To recover from a sudden job loss, believe in yourself. From there, you will be able to craft a compelling explanation that allows you to move forward.
Q: I lost my job this week when my position was discontinued. It came as a complete surprise since I was fairly new and had been receiving good feedback. I’ve got a good network to tap into, but how do I avoid giving the impression that I’m “damaged goods”?
A: Believe in yourself; from there, you will be able to craft a compelling explanation that allows you to move forward.
The “believe in yourself” part may feel really hard right now. Let’s face it, being laid off brings up a lot of emotions: fear, anger and shame, among them. And while it may not be pleasant, it’s important to take some time to put these feelings to rest, especially the ones that are directed inward.
Start with addressing your fears, listing all of the things that scare you in this situation. Not finding another job or having to settle for a job you don’t really want? Not being able to provide for yourself and your family? Being judged for being out of work? Notice — this last fear crosses over into the very debilitating “shame” territory.
Shame is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. Internally, it undermines your self-confidence by making you buy into a negative and distorted narrative about yourself. Externally, it effectively handcuffs you from sharing information and letting others help you. Reach out for help if it’s more than you can address.
Compared to fear and shame, anger may feel quite refreshing, as you can look outward and blame your situation on others. Your anger may have some legitimacy if you were treated unfairly, and can be a fuel source for moving forward. Just watch out for wasting energy by getting trapped in your anger. If you find yourself dwelling on it, do one last good vent session and let go.
Next, develop a factual and nondefensive explanation of the factors that led to your job loss. Keep it short and to the point, and end with an action-oriented statement that moves the conversation along. Practice it, getting feedback from a variety of people so that it feels natural and unrehearsed.
Then anticipate challenging questions that people may ask. For example, if you think there’s a risk that companies may fear that there were integrity or legal issues, be prepared to answer those questions. However, don’t proactively raise them, as it may raise red flags if it hadn’t crossed their minds.
Put your emphasis on next steps. Do all you can to see this as a new opportunity for a great fit, and commit to making it happen. Calibrate any compromises you make to match the urgency of your actual financial situation so that you don’t settle for less than you need to.
While you should treat your job search as a full-time job, it shouldn’t occupy 100 percent of your life. Let yourself relax, savor a less-hectic schedule while you have it, and make sure you are taking care of yourself. You will feel better, be more ready to start a new position, and will send a better vibe to potential new bosses as you launch your search.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.