choices and necessitate lifestyle adjustments.

A Sense of Purpose and Identity

Work often gives you a sense of purpose, structure and identity. Losing a job can disrupt this sense of identity and leave you uncertain about your future direction.

It’s also easy to question your skills, career choices and overall value in the job market. Try to shake off this feeling as soon as possible. Do not measure your self-worth in terms of a job; the job loss situation will not last forever.

Social Connections and Support

Workplaces often serve as social environments where you can form friendships and build professional networks. Job loss can lead to losing these social connections, leaving you feeling isolated and disconnected.

Losing daily interactions with your colleagues can contribute to loneliness and impact your overall well-being. Be sure should reach out to your former colleagues to ask them to help you network for a job. This request might not go anywhere, but you should take this action rather than assume that people will think of you if they see opportunities.

Professional Setbacks

Job loss can disrupt career trajectories and professional goals. It may require you to start over, take on lower-paying or less fulfilling jobs, or face challenges in finding suitable employment.

These setbacks can impact your professional growth and lead to frustration. Some people feel they need a career that continues to rise on the corporate ladder. This belief can help motivate you; however, you should not limit yourself to finding suitable employment that might not carry the same lofty title as you formerly had.

Related link: Quiet Quitting: Should Employers Worldwide Be Concerned?

Why Does a Job Loss Occur?

A job loss can occur for various reasons, including:

  • Economic downturns
  • Company restructuring
  • Technological advancements
  • Individual performance issues

Many people experience a job loss at some point in their careers. But it’s important to remember that a job loss does not always mean that you failed.

For instance, I have had to survive a job loss due to economic factors, industry-specific challenges and global issues. All of those job losses were not due to a problem with my job performance, but because there were internal and external factors that made my job go away.

First, economic fluctuations and recessions can lead to job losses on a larger scale. During economic downturns, companies may downsize, implement layoffs or close altogether, resulting in significant job losses across industries.

Companies regularly choose to downsize, and that is a company choice. Many times, a job loss is not about your service or performance. In one case, my division was doing well, but the organization was struggling elsewhere, so our division was cut as part of organizational cost control.

Second, industry-specific challenges have cost me a job in the past. Specific industries may experience higher job loss rates due to automation, outsourcing or changing consumer preferences.

The September 11 attacks, for instance, caused a lot of people to stop traveling. At that time, I was working in the travel and hospitality industry.

My job was eliminated when the company I was working for went bankrupt. That was a challenging time, but I remained positive and emerged as a stronger person.

Third, global events and crises – such as the COVID-19 pandemic – caused a lot of people to lose their jobs. Unforeseen natural disasters, political instability or global pandemics can significantly impact the job market.

These events can lead to business closures, layoffs or reduced job opportunities, causing widespread job loss. I had a lot of friends working in the cruise industry when the pandemic hit, and some of the best people in that field were laid off.

The ability to adapt, learn new skills and seek new opportunities can help you recover after a job loss. Although there is no perfect way to handle job loss, I have several tips to help you handle losing your job.

Allow Yourself to Grieve after a Job Loss

Losing a job can bring up a range of emotions, including shock, anger, sadness, and even a sense of identity loss. Give yourself permission to grieve and process these emotions. It’s normal to feel this way; acknowledging your feelings can help you move forward.

Job loss will take a toll on your mental and physical well-being. Focus on self-care activities such as exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy.

Taking care of yourself will help you stay positive and maintain your resilience during the job search, which can be discouraging at times If you find it challenging to cope with the emotional impact of job loss or struggle with the job search process, don’t hesitate to seek support from a career counselor, coach, clergy member or therapist. They can provide guidance, help you develop a strategic plan and offer emotional support during this time.

Network and Seek Support

Networking is crucial after a job loss; expanding your network opens doors to new opportunities.

To survive a job loss, reach out to your professional network, friends, and family for support, advice, and potential job leads. Networking is crucial in the job search, so attend industry events, join professional organizations, and utilize online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with others.

I had a friend who lost his long-term job and then started volunteering for a local non-profit organization. He worked hard there and eventually met another volunteer, who hired him for an even better job than he had lost.

Update Your Resume and Skills

Take the time to update your resume, highlighting your skills, accomplishments and experiences. Identify any gaps in your skillset that could benefit from further development.

