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Coping with Sudden Unemployment

With all that is happening in our economy lately, we all have to realize that we could fall victim to ‘downsizing’ or ‘organizational restructuring.’ Just as with any loss, you are likely to face many emotions.

Anger is understandable. Chances are your previous employer hurt you, and you’ll no doubt want to get even, but instead of daydreaming about ways to get them back, try to work toward the one goal that will give you lasting revenge: Find a better job.

Depression likely will seem all-consuming at times. In addition to the rejection you might be feeling, there is also a certain loss of identity or self-worth. Our jobs are often a great source of satisfaction and pride; in fact they are often a central part of who we are.

Fear is a near-universal feeling when we suddenly lose a job. There is, of course, the very real fear that comes from uncertain finances. But additionally, there is the fear of change. It is hard enough to deal with change when it is planned, but it is even more difficult when the choice is made for you.

No matter now long it takes to find a new job, you will most likely have days filled with anger, sadness and fear. Realize that these feelings are normal, but by the same token, make a real effort to avoid self-pity.

First things first: Take care of your finances.

“Don’t ignore it. Don’t think it will go away,” said David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies. “You don’t need to panic, but you do need to address it right away.”

Apply for unemployment as soon as you are eligible. The process takes time, and you should plan to be out of work for a year (and be happy when you find work sooner). Remember though, that unemployment benefits usually cover no more than 35 percent of lost wages (the average benefit is $300 a week).

Adjust your budget immediately. Cut out all unnecessary items such as cable TV, eating out, and cleaning or gardening services. Depending on what income remains in your household, you may have to start eating bologna, ramen noodles and PB&J sandwiches for a while.

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Next, take care of your career.

It is important to get started with your job search immediately. Update your resume, and reach out to your network of contacts. Make finding a job your new full-time job. Dedicate at least 6 hours a day to it — checking listings, making calls, writing letters, and interviewing. If possible make yourself an at-home office area and ask that you not be disturbed while you are “working.”

Go to every interview possible. Even if you’re not sure you want the job, the more you interview, the better you will be at it, and you never know what opportunity you may stumble into.

Be persistent, but patient. An email or thank-you card or a phone call to remind them that you are there and still interested is fine, but don’t overdo it. Remember, it may take them weeks to make a decision.

Although you may be tempted to hang out in your sweats, don’t let self-pity take over your life. If you are done “working” for the day, perhaps you could feel useful by helping someone else. Find out if there are any volunteer opportunities in local food banks, schools, shelters or pet rescues. Doing so may be just what you need to remind you to be thankful.

Yes, you should be thankful. It may not seem like it at times, but you do need to focus on everything that is good in your life. Look at what you do have. Perhaps it’s family, a home, a savings account, an education or friends. You can even be thankful for everything that you are learning from the experience of losing your job.

Focus on family and friends. They are your support and your sustenance. Feel free to call and say that you need some of their time. But don’t forget, they probably still have jobs, family and other obligations, so don’t expect to monopolize all their time.

Go out and do something — often. Even if you are severely cutting expenses, you can still have fun. There are lots of things that you can do for very little or no money. Find a free concert in the park, go to the library or visit some store that you keep meaning to check out.

Finally, learn from this experience. Take advantage of the forced time off and reflect on your life and what you want to do with it. And remember the words of Borge Ousland, who skied 1,767 miles across Antarctica via the South Pole — alone: “Never give up, even if all seems hopeless. Never give up.”

Coping with Sudden Unemployment

Amber Cass

APA Reference
Cass, A. (2018). Coping with Sudden Unemployment. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.