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Crushing Career Grief Hurts After Job Loss, But Don’t Let It Break You

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Nov. 27 2020, Published 2:20 a.m. ET

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Have you ever lost your job? How about your dream job? If so, you’ll be familiar with the crushing misery of career grief and you’ll know it hits you hard.

Career grief is like the heartbreak you experience after a romantic break up.  You might experience feeling lost and lacking focus. Your self-esteem can take a battering and you’ll likely fret about finding work you love again. And it doesn’t matter if you were made redundant or fired, the feelings of loss are the same.

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While much is written about how to recover from a breakup when it comes to overcoming a heart-breaking career loss the advice isn’t quite so plentiful, and you’re probably wondering how to pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and move on.

Before we look at how to make your glistening career comeback, why is career grief so devastating in the first place? It’s often tied up in your sense of self. “When we live to work our relationship with work and who we are can become skewed,” points out Jane Downes, the founder of career coaching service Clearview Coaching. “We define ourselves by what we do,” she adds, so when you no longer do that thing you’re left questioning who you are. Career grief can leave us exposed with no focus, Jane points out. It’s a loss of identity.

“The way to manage this is to see yourself as a whole person with a huge amount to offer in your career while taking a hiatus to recharge and plan your next move,” Jane advises. “Remind yourself this is only temporary and that your identity will return but ensure you build balance into your life so you are more than just the sum total of what you do,” Jane adds. “Learn from previous mistakes and keep an eye on the total you which is a combination of living your best life and your best career. This is your opportunity to get both in sync.”

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While it might not seem like it now, as you spoon another mouthful of Ben N Jerrys into your tear-stained face, someday you may look back at this time and see it as a blessing, Jane reassures. “When I work with clients post-redundancy often we realize early on that this is a real opportunity to get things right and remove energy drains and tolerations you were putting up with in your old position, as great as it was.”

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In short, this is your opportunity to move on to bigger and better, but be warned it’ll take dedication. “Once you’re clear about the changes you want you can map out a clear career plan,” Jane explains. “I have seen many clients during the last recession make great opportunity of job loss but to do this you need to show up and embrace change. You’ll need to do some hard-targeted work to design a career change that works for you. Often clients have remained in roles in their comfort zone thinking this was the only role or organization for them but from experience, this can change very quickly.”

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Here’s how to tackle career grief head-on and position yourself for better opportunities: 

Reflect and Act

“Without reflection and action, you will more than likely sleep through your days feeling horribly anxious, haunted by the feeling that there is no way back into the workplace. This is not the case,” Jane encourages. Now is your time to redefine what you want from your work. Reflect on your previous roles and ask yourself what you loved about them and what you didn’t. Take a look at all the transferable skills you’ve gained along the way, too. It’s all valuable intel that will determine the path you take going forward.

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Accept And Move On

You know that point after a break-up when you finally accept it’s over and delete your ex’s number from your phone? You need to reach the same place of acceptance with your work. “When you accept what has happened it frees you up for the task ahead, which is designing a career plan that will work for you,” Jane explains.

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Build Your Support Network

Now is not the time for naysayers, so be selective about who you allow in your inner circle. “You may need to manage other people’s worries about your situation,” Jane cautions. “So choose to spend time with people who encourage and support you and stay clear of doomsayers. Choose people who are realists, but optimists.” Why? Because they’ll keep you positive on the down days, and provide sound advice when it’s needed.

Get Clear About The Challenges Ahead

The good news is you’re in charge. There are many things that you can do to ensure your next career move is as dazzling and exciting as your last. Things like, shaping your next role, targeting industries or organizations, and creating a very strong and relevant CV will give you the edge in your job search. Consider upskilling too, Jane advises. “This will help close any gaps on your CV and show the market you mean business.”

Stretch Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Change can be scary but it can also be blissfully exciting, so dare to push outside of your comfort zone once you’ve had time to recover. Don’t let your limitations hold you back. To do this, Jane says to think outside the box and view yourself in terms of your skills. Don’t limit yourself to one industry and aim high. And remember to seek out organizations that put your growth first.

Career grief may have left you crushed and you should take time to heal, but don’t be afraid to lock-in and turn this minor setback into a career triumph.

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By: Victoria Stokes

Victoria Stokes is a writer from the United Kingdom. When she’s not writing about her favorite topics, she usually has her nose stuck in a good book. Victoria lists coffee, cocktails, and the color pink among some of her favorite things.

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