Being laid off can be extremely stressful. In fact, on the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory/Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), losing a job ranks eighth out of 43 top life stressors. When you lose a job, particularly if you’d been a long time or exceptionally loyal employee, you will likely go through a period of emotional, financial, and psychological upheaval.
Often, the shock of a layoff is compounded by job tension that may have preceded it. Difficulties maintaining a work/life balance, being overworked or underpaid, conflict with supervisors or coworkers – these are all sources of stress and, according to the American Institute of Stress, job-related stress has been linked to high blood pressure and other health problems.
Though being laid off is not the same as being fired – that is, it’s generally not due to poor performance or misconduct, or anything that could be construed as your “fault” – it is a loss, and it’s natural to grieve a loss. Since grieving is a process, you may experience some or all of the five common stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance.
The good news is: There is indeed life after a layoff. Some people who’ve been laid off find that they emerge better, happier, and more fulfilled than before. Whether or not that happens for you depends mainly on the mindset you adopt and the actions you take. Follow these guidelines, and you may find yourself at the beginning of an exciting and fulfilling new career journey.
- Rest & Recuperate. The most prominent mistake people make after being laid off is going home and immediately sending out resumes and emails to everyone they know. It’s too soon; you need a little time to decompress and just be. Relax, read a book, get out in nature, or spend time with friends or family. In short, engage in any activity that makes you feel better. If you’ve neglected your health, now is the time to establish healthier habits. Self-care is paramount.
- Reflect. Think about the positions you’ve held, the places you’ve worked, and your general career path thus far. Where were you the happiest? When were you the most fulfilled? What did you like most about your past jobs? What would you like to leave behind? Is there anything you would have liked to have done differently? Did you enjoy your industry, your position, or the work itself?
- Research. Once you’ve had a little time to unwind and reflect, start doing some research. Visit sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, and some industry-specific sites. Set an alert for some types of jobs you might like, read up on them, and see how your skills line up with the positions that interest you.
- Reach out. Find a good career coach or counselor who can help you develop a plan for your next steps. Do you want to transition into another career? Make a lateral move? Consult? Freelance or work part-time (gig)? Become an entrepreneur? Retire? A qualified coach or company can help you discover your unique career path and where to focus your energies. You may also consider reaching out to friends and former colleagues whom you trust to find out if they know of job openings or other opportunities.
- Refresh. It may have been years since the last time you updated your resume. A career coach or professional resume writer can help you develop a resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and other aspects of your “brand” to represent you, your talents, your current situation, and your goals.
- Reveal. Once you’ve got a handle on your skills, your goals, your materials, and your brand – it’s time for the big reveal. Before you start interviewing, develop your SMART stories—answers that include: Situation, Metrics, Action, Results, Tie-ins—and craft a statement about why you are not currently employed. Remember that layoffs are business decisions that rarely have anything to do with personal performance. Emphasize that you were not fired but were laid off as part of larger company goals.
At this point, that layoff should be in your rear-view mirror. It’s something that happened; it doesn’t define you. The only way to go from here is forward.
One of the greatest mistakes people make is identifying themselves solely with the work they do. Take this opportunity to stop thinking of yourself as your job. When you are employed again, don’t neglect your network, your hobbies, and your life. Maintain the healthy lifestyle you’ve created during this time of transition. You may find that the work you do is positively affected by the way you feel.
Kathleen Marvin is a Certified Career Coach at RiseSmart focusing on professional and personal development.