Whether you’ve lost your job as a result of a business decision, downsizing, or even performance, it takes a serious toll on your confidence and stirs up all kinds of unpleasant emotions.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that we’re going to face some kind of job loss or significant job change at one point or another in our careers. Sometimes this change reaches far beyond the scope of our individual control and comes as a surprise to us. The best we can do is be prepared to manage through this adversity and take some time to focus on ourselves. I’ve worked through over 250 career transitions over the years – including a couple of my own (most have been my clients'). Self-care is critical to successfully getting through this time. Here are five ways I practiced self-care after I was laid off — and I think you should try them, too!
Losing your job can often be a big shock to your system. Sometimes we know our organization is going through significant changes, but sometimes the change come as a complete surprise. Whatever the case, when the change impacts you personally, it can really hurt and take a toll on your confidence.
Depending on who we are and how we react to things, we might become emotional as we react to the news. The best advice I can give here is to take a breath. If your employer is presenting you with a severance package, make sure you don’t sign anything in the moment. Take the severance package away and review it a little later. Reach out to a friend or colleague that you trust and get their input. Lean on your support system and let your feelings out in this safe environment. You don’t want to be embarrassed by emotional, irrational behavior in front of your former employer. Save the insanity for close family and friends (lucky them). For me, the pause was critical because getting laid off was a very emotional experience. Taking time to breathe allowed me to have a rational and professional discussion with my employer about severance.
After the ‘pause’, it might still take you a few days to get your emotions back in check. Once you can get through a sentence without bursting into tears or turning red from extreme anger, you’ve got to get it together and close the loop on outstanding items with your employer. To take care of your own mental health, you’ve got to get the details resolved as quickly as possible. Having the details of a severance looming over you for days, weeks or months is simply exhausting. You owe it to yourself to close the loop so you can move on.
In most cases, your employer should appreciate that this is an emotional situation and provide an appropriate deadline (a week or so) for you to get back to them on their offer of severance. If they don’t give you some time to get your act together, count your blessings that you no longer work for them.
So, you’ve done your diligence in terms of reviewing the details and terms of the severance, and you need to respond to them. I would always suggest having this conversation via email so everything is documented. Avoid the phone if you can. It can muddy the waters, especially since you don’t know what might set off potential emotional outbursts. Make sure you get all of the details from your employer, how/when the severance will be paid, what happens to your benefits, what happens to any sort of other company programs and any additional amounts owing. Get all the information that you can to minimize any need for follow up. You likely won’t want to talk to them again.
I’ve heard people say time and time again that they need to understand why they’ve lost their job in order to move on. They want to know what they’ve done wrong, or how the employer decided that they should be the employee to exit. The fact is, a lot of time, the reason that an employer provides a severance package with you is so that they don’t have to share this information with you. Quite frankly, it might even be none of your business, and part of some broader organizational plan.
For me, adopting an ‘I don’t need to know’ attitude was the key to self-care when I was laid off. What value is there in knowing the organization’s point of view, anyways? Would it really change the current situation? Probably not.
I allowed myself some time to mourn the loss of my job. For me, this was the end of the longest-term relationship I had ever had. Grieving was important, but I set myself a deadline to be sad. I cried and moped, but only for a week. At the end of the week, I started into a routine. It was summer and I wanted to take advantage of the time away from work and focus on the positives of being away from work. I got up every single morning and planned an outing with my little guy. Every day we were up, dressed and out of the house. You’d be surprised how therapeutic getting up and out can be.
Getting into a new routine is critical to your career transition success. Part of establishing this routine was knowing what I would say when people asked ‘How’s work?’ I actually practiced my response so I could answer confidently without stumbling or feeling insecure.
While I only allowed myself a week to be ‘sad,' we all know the grieving process has no hard and fast deadline. The reality is that, sometimes, we have to work through the emotions of things. And that can take a while. While I wasn’t sitting at home and moping, I was still going through all the feels of job loss. For me, I wanted some time and space between that job and my next one. Since I was laid off in the summer, I set myself a deadline of the Fall to get on a structured job hunt. Setting parameters and clear goals for myself were really key parts of my self-care and managing my overall mental health.
Job loss is hard. Period. There is no magic formula to work through the grieving process and there are no standard timelines. When it comes to self-care and job loss, you’ve got to take a moment to reflect what will work for you. Focus on those things that give you comfort, structure and a sense of purpose. It’s inside those things that you will find a transition process that is uniquely yours. On the other side of that transition is your future career success.
Shauna Cole is the Founder of The Method To Your Mat Leave© - an online course that helps moms manage their careers through maternity leave. Shauna is a Career Expert and ex-corporate Human Resources Pro. She’s got an MBA, is a Chartered Human Resources Professional and Senior Certified Human Resources Professional. A high-energy Mom of two boys, she’s obsessed with finding the balance between career and mom life (and also, wine).