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Bounce back stronger: 12 practical steps after losing your job

April 25, 2022 - 19 min read

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12 things you can do when you lose your job

How to stay well after losing your job

Stay hopeful

Losing your job can be a devastating and traumatic experience. 

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, there was a dramatic spike in the unemployment rate. Unemployment rose to a record high of 14.7%. Among those who lost their job was my very best friend. In April 2020, she called me in tears: she was just laid off. 

She wasn’t sure if her employer would hire her again in the future. She wasn’t sure if she should pursue another opportunity, especially with so many others in her shoes. She was at a loss for what to do with her career. She wasn’t sure if she should job search or try to find unemployment benefits. 

Research tells us that job loss can have a detrimental impact on your mental health. One study found that those who are unemployed are more distressed, less satisfied with their lives, and more likely to report mental health problems than those who are employed. 

It’s an emotional and difficult type of loss. On one side, it can feel like the worst thing that can happen in your career (and life). It can leave you feeling hopeless, stressed, and unsure of where to go next. 

But on the flip side, it can be a blessing in disguise. It might be exactly what you needed in your career to pursue your purpose and dreams. And if you’re like my best friend, you might actually land your dream job as your next move.

Let’s talk about what you can do when you lose your job. We’ll also talk about how to stay well and maintain your mental fitness amid a job loss. 

12 things you can do when you lose your job

Losing your job doesn’t mean your career is over. In fact, quite the opposite. 

As a result of the pandemic, Pew Research conducted surveys on those who experienced a change in employment. The data showed a shift in perspective for a majority of those who experienced a job loss. In fact, 63% reported spending more time on hobbies or interests. Likewise, 55% reported having actually enjoyed not working for a while. 

We know losing a job is stressful. You might have hated your job, yet still need stability and economic certainty. But there are things you can do when you lose your job to help prepare you for your future. Here are 12 things you can do when you lose your job. 

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1. Identify your emotions 

You might’ve seen the job loss coming. Or, you might’ve been caught totally off guard. Regardless, you’re bound to experience a range of emotions as a result of losing your job. It’s only human to feel a spectrum of emotions. 

Take a minute to identify and name your emotions. I always find that writing my emotions down helps me process how I’m thinking. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is from Joan Didion

“I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” 

Joan Didion, writer 

Take a few minutes to journal. What are you feeling at this moment? What emotions are you experiencing? Are you giving yourself permission to feel? How are you coping with your emotions? 

2. Do Inner Work® 

The science behind Inner Work® speaks for itself: it’s good for you. It helps you focus better and can increase innovation and creativity. Inner Work® can help reduce anxiety, stress, and even burnout. And it holds the power to help transform the world around us. 

But Inner Work® looks different for everyone. At its heart, it can help tap into your inner self and emotions. It can help re-center and re-ground you in your purpose. Whether it’s meditation, journaling, exercise, or something else, give it a try. 

You might find that after losing your job, Inner Work® can help lead you to your next big move. 

3. Tell people 

Let’s face it: losing your job is not something you want to shout from the rooftops. But here’s the other thing: your support system is here to help. 

It’s courageous to tell people you’ve lost your job. In my late-night LinkedIn or social media scrolling, I usually stumble across a post or two about folks (whether I know them or not) who have lost their job. The response? People want to help. 

They want to offer their networks, make introductions, and share your resume. They want to help bridge the gap between talent and opportunity. They want to help connect you to a brighter future. 

And the fact of the matter, most people get jobs through people they know. So, if you’re ready to look for the next career move, the first step is to tell folks. 

4. Make a budget 

One of the biggest stressors to losing your job is money. You were steadily receiving a regular paycheck and suddenly, that’s not going to be the case. 

While you might receive severance or unemployment, you’ll need to examine your finances. It’s likely you’ll need to make adjustments to your spending.

It can be daunting to have to look at your finances and budget. But knowledge is power — and knowing where you stand financially is the first step to financial wellness. Microsoft offers free budget templates to help you get started. 

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5. File for unemployment 

This might not be applicable to every job loss situation but it’s worth exploring. First, determine whether or not you’re eligible for unemployment benefits. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you should qualify. 

And even if you were fired, you might still be eligible to enroll in unemployment benefits. Benefits will vary by country. In the US, you can find everything you need to know about unemployment benefits through the Department of Labor. 

6. Look into health insurance options 

Much like unemployment benefits, healthcare will also vary by country (and state). But it’s important to get a good bearing on your health insurance options

First, check with your human resources department about coverage options, like COBRA. You might be eligible for healthcare for a limited time even after you’ve left the company. 

If you aren’t, explore your state or country’s healthcare options. In the US, a good place to start is healthcare.gov

7. Learn a new skill 

Like many people after mass layoffs following the pandemic, you could try learning something new. Losing your job can be an opportunity to reskill or upskill, especially if you’re thinking about pivoting your career. 

