No matter what type of personality you have, losing a job can have a crippling effect on your self-esteem, confidence, and energy level. This is particularly true for high-achievers, who often heavily identify with their work and invest a large part of their identity in how well they do their work. In such cases, being fired or getting laid off makes them question who they really are, or at the very least question how well they were doing their job.
While these feelings are normal (up to a point), they can also interfere in, and in some cases sabotage new job prospects. In fact, a huge part of coming back from a job loss is all in how you think about it. Knowing what to expect after job loss and putting together a solid game plan to find a new job (which is Part 2 of this article, Getting Back in the Game After Job Loss) are keys to getting you back in the game.
What to expect:
1) A whirlwind of emotions - when you suddenly realize that life as you once knew it has changed—in many cases, quite dramatically—it's normal to feel an enormous rush of emotions, mostly negative ones. This is perfectly okay (at least at first), but it's important to recognize that this is probably not the best time to make major life decisions. Give your emotions a chance to settle and get some perspective on what happened before you make any significant changes that you may regret later.
2) Grief symptoms - the emotions surrounding job loss are often similar to the emotions surrounding any kind of major loss, including death and divorce. There are several models that identify the stages of grief, most notably Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's five stage model. However, for this article, I'm using a seven stage model (discussed on Recover-from-grief.com) because the stages fit well with the emotions surrounding job loss.
As you read through the stages, keep in mind that the progression through these stages is not always linear. Some people go back and forth between stages; some skip a stage or stages completely. It's also interesting to know that research on bereavement suggests that the healthier your mindset is before losing a loved one, the faster you are likely to move through the grieving process. It would make sense that the same would hold true for other forms of grieving; more and more research is finding that a positive attitude can help you better navigate all kinds of adversity. However, it's impossible to say how long it will take to get to the latter stages because grieving is unique to each person and can be complicated by other experiences going on in a person's life at the same time. Regardless, knowing what to expect often helps people put their feelings into perspective and know that what they're feeling is not unusual. It also provides a light at the end of the tunnel to those reeling from a particularly difficult job loss.
In Part 2 of this article, I'll discuss putting together a game plan for success in navigating the brave new world of job hunting.
© 2014 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved
Dr. Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout (Prometheus Books, 2011).