I originally wrote this post in March 2018. That was a year after I was laid off from a job that I held for 25 years. I read that you can see the 5 stages of grief, as identified by Elizabeth Kübler Ross when people are going through job loss. I noticed that was true and I wanted to share how to go through the stages of job loss. These stages are usually present no matter whether you’re given 6 months to prepare or 1-minute notice of your job loss.
According to Kübler Ross, the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. And just because they are stages listed in this order, it doesn’t mean that people go through all of the stages in a specific order or even that they go through each stage just once or all of the stages. For each individual person, it will be different.
When the layoff was announced, there was a certain amount of denial. People were feeling that it couldn’t happen. They were in a state of shock and numbness. For some, there might even be thoughts that it’s a joke or that something could happen that will change the result. What if we do better? What if I appeal to the right person?
It’s ok to be in denial at first, it’s an emotional response to a very emotional situation. But don’t get bogged down in denial. If people don’t move through this stage fairly quickly, it might cause other problems such as spending too much money because they aren’t taking a realistic look at how their finances will hold out through a potentially extended unemployed period.
There was a lot of this. Some even jumped immediately to anger and then later went into denial. Anger might be projected at the Executives that made the decision, at immediate Supervisors, and even at co-workers. There’s this feeling that someone let you down and you’re mad about it.
Maybe if your fellow employees worked harder and produced better results then this wouldn’t be happening. It’s ok to feel anger, but anger can be damaging, especially if you start verbalizing your anger. That can damage relationships and your reputation. When you’re facing a job loss, the last thing you need to do is damage your reputation when you might need a reference.
If you need to vent your anger, then find a trusted friend or co-worker, or even a therapist. It’s better to get those feelings out in a safe space where your reputation won’t be hurt, rather than erupting in front of others. But it’s key that while still at work, you keep these feelings in check. Remember, your major focus at this time is to find a new job and utilize all the contacts, supervisors, and managers that you have at work who can help you. If you’re venting your anger in front of others, they may have concerns about referring you to another position.
This is the stage where “what if” and “if only” come into play. There is the thinking that there is something we can do that would change the situation and we go about trying to figure it out. Some might even talk to Human Resources to find out if there is a way to save their job. Sometimes people skip this step, especially if they’ve been through downsizing before or if they “saw the writing on the wall.” But some people need to go through this process and it’s ok.
Again, it’s important that if you are meeting with HR or other members of management during this process you remember your reputation. Throwing other people under the bus in order to make yourself look better never has the desired effect.
This can be a big one. For so many people, their self-worth is tied to the job that they have, the paycheck that they bring home, and the work that they produce. Take that away and what do they have? There is also grief for our job, for the co-workers we will miss, how our lifestyle will be affected by the lack of money, etc. Again, this is another of those big emotions that it’s ok to feel. It will be sad, especially if you really enjoyed your job and the people that you worked with.
Try not to tie your job loss to your self-worth. Lay-offs, especially, have nothing to do with you as an employee and are more about the strategic moves a company is making. It’s not personal. Instead, try to think about all the skills that you learned from the company and how you can add them to your resume or in a cover letter for the jobs you are applying for.
Keep up a daily routine so that depression doesn’t win out. Plan some fun (but free or low-cost) things that you didn’t have time for before. Exercise is also helpful as it releases those feel-good endorphins into your system.
And finally. Acceptance. We have learned how to live with the situation and we are ready to move on. It’s time to take the next step.
It’s important that when you are in a job loss situation and as soon as you are able, you take the steps to find your next job. The below list is what can be done
- Take advantage of anything that your company offers to ease the transition. In my case, the company provided a resume-building class, interviewing practice, and worked with the state to bring in other companies for job fairs.
- Update or get onto LinkedIn. Really, this is the wave of the future. Potential employers look at your LinkedIn profile, they might also look at your other social media profiles so please make sure you are presenting yourself in a professional manner. What you say or do on social media could come back to haunt you.
- If your company is offering a transfer as an option to stay in your current job or to apply for other jobs, then explore those options. It doesn’t mean you have to take the job and move if you don’t want to. But you should at least look at what’s available first before making the decision to move or not. Don’t prematurely shut any doors.
- Reach out to your state employment agency for any retraining programs that they offer. Also, explore other options your state provides. In my state that included one on one counseling, resume-building classes, a job forum, interviewing classes, and other options to help people get back to work.
- Network. I know that’s a scary word for some, but this is important. You know someone who knows someone who is hiring. So let people know you’re looking for a new opportunity.
- Treat finding a job as a full-time job. This is especially true after your job is over. It can take time. You will need to look at job openings and make sure your resume and cover letter take into account what they are looking for. If not, then you need to update both. I know people who applied to multiple jobs each day and hundreds by the time they found a job.
- And finally, do what’s right for you. In my situation, we had six months to prepare with a generous severance package at the end. Some people moved to stay with the company and those changes happened fairly quickly. Some people made the decision to stay until the end to get the package. But there were some people who didn’t want to take the risk of missing out on a job now in hopes of finding one later. That’s ok. It’s important that you do what makes you comfortable and sets you up for success. Don’t worry about what others are doing.
So, you’re sitting at home, with no job, applying to lots but not getting interviews, and trying to figure out what to do now it’s a great time to do online studying or find a remote job that you can do.
REMOTE JOBS: Finding a remote job would make it possible for you to work from home. A lot of customer service jobs are now remote, but there is more than just customer service that’s available. You can check out Working Nomads. The idea here is that you can work from your home or remotely while traveling if that’s something you’re interested in doing full-time.
You can even search for remote positions through LinkedIn and Indeed.
ONLINE STUDYING: There are numerous opportunities for online studying. Whether you just like learning, or want to take up a new hobby, or want to return to school to learn new job skills. All are just a few computer keys away. You can start by seeing the educational resources I shared in this How to Be Safe and Yet Try New Things.
I hope this post helps you with any current job loss you are going through. It’s ok to feel anger or be depressed. But know that you will eventually get to acceptance and be able to move on. I wish you luck on your journey. And if you want to know the decision I made when I found out I was losing my job, please read My Life Changed Drastically Last Week.
This post is dedicated to all my former co-workers. I enjoyed working with all of you.