Being laid off is tough, especially if you weren’t expecting it.
You may experience depression after a layoff, as well as feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and more. It’s natural to have these feelings, but they can also prevent you from being productive and finding a new job.
So in this article, we’re going to look at the most common feelings after a layoff and how to handle them… based on my experience working with hundreds of job seekers as a Recruiter.
By the end of this article, my goal is for you to realize that you’re not alone in this, and while it’s tough, many people have been laid off before and have made it through this! This is NOT permanent, and things WILL change, but you also need to take certain actions to get yourself through the challenge.
Don’t worry – that’s what I’m here to help with. Let’s get started…
It’s normal to feel depressed after being laid off or any time you lose a job. Losing your income can be a shock to your system, and losing the structure and stability in your daily schedule can also cause issues for many job seekers who were recently let go from their position.
However, the worst thing that you can do is completely lose all routine and stop all productive activities. That will lead to deeper depression and loss of health and productivity.
So try to maintain the remaining areas of structure in your life including exercise, cooking, eating healthy meals, going outside, etc.
Maintain your grooming, too. Dress in normal clothing (as opposed to pajamas). While this may seem silly, it will help you avoid long-term depression after a layoff and also help you get into a productive mindset to find another job.
Shock is one of the most common feelings after being laid off from a job. If you weren’t expecting to be let go or laid off, this is one of the first emotions you’re likely to feel.
Whether you were told the news in person, found out via email, or over the phone, it may take time for reality to set in. It’s normal to be caught off guard and feel “frozen” in disbelief temporarily after hearing the news.
So give yourself time to let it sink in. Don’t rush yourself, and don’t blame yourself for feeling this sense of shock for a day or two. This is a big change that you need to adjust to!
You may also find yourself resisting the news or being unwilling to accept reality. Unfortunately, saying things like, “This can’t be happening,” isn’t going to fix the situation.
And while I realize it’s easier said than done, I recommend trying to avoid this phase or get through it as quickly as possible.
It’s fine to be in shock and need time to let this sink in, but telling yourself that this isn’t really happening is not going to solve the problem.
Along with depression and the initial shock of hearing the news, you may also feel anxiety after a layoff. This can lead to difficulty sleeping, a tendency to overeat, and more.
To combat this, try to come up with a job search plan in the first couple of days after being laid off. This will give you hope for your future and prevent you from spending hours worrying.
Also, assess your financial situation to make sure you understand whether you need to cut back on expenses.
Know how your health insurance will be handled (for example, COBRA allows you to continue paying for the health insurance you had from your employer, although it’s often quite expensive unfortunately).
And file for unemployment insurance benefits within the first 1-2 days of getting laid off. It’s an important step and will provide short-term income to help cover your expenses.
Knowing your financial situation, having your basic living needs covered by unemployment insurance, and having a general plan of attack for your job search will all reduce your feelings of anxiety after a layoff.
Next, you may start to feel uncertain about whether you can find a new job, or whether you’ll ever find one as good as the position you had before.
It’s entirely normal to feel like this, but it’s NOT the reality. There are millions of jobs in the world. What are the odds that the job you held previously was the best one available? It’s just not true.
So in this scenario, I’d say that your mind is playing tricks on you.
These types of feelings are completely normal. You’ll notice them after a break-up too, sometimes. You may have ended a relationship and thought, “I’ll never find someone like them again.”
But you can – there are billions of people on the planet. And in this case, there are millions of jobs in each country!
So take a minute to breathe and sit still when you start to have these feelings of uncertainty and doubt, and remind yourself how many opportunities and employers are out there.
You WILL find a new position… and it’s possible that it’ll be a better, higher-paying role.
If you don’t get a handle on the uncertainty and doubt that starts creeping into your mind, it can lead to an overall sense of hopelessness. This is when it starts to get dangerous because you’ll stop putting effort into job search activities, you’ll lose your daily routine (like going to the gym), etc.
That’s why it’s important to attack the feelings above before they progress.
The best way to do this is to remind yourself that there are a lot of other opportunities out there and start trying to find them!
Start networking with people to ask what opportunities they know of. It’s totally normal to say:
“I was laid off because my employer was going through a tough time. Do you know of any companies hiring salespeople? Or is there anyone in your network who could possibly point me in the right direction?”
