First 5 Stages of Recovery after a Job Loss

The Careereon Blogging Team
September 17, 2022

1. D-Day

It is a virtual meeting, and as it opens you pan the crowd, specifically the executives and human resources team, seeing what face they are wearing as people gather. While some smile like normal, prepared to share a new initiative, others reveal a level of seriousness that immediately puts you on your virtual heels. And within a few minutes, everything changes. There will be a major reorganization, which will include some job elimination, with the silver lining of how well those impacted will be cared for through generous severance and extended benefits, et cetera, et cetera. For the first time in your life, you feel scared, vulnerable, and truly a bit selfish knowing that while many good people around you will likely not be your colleagues for much longer, you hope that you survive the upheaval.

Your scheduled one-on-one reveals that, despite your excellent track record of loyalty, strong performance year after year, and overall admired persona and work ethic, you will not be moving forward in the new organization. ‘It’s a numbers thing’ – too many people for too few roles. You are told that your five, ten, twenty-plus years of loyalty and hard work will count for something as you will ease into the next phase of your life thanks to a solid severance package. Despite this temporary silver lining, you are devastated, and given the remainder of the day off to process and digest everything but have not heard much of anything after the words ‘you are not moving forward’ are spoken.

You sign off for the day, sit back in your chair, and think back to your glorious walk this morning. You recall vividly how you contemplated the change of seasons, your station in life, and you realize that time passes more quickly than we like to think, and the future that seemed carved in stone just hours earlier is in question, perhaps even doubt.

2. Inventory

You feel the clock start ticking and understand the need to ‘get over it’ if you are going to craft a plan for the next phase of your life. While you continue processing emotions, you try to push through it for now. As you have countless times when faced with a challenge, whether in business in our personal lives, you assess the problem and craft a strategy to overcome. At the very least, it will serve as a good distraction from the many feelings coursing through your veins.

To create any successful strategy, you have to assess the situation, the problem, the market, and balance it against everything you have in your arsenal. Time to take inventory. You have taken inventory of products, or through the assessment of people as part of a ‘team value inventory’, and are familiar with what it means to fully inspect the current situation to understand all aspects. You may not have done such an activity on yourself in a long time, if ever. The reason for that is, 1) You have been at your company for a long time and at this stage of your life, felt mostly secure of the likelihood that you would continue working here until retirement, and 2) Twenty years ago, the loss of a job just meant you could look for a new, perhaps better, situation and continue your career elsewhere. Perhaps you had fewer tangible considerations, no partner, no children, no house to care for, and thus the risks were not quite as high as they are today. But you are where you are, and although you may not have done so in a long time, your understanding of how to take this personal inventory is strong. Unlike the numbers that you have seen people massage to paint only the most successful picture to the board, there will be no fudging here. This exercise will be a stare into the mirror – no makeup, no embellishment, just brutal honesty.

The first tendency many have in taking personal and professional inventory is to think about all of ‘cons’. That includes all of the courses not taken, all of the projects for which we didn’t raise our hand, all of the education we thought about completing but did not, and perhaps too many weeks, or even years, where we completed our work knowing it probably would not set the world on fire. But all of that is in the past, is unchangeable, and only deniable by those who wish to delay the process of moving forward.

While easier for most to quickly identify the cons, as we have likely spent a good chunk of our career thinking about all of the things we should have done, or could have done better, taking inventory is like talking to a therapist, it is cathartic to get our full story out on the table even if it is for our eyes only.

3. Resume

You have probably not started a formal job search just yet but know that you need to research the many ways of finding jobs online and business opportunities. To prepare for that step, you know that you’ll eventually need to have a formal, updated resume. You also know, based on your experience hiring people that a good-looking, well-crafted resume, CV, cover letter, as well as supporting documents can also impress the people hiring.

So, you get to work on building your new resume. You dig out the last version of your resume you used, which was to secure the job from which you were just separated. At a glance you like what you see. You used a pretty simple resume format, one that could possibly be used again after some tweaks. You’re feeling pumped up. ‘Look at that, I’m halfway there!’. You may need to pump the brakes a bit.

