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Tips for Getting Back on Your Feet After You Lose Your Job

Updated on January 10, 2017
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Sally Hayes is a business communications coach who teaches speaking and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

Losing your job can be devastating. But the sooner you're able to deal with your anger about suddenly becoming unemployed, the sooner you'll be able to look for work, land a new job, and move forward.

A sudden job loss can knock you off balance.

Job loss can leave you feeling lost, lonely, and confused. It's important to take time to recover your sense of confidence when you are suddenly unemployed.
Job loss can leave you feeling lost, lonely, and confused. It's important to take time to recover your sense of confidence when you are suddenly unemployed.

Unemployment can be one of the most upsetting things a person can go through.

If you've just lost your job, you're probably feeling a range of strong emotions: from shock and sadness (What just happened?), to relief and gratitude (I was not happy at that job. Maybe this is for the best.).

Losing your job not only affects your livelihood, it can impact your self-esteem and self-confidence. Job loss hurts; there’s no doubt about it. Just like people who've been hurt by an unforeseen turn of events, losing your job can shake your faith in yourself and in other people. That’s why, like many other sad experiences you might face in life, you must give yourself time to grieve your loss.

It may seem difficult now, but with patience, you can get back on your feet. It is possible to find another career path that will make you feel happy and fulfilled once again. Here are a few tips to help you build up your self-confidence again.

Grief and sadness are understandable emotions after someone loses their job.
Grief and sadness are understandable emotions after someone loses their job.

Give yourself permission to grieve and feel sad about your loss. Many people who have lost their jobs are overwhelmed by feelings of panic and anxiety: “What will happen next? How will I pay my bills? What will friends and family think when they find out that I just lost my job?”

It can be tempting to want to jump right back into the job market as quickly as possible. But in some ways, job loss can trigger many of the same feelings of sadness people experience when someone dies. If a family member passed away suddenly, it would be normal--even expected--that you’d take time off work to process your feelings. Coping with the effects of losing your job should be given the same gentle care and attention that you'd give yourself and others after a major life setback.

Reconnect with your spiritual beliefs and try to look at the bigger picture. Trust that everything happens for a reason and in time you will get back on your feet. Imagine yourself looking back one day and seeing how losing your job fit into your life and how it created new and exciting paths for you to follow.

With time, it’s not unusual for people who have lost their jobs to realize that they were already quite unhappy at work. Sometimes the loss actually feels like a relief because you no longer have to fret about whether you should stay or go. Losing your job could be the Universe’s gift to help you move on to something better, something much more satisfying and financially rewarding.

Take a time out. Give yourself a bit of a break and do some activities that you truly enjoy but didn’t have the time to do before because you were so busy when you were working. There are plenty of inexpensive things that you can do to recharge your batteries and get in touch with your core values again.

  • What do you get excited about?
  • What turns the creative gears in your head?
  • What makes you feel alive?

By getting back in touch with things that you enjoy doing “just for fun,” you may uncover a hidden talent or passion. For example, perhaps a trip to a local art gallery and a chat with the artists may inspire you to find a career that feeds your creative spirit. Perhaps a trip to the library or a local university campus will spark an interest in going back to school again. A bike ride or a nature hike may remind you of how much you enjoy the outdoors. You may find yourself wondering, “Wouldn’t it be great to find a job that paid me to be outside all day?”

Focus your attention on helping others when you're feeling lost and alone. Don’t underestimate the power of giving to others when you're feeling down. Volunteering and charitable work can help put your life back into perspective and make you realize that you already have so much to be thankful for!

Turn your job loss into a learning opportunity.
Start a journal and make notes about all the things you learned at your last job. What were your strengths? What were your weaknesses? Be honest with yourself. This list is for your eyes only. You will be able to bounce back from your job loss faster if you don't waste time kidding yourself about what you're really good at and what you might need to work on a little more.

Recovering your sense of self-worth and letting go of the past are important first steps in moving forward after a sudden job loss. Your next challenge is to go out and start looking for a new career path that will meet both your financial and emotional needs.

Set yourself up for success! If your self-confidence has been rattled by your recent job loss, the idea of getting out there and networking can be scary. No matter what stageyou're at in your job loss recovery process, don’t let bitterness or anger show through in any way.

Here are some quick tips to help you present a picture of positivity when you’re networking and building up your jobs contact list.

  • Shake hands, smile, and look people in the eye when you meet them. Give them your full attention. Pay close attention to the other person’s name and title so that you can properly introduce them when others join your conversation.
  • Praise people warmly, acknowledge their work, and let them tell you about what they do before you tell them what you do.
  • Listen to others, not just with your ears, but with your eyes, your heart, and your brain. Listen to your intuition too, but don’t let that make you overly cautious or suspicious. Hear what the other person is saying with the same kind of open mind that you want others to have when they listen to you.
  • Don’t gossip or bad mouth others, especially your old boss or co-workers. Say only kind and generous things about other people. If you have nothing nice to say about someone, then simply say nothing.

Keep your eye on the horizon for new opportunities to arise!
Keep your eye on the horizon for new opportunities to arise!

When you're ready to start looking for work again, sharpen your interviewing skills. If it’s been a while since you’ve had to look for a job, the thought of going to a job interview can be scary. The best way to let go of your performance anxiety is to practice your interviewing skills ahead of time. Be mindful of your body language. Freshen up on basic interview etiquette, and watch out for unconscious habits that send the wrong message.

Keep your my mind occupied with positive thoughts while you look for work. Searching for a new job can feel like you’re on an endless roller-coaster ride of hope and despair. Some days you may feel that you’re at the top of your game. You're impressing prospective employers with your sharp resume and your enviable work experience. Other days you might hit a dry spell after sending out countless resumes. The phone has stopped ringing off the hook. “Why isn’t anyone calling me back?” you might wonder.

Staying positive while you're looking for work is critical to becoming employed again. Seek out ways to feed your creative spirit so that you have the energy and stamina you need to keep hunting for that dream job. Give yourself freedom to play and goof-off once in a while, otherwise you'll wear yourself out. Nurture your creativity when you're looking for a new job, and prospective employers will be impressed by your energy, enthusiasm, and self-confidence.

Develop your conversational skills. Whether you're a born extrovert or a chronic wallflower, developing your communication skills is a must when you're looking for a new job. The ability to express ideas clearly and concisely is a desired skills set in most workplaces these days. Read articles, books, and self-help guides to improve your presentation skills.

Set your sights high! Don’t settle for anything less than you deserve. When you've lost your job suddenly, it can be tempting to jump into the job market and take anything you can get. But be careful that you don't settle for less than you deserve. Looking for a new job will take up a significant chunk of your time, there's no doubt about that. So it's important that you establish good boundaries around what you will and will not accept from a future employer.

Ask yourself if you really need to jump at every job posting that you see. You don't want to burn out too soon. Be thoughtful about what jobs you'll pursue. By sending out blanket job applications, you could expose yourself to scam artists trying to take advantage of desperate job seekers. Protect yourself and learn how to spot job scams and rip-offs.

When you do get close to landing a new job, make sure that you've assessed your potential employer for his or her suitability as your new boss. Remember, the interview process is your chance to size-up future employers so that you don't end up working for a nightmare boss. Use your interviewing time wisely and pay attention to the little clues the interviewer leaves behind.

If or when you're looking for work, how long do you expect it to take for you to find permanent employment?

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© 2013 Sally Hayes

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