In other situations, I don’t recommend broadcasting that you’re unemployed, but after a layoff, it’s completely acceptable! This is a normal part of work & business (unfortunately). Every recruiter, employer, and hiring manager will understand why you’re unemployed and why you’re looking for a job.
It’s also common to feel some frustration with your situation. You weren’t expecting to have to job hunt, things were going pretty well before, and it’s entirely normal to be upset about the change.
However, it’s not productive to spend days or weeks thinking about how things used to be, or how you wish things would just go back to “how they were.”
The best thing to do is quickly move past these emotions and try to do productive work – whether it’s job searching, exercising, cleaning the house, or anything else that keeps you from dwelling on the past!
Like shock, it’s okay to spend a day with these feelings, but don’t let it turn into weeks if you can help it.
Next, you might feel some anger – at your past employer, at the economy or job market, at recruiters who haven’t helped you as much as you thought.
Getting angry will not help you find a new job after being laid off, though. Focus on what you can control and try to take a few minutes to calm yourself if you start feeling this way.
Also, try to avoid comparing yourself to other people, which will prevent you from feeling jealous of others who have jobs.
There’s always someone whose situation looks better, but there’s always someone in a worse situation, too. The best thing you can do is focus on yourself and what YOU need to do to get through this.
If it helps you, avoid Facebook and Instagram for a while so you’re not constantly seeing the unrealistic highlights of other people’s lives.
Along with the more severe feelings and emotions above, you might also become more irritable. If you notice yourself lashing out at others or having a short temper (with family members, friends, recruiters, or employers), it may be time to take a one-day break and do something to relax.
This could be going outside, exercising, playing video games, or another activity you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to job hunt nonstop if it’s leading to more frustration.
It’s important to find a balance between being productive but also enjoying life and taking care of your mental health.
And make sure you’re not taking out your frustration on your loved ones. They’re in this with you, and they want to see you succeed. Don’t lash out at your allies. Keep focusing on what you can control – applying for jobs, being healthy, taking care of your expenses the best that you can, and staying in a routine.
Feelings of shame after a layoff are normal, but this has NOTHING to do with your value as a person, your skills and abilities, or your future. Companies lay people off all the time, and it’s due to THEIR situation.
Frustrating? Yes! Absolutely. But no reason to feel shame or to be afraid to tell your spouse or partner, or other family members.
There’s also no reason to feel shame when explaining why you’re unemployed in an interview. In fact, this is one of the LEAST questionable/suspicious answers you can give when the interviewer asks a question like, “Why are you job searching right now?”
All you need to say is:
“My company went through layoffs. I was let go, along with 15 other people, so now I’m looking for XYZ.”
Lastly, even if you avoid depression and some of the other common feelings after being laid off, you may still feel sadness. You might miss your old job, your old routine, your coworkers, or even your office space.
Small things may remind you of the past as you go about your day.
It’s okay to miss these things and look back and appreciate what you had! And it’s completely normal to feel a bit sad during a change.
To help with this, though, try to set up a nice workspace at home where you can conduct your job hunt. Have a clean, distraction-free area that’s set up like an office if possible.
Also, make an effort to stay connected to your coworkers, whether they were laid off with you or not! Ask them how they’re doing, and find out what’s new in their life. Then tell them that you’re beginning your job search and would appreciate hearing about any opportunities they come across. Ask if they have any ideas you could pursue!
You can also ask past colleagues to write you a LinkedIn recommendation. This only takes a few minutes and can make a big difference when it comes to impressing employers when they look at your LinkedIn profile.
Never forget: You will find employment again. This is not permanent! Everyone goes through moments of shock, sadness, and other common feelings after being laid off. It’s totally normal.
Don’t blame yourself if you experience these feelings, and remember that you’re NOT alone in this. Many people are laid off each month, and you’re going to recover.
But it won’t happen if you don’t stay productive, get yourself interviews, and focus on what needs to be done.
For help with your job search, we have 200+ free resources on the pages below:
Now that you know what to expect in terms of emotions and feelings after being laid off, you’ll be better prepared to handle them.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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