You are probably closer to Spencer Tracy in ‘Father of the Bride’, who thinks he can save some money on a new suit for the wedding by digging out his ‘old cutaway’ suit from the dusty old trunk in the attic. Even as the moths flutter out, the style has not been used in years, and he can barely manage to get it over his shoulders or possibly button it, he is quite content with the outcome and overjoyed that this will be one expense he won’t have to make for his daughter’s wedding. Big Win! That beam of pride and satisfaction lasted about five seconds until Joan Bennett, his wife, and mother of the bride, comes in and…long story short, he bought the new suit.

Whether you have that trusted someone to look with you or not, it is critical that you put in the effort to bring yourself, via your resume, into the current day, making yourself as fashionable and marketable as you can be. As you see that, despite the decent format you used previously, your by-line shows how you led the Y2K conversion successfully, includes your year-long stint as ‘manager’ at the Sunglass Hut while in college, and lists proficiency in Lotus 1,2,3, and expert-level knowledge of Netscape, it should cause you to jump out of your chair…or at least immediately hit the Delete button. As they say on many of the home improvement shows on HGTV, this is a complete tear-down and rebuild.

Thankfully, while your last resume may be no use to you now, you should have a much easier time translating your experience and accomplishments into your new resume thanks to a seemingly endless supply of templates available online. There are also many very good, professional resume writers out there who will dress up your resume in its Sunday Best, right down to the shine on its shoes. You will be taken aback at just how great you look on paper when a professionally done resume can tell your story. Whichever route you go, you have taken a critical step to prepare yourself for a quality job search process – the fun awaits!

4. The Search Begins

You have seen the commercials over the years, from printed ads to radio, television, and now online. They are everywhere. So right out of the gate you feel like starting with an online job search is the smartest way to go. You can reach a wide audience and get a view into many companies in the most time-efficient, thorough way. You jot down four or five online resources you plan to start with and formally begin the job search process. You have not abandoned the idea of doing something on your own just yet. It is exciting to think about being your own boss, running your own business, and being the one truly responsible for your fate. However, much like the new world you are entering into with this job search, entrepreneurialism would be a new world as well. As enticing as that may be, you pull your head out of the clouds and get back to it, knowing you will be more effective focusing on one new world at a time in the interest of completing some of the action items as planned.

Your plan has been intentional from the start, committing to in-depth research of a company before you apply. That includes digging into executive leadership, founders, customer and employee testimonials, generally anything and everything you can find to determine if a company and team is right for you. After all, you have had a long, successful career, and any company out there would be lucky to have you. It is okay to be selective right now while time is on your side for a bit. The goal for these early weeks will be to do your homework, research the industry and labor market, and best assess the type and volume of opportunities out there to ensure you only apply to the best of the best opportunities we find.

5. Movies are Seldom as Good as the Movie Poster…

You have taken a methodical approach, done your due diligence on each company you have researched. You are paying special attention to the makeup of the leaders, from executives to hiring managers, many of whom have names and bios in the ‘company’ or ‘about us’ section. That transparency seems really helpful for the interested, curious outsider to get a sense of what a company may value. Companies all lead with the diversity of their teams, their employee engagement activities, cool spaces to take a break and wind down when needed. It becomes very easy to imagine being a part of such a place. Taking that next step to locate employee feedback, also available on line, has been important to understand just how closely a company’s current and former employees are aligned to the words and pictures on the company site. Overall, it’s a mixed bag with some scoring poorly across both current and formers, while other companies seem to be doing it right, getting high marks from those who’ve left and those there today. It’s the latter category that has you most interested of course, and only where you have pressed the button to apply thus far. Sure, it is limiting the opportunity to get that call, but with so many available jobs out there that look like a clear fit, you feel that you can afford to be a bit choosy at this point. It’s early in the process.

You have not gotten a call just yet, but that is perfectly fine. Everything you have applied for was only in the past few days, and you did not necessarily expect to hear the phone ring the moment you submitted your application…well, maybe little. This is a new world for us. Not only acclimating to the unemployed-and-looking life, but this online world with limitless information on companies, and job opportunities in the thousands for seemingly every profession imaginable. Not a bad time to be looking! You stick with the plan for a while, scrutinize everything and carefully select those opportunities that look right for you within only those companies that are well regarded and give you the chance to be successful long term. While approaching this step with nervous excitement, you know that true long-term goal is to never have to do so again. Landing with the right company, in the right job that can surely get us there.


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