For example, let’s say Greg lost his job in sales. But he’s always had a knack for technology. He’s wanted to learn how to code — especially seeing the growth within the software industry. Instead of looking for a new job in sales, he decides to learn a new skill. He enrolls in a workforce development organization, like Per Scholas, for a coding boot camp program. 

A new skill also doesn’t have to be career-related. You could learn anything new, from painting to writing to pottery. Staying on your edge and pushing yourself to try new things are good for your confidence. What new skills have you always wanted to learn? 

8. Give your resume a makeover 

If you’ve lost your job, it’s likely you also have an old resume on file. You probably don’t have your most recent work history included on your resume. And, if you’re like me, you might update your resume every few years. 

A lot can change in the job searching process in a few years. Use this time to give your resume a makeover, especially if you’re ready for a complete revamp. Tools like Canva can help with free templates, too. 

9. Update your LinkedIn profile 

This goes hand-in-hand with updating your resume. If you haven’t already, take a close look at your LinkedIn profile. Is it up-to-date? Do you have your work experience accurately captured? Can you ask colleagues or previous managers for recommendations? 

Take some time to spruce up your LinkedIn profile. With 95% of recruiters looking on LinkedIn for candidates, it’s the right tool to invest your time in. 

10. Re-evaluate your career goals 

If you’ve just lost your job, it can be a great time for a reset. Perhaps you weren’t happy in your previous job. Or, maybe you’ve always had a career aspiration in the back of your mind — but never had the opportunity to pursue it. 

Sometimes, we need a little help and guidance to understand where we want to take our careers. A coach can help you establish your career goals. With BetterUp, you can use virtual coaching as your guide to living with purpose, clarity, and passion. 

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11. Job search 

If you’re ready for it, you can always jump into the job search. Perhaps you’ve got a good grasp on your value system and dreams. You’ve updated your resume, you’ve spruced up your LinkedIn, and you’ve made social connections. You’re ready to re-enter the job search. 

You can start by seeking out informational interviews or coffee chats to help ease your transition back to the workforce. Lean on your network and ask for introductions to folks.

12. Take a break 

Of course, not everyone is ready to jump back into the job search. If you’re in a position where you can financially take a break, taking some time away from work can be extremely valuable. 

My best friend ended up taking a three-month break before she re-entered the workforce. During that time, she read books. She traveled. She learned about real estate, a completely new industry. She visited friends and family and she re-examined what she really wanted to do. 

You can treat this time as a mini-sabbatical of sorts, one where you can design your own break. Of course, this isn’t possible for everyone — and we understand that financially, it would have to work well to be able to swing this. 

I’ve taken one break in my career before but I couldn’t afford to simply not work. During this career break, I picked up freelancing gigs to help buffer my income. I was able to take on projects that allowed me to work on my own time but I knew it wouldn’t be a permanent solution financially.

Find what works for you. Consider talking with your coach about the possibility of a career break. 

How to stay well after losing your job

Job loss can have a significant impact on your mental fitness and mental health.

In the same Pew Research data cited above, 7 in 10 unemployed people feel more stressed as a result of losing their job. More than half report experiencing emotional or mental health issues, like anxiety or depression. And 53% say they feel like they’ve lost a piece of their identity. 

But it’s possible to stay well after losing your full-time job. Here are three aspects to keep in mind while maintaining your mental fitness. 

Financial wellness 

Being financially well is a critical component of overall well-being. So, when it comes to financial wellness, it’s important to pay close attention and care. 

If you’ve lost your job, you might be feeling financially strained. Here are some things to keep in mind to help maintain financial wellness.  

  • Establish your new starting point 
  • Tap into resources like unemployment benefits and severance pay 
  • Create a spending plan 
  • Stick to your budget 
  • Manage your debt 
  • Design an emergency plan 
  • Consider other sources of income (like a part-time job) 

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Mental fitness 

Your mental fitness is critical to maintaining your well-being. A strong mental fitness practice can help build resiliency to weather the highs and lows throughout this process. Here are six things you can do: 

If you are experiencing increased mental health impacts — like anxiety, depression, or any other mental health condition — seek professional help. A trained mental health professional can provide clinical care to help you care for your mental health. 

Physical wellness 

And lastly, it’s important to also maintain your physical wellness. Everybody is different and unique, which means physical fitness is going to look different for everyone. 

At its heart, physical wellness is about nourishing your body in ways that feel good. This can be nutritional health and wellness. But it can also show up in the form of physical exercise. Consider some of the below: 

  • Take a daily walk 
  • Eat nutrient-rich food 
  • Drink plenty of water 
  • Move your body in ways that feel good 
  • Pick up a new hobby (like running, biking, or some other physical activity) 

Stay hopeful

The job market is competitive but it’s a candidate’s market. If you’ve lost your job, your next job is out there. 

We know job hunting and the job interview process is daunting. For many job seekers, it can be daunting to think about new opportunities or a new career. You might still be struggling to let go of your old job. You might not be ready to move on just yet — and that’s OK. 

If you’ve lost your job, a career coach can help build your self-esteem. You have the ability to reach your full potential.

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Published April 25, 2022

Madeline Miles

Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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