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Lost Your Job? 4 Essential Steps to Bouncing Back

Help yourself recover and thrive after losing your job.

Key points

  • Losing your job can be devastating on many levels.
  • To build resilience after job loss, focus on four main factors.
  • Bouncing back requires that you be supportive and encouraging to yourself.
Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels
Source: Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels

Losing your job can be a devastating blow to your ego as well as your income. If it has left you feeling burned, getting a new job can certainly help your healing. But you are not fully in control of making this happen. So, along with efforts to regain employment, try these ways of soothing the pain so that you can bounce back:

1. Mourn the loss.

Acknowledge the many losses that come with losing your job, such as income (and maybe a change in lifestyle), a sense of worth and purpose from doing the job, a routine that carried you through your days, and the personal contact it offered with colleagues and others.

You might feel angry toward many targets, such as your boss, colleagues, the company, and yourself. This is natural. Allow the anger to surface (but be mindful of how you express it). Acknowledge that this is how you feel and make space for feeling it. Do this even when you don’t fully believe your angry thoughts. For instance, you might be angry with your boss when you know full well that you were not putting in the effort to do a good job. In situations like this, make space for feeling your anger and recognizing that these feelings don’t really fit the situation. Then you can begin to reflect on what is really making you angry.

If you are angry with yourself and believe those self-critical thoughts, try to understand yourself as a compassionate friend might. For instance, you might be understandably angry with yourself for prioritizing having fun over work. But rather than beating yourself up, you might think about how you were trying to ease the stress of a miserable job situation—and that your choice for coping was understandable, though misguided. By having empathy for yourself, you are more likely to respond to your current situation in a healthier way. In essence, you can become a friend to yourself, encouraging personal healing and growth.

Furthermore, as you feel the pain of being fired, talk with supportive friends. Journal. Let yourself cry. And allow yourself to be comforted. As you feel calmer, you will then be better able to take action in moving forward.

2. Remember that you are more than your job.

If you feel like you have lost everything or that this proves your inadequacy, acknowledge this pain, but also make a conscious effort to see the positives in your life. Consider these questions and suggested responses:

What qualities in yourself do you value (e.g., being kind, funny, intelligent)?

  • Take time to really connect with them and the positive feelings they elicit.

What relationships do you value in your life?

  • Note that you both benefit from the caring between you.

What are activities you usually enjoy doing?

  • Engage in them, even if you don’t really want to at the moment. We often need to do the things we enjoy before we feel ready to in order to help us feel better.

3. Ask yourself: What can I learn from this experience?

As the intensity of the pain subsides, you may benefit from reflecting on the situation. Keep in mind that the goal of reflection is to help you move forward. Use the answers to these questions to help guide you.
What did you do well in your job?
What could you improve? This might include the actual mechanics of your job, or it might be softer skills, such as assertiveness or developing better relationships with colleagues or supervisors.
Are there parts of your job that were not the right fit for you? (This can even include responsibilities that you did well but did not like.)

4. Make a plan to get a new job—and get started.

After you have processed your emotional experience of losing the job, this straightforward step can come more easily. Decide on what kinds of jobs you’d like to pursue. Decide how you would like to look for a job. For example, looking on a particular website for a job, networking, or applying for work in person. You might also find it helpful to set daily goals for yourself, such as spending three hours a day looking for work or applying for one new job a day.

It’s hard to be resilient when you feel down—or possibly sucker-punched—from losing your job. But by being kind and supportive to yourself and taking the time to grow by reflecting on your situation, you can lift your spirits and nurture hope for a positive step forward with work.

For more ideas, check out my 2-minute video, “Bouncing Back From Job Loss.”

More from Leslie Becker-Phelps Ph.D.
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