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Coping with the Grief of a Layoff: 5 Tips If You’re Looking for a Job

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” ~Seneca

We are in such a hard season of the economy, and the implications of people getting laid off are so real and unfortunately painful.

No matter how competent or qualified you are, the job search process is hard. And even when you know your layoff was due to reasons completely outside your control, it still hurts.

The fear, instability, and uncertainty about what your next job will be or when it will come to fruition are emotionally unsettling, and our collective toxic positivity conditioning isn’t always helpful.

Yes, it’s true that most of us have more to be grateful for than we can feel in the moment, but our hard feelings are valid and need space to be felt.

I was recently let go from a role that felt like a dream job when I signed my offer letter, and yes, I have healed from that pain, but I had to feel my way through all of it versus simply “thinking positive.”

I had multiple layers of emotions even before I was let go. First, there was the disappointment that the job wasn’t what I thought it would be, then there was the grief over a chapter of my life ending without knowing why and the lack of closure.

Despite our difficult feelings, we have the capacity to heal, reconnect with ourselves, and rediscover what needs to come alive during these often-painful seasons of transition. But we have to give ourselves permission to be real—to be honest with ourselves more than anybody else—and we also need tremendous amounts of self-trust and self-belief in a season that feels rife with self-doubt.

Here are some thoughts that may be helpful if you were let go and are looking for a new job.

1. Acknowledge what you are feeling.

You have full permission to feel whatever you’re feeling right now. Feeling your feelings doesn’t make you weak; it makes you brave. And there is a difference between giving yourself permission to feel and move through them versus getting stuck. I am advocating for the former.

Maybe you had a vacation planned that will now need to be canceled and you’re feeling disappointed, or you may be the sole breadwinner of your family and you’re feeling scared. Maybe you never had a chance to say goodbye to your coworkers, and you’re grieving the loss of those daily connections. Maybe you had the world’s best manager, and you are heartbroken to no longer be working for that person. All of your feelings are valid.

2. Take care of yourself.

It can be very tempting to spend every waking minute tweaking your resume, applying to jobs, or doing informational interviews. Prioritizing a few simple self-care basics can go a long way to sustaining your momentum. A thirty-minute walk, some mindfulness practice, and coffee with a friend in real life are all simple but powerful ways to help you stay grounded in what truly is a hard season.

This can feel obvious, but during our hardest times especially, with uncertainty in the environment, it can be easy to go into a narrative of “I don’t deserve rest” or “I haven’t earned a break.” But here is the truth: Rest, downtime, joy, fun, and play are your birthrights. You don’t have to earn them, and they can actually be effective components of your achievement strategy since they all help you feel and be your best.

3. Audit your learnings.

Being a bit distant from the day-to-day work grind can be a good time to reflect on your learnings, who you are as a person, employee, and leader, and what’s truly next for you versus what you think you should be doing next.

There is a difference, and even if you can’t go for the former, there is power in naming what you want so that you can find components of the “want” even in your “shoulds” and potentially build toward something that will be even more fulfilling.

Take a moment and think about your peak moments of aliveness in your journey and how can you bring more of them where you go next. What skills do you most enjoy using? What contribution would you feel most proud to make? What are the environments and who are the leaders that bring out the best in you?

As for me, I had long wanted to work for myself and start my own small business. Being laid off meant I could take something that I had been doing on the side and turn up the dial to do more of it full-time.

4. Build a solid strategy.

Once you have a sense of what you want for your future, create a routine and strategy to give your day structure and ensure you’re putting your energy in the right direction.

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. It all depends on your field, aspirations, personality, the season of your career, and more. There are lots of areas where you can invest your time—job fairs, informational interviews, cover letters, job applications, resumes, networking events, and more, so make sure you have a plan while also leaving room for some serendipitous wins so you can prepare for any new opportunities that come your way.

The important thing is to be proactive instead of reactive. It’s easy to let your fear-based brain run the show, as you scroll through social media and see what other people are doing. Focus on your goals, create a solid plan to work toward them, and stay patient and committed. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, so be intentional, have a plan, and stay focused so you don’t get discouraged or burnt out.

5. Invite support.

And finally, my favorite, invite support, not because you are weak and can’t do it alone but because we all do better in community and connection. Find a friend in a similar situation so you can support each other and hold each other accountable. Or hire a career coach or a therapist if you can or join an online support group. Surround yourself with other humans who want to lift you up and are skilled at bringing out the best in you.

I hope you know that you are not alone on your journey. There are so many humans across the globe navigating this uncertainty every day, unsure of when our economy will recover, when they will find a job, or how long they will be able to hold onto the job that they have at hand. Know that you are doing real hard work with everything happening in our world and the collective grief and trauma we have all experienced as a human species over the last two-plus years.

I hope you can see your own brilliance, talent, and wisdom and build up the courage to share it bravely with the world.

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