So you suddenly find yourself unemployed. Rest assured, you’re in good company. Most anyone who has taken a risk in their career has lost their job at some point.
First off, don’t panic.
I know this is easier said than done. However, once you’ve had some time to digest the news – you will realize that you have just inherited a great gift.
Unemployment Offers Surprising Opportunities
For the first time in x number of years, you have some time off to be your own boss. You can clear your head, step away from the endless perpetual cycle of emails, and spend time reflecting on where you’ve been and where you want to go.
I know what you’re thinking, “But I just lost my job. I’m freaking out!!!” This is a natural response at first… I wasn’t able to see the positive immediately after it happened to me either…
I worked in marketing for a small start-up in Silicon Valley with a promising technology in a space that hadn’t seen innovation in 30+ years and there were many disgruntled consumers who were craving a new solution. We had all the factors in place to be the next Google.
One minor detail that held us back – the technology didn’t really work. No matter how great our marketing campaigns had been in getting consumers into the funnel, they ultimately fell out at alarming rates because of the inferior efficacy of the technology.
Eventually, they let the marketing team go. I wasn’t surprised, I had seen the writing on the wall. Nevertheless, when I heard the news, it was hard to contain the emotions that inevitably bubbled up. I went home that day, poured myself a glass (or two, or three) of wine, and starred at the wall for at least an hour. What next?!?
Eventually, I did some traveling, brushed up my resume, started applying for jobs and ended up with two promising roles to choose from (don’t worry if it does take a while – have faith that everything will work out). But here’s what I learned through that process.
How to Bounce Back From Being Downsized and Attract the Best Opportunities
When you’ve been let go, try to say goodbye to your co-workers and superiors with as much dignity as you can muster
Extending this small courtesy at such a difficult time speaks volumes about your professionalism and actually encourages your advocates and allies to continue their relationships with you, which can be beneficial to all involved.
And you may experience that benefit sooner than you anticipate because many, many times, these will be the people who will help you find your next gig or provide the recommendations that help you land your dream job.
Recognize that job loss ranks #8 on the list of major life change stressors
At a time like this, it is important to be gentle on yourself because you will start to go through a physiological response that our body has to traumatic stress.
Allow yourself to adapt to the change, properly process your emotions, and move through this cycle in a healthy way. When you do, it will take you to a more positive place.
Johan Cullberg, a Swedish professor of psychiatry, outlined the process we go through as a reaction to traumatic stress:
a. Chock – This is the state where chaos meets shock – you may feel empty, isolated, and reality may feel unreal. The physical manifestation is different for everyone – it can be immobilization (binge on Netflix for a few days, you deserve it), restlessness, or acting-out behaviors (if you’re an addict, please seek help for the temptation that will follow).
b. Reaction – This is where you may feel grief, despair, anger, and maybe, meaninglessness. You start to wonder why it happened and who you can blame. You may have feelings like, “why me?’ and “what have I done wrong?” These are common, go easy on yourself. The action that follows is either acting out or introversion. Again, both can be highly therapeutic if done in a healthy way.
Side note: This is a GREAT time to take that trip you’ve been putting off because work has been too crazy. The juxtaposition between thinking these thoughts and being surrounded by a new and beautiful place can be extremely effective. “Why did I get fired, why wasn’t it Bill?!? Oh wow, that croissant looks amazing. I’ll take two.”
c. Coping – This is where you begin to get used to your “new” situation and accept what has happened. You are not completely past the icky feelings – you are teeter-tottering between looking forward and still feeling bitter and angry. But you’re getting less fragile and closer to finding the next step (which FYI, is going to be awesome).
This is a good time to reconnect with old friends and coworkers because it feels good to see old buddies but also, (depending on what source you’re quoting) 80-85% of new roles are filled through networking. After you’re back from your trip, book some coffee dates and share your pictures!
This is also a good time to take a long, hard look at where you’ve been and explore the new direction you’ve been dreaming about. A career coach can help you really dig into what the best next step is for you. There are endless options ahead of you – take advantage of finding the path that suits you best!
d. Orienting yourself towards the future – At this stage, you have reached acceptance. Your mind has processed all the detrimental feelings and you are ready to look forward. This is where you convincingly say, “screw that old job, I wasn’t really happy there anyway. There’s something much better for me out there.” You have reestablished a routine and may even have one, or several job offers by now. If you don’t, that’s ok. It takes, on average, six months to find a new job. While you look for the next job that will be better than the last, enjoy the time off before life gets crazy again with email and deadlines. You’ll never get this time back!
Moving Forward With Gratitude
When you do start the new job, remember to be thankful for the experience that you’ve been through. It’s given you a new perspective and allowed you to get an even better gig – one you may not have pursued on your own.
Good luck, my friend! I am always here for you if you need me.