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7 Steps to Surviving Job Loss


Losing your job hurts.

Companies use fancy terms to describe it – downsizing, reorganization, consolidation, re-engineering.

Whatever way you slice it, the simple truth is you’re out of work.

Getting laid off is never happy news. Suffering a job loss sucks. It stings to hear you’re not needed anymore. It’s painful to pack up your belongings and leave a place you have become attached to. It feels like a betrayal to be let go of by a company you have been so loyal to.

Even if you had a great manager, you’ll likely feel discarded, rejected, and embarrassed. The future seems scary and filled with questions.

Losing your job can be one of the most difficult experiences of your life. Abruptly separating from a job is extremely difficult. For many of us, what we do for a living is intertwined with our identity and self-esteem. It’s no coincidence the first question asked when making a new acquaintance is, “So, what do you do for a living?”. When that’s stripped away suddenly, we may feel lost…grasping for meaning.

In fact, job loss is a significant life event that ranks alongside the death of a spouse and divorce on the stress-o-meter. We define ourselves so much by our professional roles and work-related achievements.

With strength and support you can avoid sinking into self-doubt.

Here are some tips for coping if you lose your job:

1. Realize you’re mourning – Losing a job is a traumatic event. You may be floundering in a sea of mixed emotions. It’s important to remember that this is completely normal. There is no one way to react to job loss – and you will undoubtedly go through your own process of working through it.

2. Acknowledge the loss – When just days before your alarm clock was a mortal enemy, you may now feel overwhelmed by the lack of structure.  Its okay to feel bad but instead of wallowing, take the opportunity to reconnect with things you never had time for while working like hobbies you let slip, volunteering, friends, or family. This will reinforce the fact that your identity is more than what you do between 9am to 5pm. This a big step in re-framing your self image to be less dependent on “what do you do” and more about “who you are”.

3. Ride the roller coaster of emotions – You may fluctuate between feeling relieved and excited to phases of fear, denial, sadness, anger, confusion, and shock. Experiencing a wide range of emotions is a typical cycle that most people go through. Eventually, you’ll reach a stage of adaptation. Don’t go it alone – you can get help navigating the grief-like feelings and help creating a plan to move forward. If your sadness explodes into full blown depression, be sure to seek professional guidance immediately.

4. Cleanse –  Give yourself permission to work up to a fresh start. Take time for yourself in the early days. Indulge with a manicure or new haircut to help boost your self-esteem. Convert your anxiety into positive energy. Meditate, exercise; find your zen. Try journaling – it can help you process your thoughts. Use these practices to gain perspective on recent events and what you want out of the future.

5. Don’t engage in self-defeat – Avoid regressive behaviors that will keep you in a cycle of negativity. Don’t sleep all day – get up at a regular time. Don’t isolate yourself – get outside, seek out adventure and fresh air. Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with people who support and inspire you – avoid those who continuously harbor anger.

6. Lose the “what-if’s” – You most likely lost your job through no effort of your own. Don’t beat yourself up about something that was out of your control. Pinch yourself every time you utter the words “If only, I had… or I wish I had done…I should have…”

7. Embrace the upsides – Leaving a job may be a painful process, but its exposes you to a world of opportunities you may have otherwise overlooked. It’s one of the few times in your life when you will be handed a clean slate and given time to re-evaluate your career. You have the time to think carefully if you’d like to keep doing what you were doing, change fields, or start your own business. Being fired sucks, but it presents a chance to move in a new direction and find even better opportunities both personally and personally. There is a reason some people say ‘getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me’. It forces you to check out of the daily grind and think about things clearly. Take advantage of that!

After surviving a layoff, you really learn a lot about your strengths and abilities. While you will need time to recover, remember to spend more time looking ahead and less time looking back. A job loss can be a blessing in disguise – a change that brings you new opportunities at every turn.

Pace yourself. Take every day one step at a time.

Have you ever lost your job? Do you have any tips on how to cope with this difficult experience?

7 Steps to Surviving Job Loss

Melody Wilding, LMSW

Melody Wilding, LMSW is a performance coach, licensed social worker, and has a Masters from Columbia. She helps established and rising managers and executives advance in their careers. Her clients work at companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, HP, and Deloitte. She also helps entrepreneurs take bold steps to grow their businesses. Melody has helped over 10,000 smart, self-aware people like you. Her coaching gives you actionable strategies to reach your goals. You get concrete steps to overcome the complex struggles of success. Melody loves arming ambitious people with tools and tactics to boost their confidence. She can teach you skills for assertiveness and influence. Her specialties include better managing your emotions at work. Melody also teaches Human Behavior at CUNY Hunter College in NYC. She writes about psychology and careers for Inc., Forbes, Fast Company, and more. Click here and grab the FREE COURSE to go from insecure to unstoppable confidence 5 DAYS TO FREEDOM FROM SELF-DOUBT..

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APA Reference
Wilding, M. (2018). 7 Steps to Surviving Job Loss. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 11 Feb 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.