Surviving Job Loss

Mergers, acquisitions and a competitive and constantly evolving marketplace can often prompt organisations to implement reshuffling, restructuring or downsizing initiatives, which unfortunately results in staff layoffs.

The one job for life principle rarely exists in today’s workplace, with workers told to expect at least 3, 4 or even more job and career changes throughout their working lives, whether voluntary (through their own choice) or involuntary (through corporate downsizing and staff redundancies).

Whether you have been downsized, are among those who have received redundancy packages, or have been dismissed from your employer, losing your job can be a traumatic experience. In fact due to the significant levels of stress that job loss can cause and the resultant profound impact on your emotional wellbeing, it is rated among other life-altering situations such as death of a family member, serious illness and divorce.

Here are two of the four steps that will support you in surviving job loss.

Step 1. Reflect – Why me?

The loss of one’s job can have a significant effect on your emotional state and trying to move forward without dealing with arising feelings and emotions can make your job search quite difficult.

With any change comes loss, and as with any loss you may also experience varying degrees of grief and sadness. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (a psychiatrist) undertook extensive research on the topic of loss and identified five stages that people go through after experiencing loss, which can also be applied to someone who has experienced job loss.

Denial (and Isolation): “They’re going to call me back when they realise just how much I contributed to their organisation.” “They can’t do without me, just you wait and see.”

Anger: “It’s all the manager’s/company’s fault.” “I gave them 10 years of my life and for what – I am furious at them.” “They owe me. I’ll show them, just you wait and see.”

Depression/Low self-esteem (self-blame): where people say, “If only….” “It’s my entire fault; I should have seen it coming.” “I’m never going to be able to find another job.” “I don’t know what else to do besides that job. I don’t have any other skills.” “I’m worthless; I really don’t feel like getting out of bed.” “At my age, how am I going to get another position with all those younger job seekers in the job market?”

Struggle: “I suppose that I have to face the reality that I may have to lower my expectations.” “I’ve not been able to find a role that will pay the same as I was getting before.” “All the jobs in that field are extremely rare so I may have to look at another industry.” “I’m trying to maintain a positive outlook – but it is difficult.” “I am sometimes at a loss about what I am going to do.”

Acceptance (New Hope): “What can I learn from this experience?” “I am ready to accept the facts as they really are and am ready to move forward.” “My old position is not there. However I have excellent skills, competencies and talents that can add value to an employer. I’ll find an opportunity that may be even better than my last position.”

It is important to understand that this cycle is not linear and therefore does not mean that you have to experience the first stage before going onto the next. Everyone’s experience is different – you may not experience the denial stage however be angry at the company’s decision to let you go, and then move into struggle stage as you begin to weigh up your options, then onto acceptance and new hope. So while these are the general stages of the grief and loss process everyone’s experience can be quite different in comparison to others’ experience of the five stages.

Job loss can also bring about other losses, such as changes to income, to your lifestyle, changes to your personal and collegial relationships and your sense of security.

One of the things that you have to realise is that you are not the only person who is experiencing change and therefore losses, but that this is also impacting those close to you, such as your family. So it’s important to foster open lines of communication so that everyone feels heard and appreciated, and that you can be a support for one another.

Step 2. Evaluate – What now?

While it is important that you allow yourself time to grieve over the loss of your job, it is also important to consider how you are going to more forward, particularly in relation to your future career choices.

–Do you want to remain in the industry or is this industry in general going through significant changes prompting other workers to be downsized?
–Do you want to continue to perform the same role, or would you prefer a complete role and career change?
–If you do prefer a complete change, what do you prefer to target instead?
You may consider undergoing further professional or personal development to enhance your skills and knowledge.

Some people – and this may be true for you – can experience almost a sense of relief as they weren’t really happy or really fulfilled in the role, with this now providing an opportunity to change their career direction, undertaking additional study, part-time work, or perhaps even self-employment.

Spend some time this week answering the above questions. Next week, we’ll cover the next two important steps.


Annemarie Cross is a Radio Host on, a Career Coach, Personal Branding Strategist, a triple certified multi award-winning Professional Resume Writer and Author of ’10 key steps to Ace that Interview’.

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