Consider taking online courses or attending workshops to help enhance your skills and make yourself more marketable. Starting a new degree or certificate shows others that you are serious about self-development. Enhancing your skills between jobs sounds a lot better in an interview than “I rewatched ‘Game of Thrones’ with all my free time.”

Stay Positive and Maintain a Routine

Job loss can sometimes lead to a loss of structure and purpose. Establish a daily routine that includes job searching, networking and participating in fulfilling activities.

Try to stay positive, maintain a growth mindset and believe in your ability to find a new opportunity. If you are used to working an eight-hour day, then use those eight hours a day to take a class, learn new skills, network and respond to job postings.

Furthermore, establish specific and achievable goals for your job search. Break down the process into smaller tasks, such as updating your LinkedIn profile, reaching out to a certain number of contacts per week or applying to a specific number of jobs daily. This approach helps you stay focused and motivated.

Assess Your Financial Situation after a Job Loss

Being out of work will strain your financial situation, so you must evaluate your financial resources and create a budget to manage your expenses until you find a new job. Consider reducing unnecessary spending and exploring options for temporary income, such as freelance work or part-time employment, if needed.

This assessment might require hard decisions such as borrowing against your 401(k), taking out a second mortgage, taking out a personal loan and or selling off your personal possessions. Having to look at your financial resources and figure out what can be done will be difficult; it may mean living without many things.

Adjusting to a different financial situation will be challenging. However, figuring out what will work is better than not having a plan and suffering a financial calamity such as eviction, foreclosure, or repossession.

Keeping a positive mindset and not wallowing in self-pity will be difficult, but there will come a time that you will look back and realize that it worked out fine. At the time, it will seem that a job loss is a disaster; however, it can also open up opportunities for personal and professional growth.

How a Job Loss Can Be an Opportunity

While job loss can be a difficult and stressful experience, it can also present opportunities for personal and professional growth. Although there is the natural instinct to return to the same role you had, there are probably a lot of other jobs out there for which you might qualify. Here are a few ways a job loss can be seen as an opportunity.

Self-Reflection and Career Assessment

Losing a job provides an opportunity to reflect on your career path and evaluate if you were truly satisfied and fulfilled in your previous role. It’s a chance to assess your skills, interests, and values and consider whether a career change or a shift in direction is something you want to explore.

Job loss can be a catalyst for exploring alternative career paths or industries that you may have been curious about but never had the chance to pursue. You can take the time to research different industries, talk to professionals in those fields, and even consider internships or volunteering to gain firsthand experience.

Related link: What You Can Expect from a Career Coaching Appointment

Networking and Expanding Connections

When you’re searching for a new job, networking becomes crucial. A job loss can push you to engage with your professional network actively, attend industry events and build new connections. Expanding your network opens doors to new opportunities, and you may discover hidden job openings or receive referrals through your contacts.

Skill Development and Learning

A job loss can motivate you to enhance your skillset or learn new skills. It may be an opportunity to take courses, attend workshops, work on another degree or gain professional certifications. Acquiring new skills can broaden your options and increase your marketability.

Entrepreneurial Endeavors

Some people view a job loss as an opportunity to start a business or pursue the entrepreneurial ventures of their dreams. Losing a job can provide you with the time, motivation, and freedom to explore these possibilities, especially if you have unique skills or a passion that can be turned into a business opportunity.

Remember that being an entrepreneur is difficult. You must be ready to make some hard decisions because a new entrepreneur might not see a paycheck for a long time.

Be Patient and Remember to Persevere After a Job Loss

It’s important to note that everyone responds to a job loss differently, and not everyone will experience the same impact. Some individuals view a job loss as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Others may require more time and support to recover from the effects of a job loss.

While experiencing a job loss can be challenging and stressful, there are ways to navigate it and come out stronger. Remember, a job loss is often a temporary setback, and with perseverance, resilience, and a proactive approach, you can bounce back and recover.

Going through the experience of a job loss can help you develop resilience and inner strength. Remember that there are ways to use the job loss experience to enhance your confidence, problem-solving abilities, and personal and professional growth.

Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC, is a faculty member of the reverse logistics management and government contracting and acquisition programs at the University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Los Angeles; a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix; and a doctoral degree in management from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Gordon also holds graduate certificates in information technology project management, information technology security and logistics management from American Public University.

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