What To Do After a Painful Job Loss

I’ve been spending the last few weeks in conversations with people who were suddenly let go by an employer they loved. Some of these individuals had spent most of their professional life in service to this institution. Many felt great loyalty to their employer and a set of values and ideals that they had embodied, and went far beyond an organizational culture document. Then suddenly, and without warning, they were let go. On the way out they were instructed that some severance was possible if they very quickly signed documents and went away quietly. 


If you have loved anything or anyone in your life before and then been betrayed by it or them you know how they might be feeling. If not, congratulations for making it through less scathed than most. In this kind of situation most find themselves a combination of anger, hurt, disappointment, burnt out and confusion. Simultaneously, a good number were feeling the anxiety that comes with meeting financial obligations and insurance needs for themselves and their family. 

So, what do you do when suddenly the job you loved is no longer yours and the employer you thought of so highly spurns you?

I would start by considering these three questions:

How quickly do you need a next job, financially?

How quickly do you need to bring in a regular paycheck? If you don’t have savings or family to rely upon to help you in this moment you may not be in the position to process all of the emotion that you are feeling. What is the amount you need to bring inmonthly to meet your financial obligations? If the savings, unemployment and severance or unemployment can’t cover rent and food for your household it may make the rest of the considerations moot.  

How emotionally raw are you feeling as you consider what to do next?

Even if your money situation affords you some space to not need to bridge the loss of a salary you may be feeling a bit bewildered by all that’s happened to you. That’s actually pretty typical. Many people don’t think they have had enough time to process what just happened and to consider what work should be next? That makes sense too. It can take a little time for the emotional volatility of that moment to settle down a bit and the pain to be a bit in the rearview before you can actively start looking ahead.  You might want to simply give yourself permission to not consider work for a few weeks so you can get back to some emotional equilibrium. That is easier said than done, of course. But it is worth considering.  

Now, if you are ready to venture forward given the two previous questions there are a set of questions that you should start asking yourself. 

Do I want to continue working in the role I had?

In the industry I was in?

If so, will my current skills allow that to happen?

If not, how do I get the help to figure out what I should do next? 

Is this a moment where I might want to consider pursuing a side hustle or hobby and make it my primary work?

Do I want to consider taking on consulting work that might allow me to pay my bills and buy me more time to consider my options?

I’ve known several entrepreneurs who tell me they wouldn’t have got their businesses started if it weren’t for the end of a professional relationship on difficult terms. Worth considering: Was this the involuntary push you needed to get things together for yourself?

If you’re looking for another job, ask yourself: what do I expect from my next employer? Do I want to have the same relationship? Can I have that kind of trust again? What were the things that you can look back on in hindsight that were problematic. There is always something that can be improved.

Tending to Feelings of Uncertainty

Some of the people I spoke with, often the ones with the most impressive resumes, were concerned that this could be the start of a downward spiral. If you get to this place, engage someone else you know and trust in a conversation about your unique set of skills and talents. You’re going to get through this! 

Beware a tendency towards excessive nostalgia

It’s easy to look back on your former job as though every single day was exciting and motivating. It is perfectly normal to grieve for a bit. Nonetheless, keep near those positive and hopeful forces in your life who tend to help you when you wallow for too long. This wasn’t necessarily about you. All too often job security is beyond your control.  

This is also a very good time to ask yourself how much of your sense of self-worth and value you draw from work. Is it time to take up meditation, or to invest a little more energy in your life outside work? Perhaps not, but remember: You’re free to choose.

One warning, you may encounter some people who tell you that you were lucky to have a job you loved, and that you shouldn’t expect to have one like that again. Perhaps they, themselves, have never loved their jobs, so you should suck it up and feel fortunate to have enjoyed it for as long as you did. I think these people are well intentioned, but suffer from a poor sense of timing. 

I don’t agree with them, of course. You have so many choices before you. Just make those decisions when you are clear-headed and supported.

Russ Finkelstein [linkedin.com] is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor.  A career coach, social entrepreneur, and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship, and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and was chosen as a Generation Z Influencer by LinkedIn.

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