8 ways to get back in the groove after a job loss

“And now, well…I’m just a nobody.”

Tears welled up in her eyes as a coaching client uttered those sad words. As with so many business people, her personal identity had been inextricably linked to her job (including yours truly). When the title and power were gone, so was her sense of self-worth and self-confidence. 60-plus hour work weeks didn’t leave much time for outside activities,  developing non-work-related friendships, hobbies or cultivating strategic networks.

I shared with her that it had taken me a long time to understand that my job was what I did, not who I was (lessons from “Aunt Polly”). To help her regain her sense of self, we collaborated to create this list of action items.

8 ways to get back in the groove after a job loss

1. Believe you ARE a somebody.  Somebodies look for jobs, too.  Your somebody has knowledge, skills and abilities.  Your somebody has accomplishments to brag about.  Your somebody has people who love you. Quit focusing on all that you think you don’t have and concentrate instead on all that you do have.

2. Volunteer. Your local community is full of nonprofit groups in need your experience, your guidance, your help. You gain self-esteem and confidence by making a contribution, and the organization benefits from your help. Giving back is a great way to meet new people and to restore self-worth.

3. Get a business card. Where is it written that one must work for a company to have a business card? No where. Create one today. Share it often, and do so without apology.

4. Stop the negative self-talk.  Every time the thought “I’m a nobody” pops into your head, remember your past contributions and how a future organization will benefit from you working for them. It’s up to you how much positive or negative power you give to your chatty inner critic.

5. Talk to a professional.  If the mental and emotional scabs from the loss of your job don’t heal on their own (or if you can’t resist picking at them every day), talk to a professional who can get you back on the track of positive self-esteem.

6. Freelance. If the jobs aren’t coming to you, then create your own. Do what you’re good at. Maybe that’s being an event planner, a ghost writer, a virtual assistant, etc. Step out of the box that says you must work for someone else to be really working. Being your own boss can be a liberating and fulfilling experience.

7. Reach out.  Talk with your friends, and start making new contacts. Embrace the opportunity to connect and build relationships. Chatting up strangers is tough, no doubt; yet you still need to jump off the cliff and make it so. There are many warm, wonderful and knowledgeable people who have lots to share and who are willing to help if you ask…start getting to know them.

8. Look to the past, not to mourn, but to gather learnings and inspiration for your future. With or without a job, everyone is still a somebody, so hang on tight to that belief and don’t let go!

What other suggestions would you offer? What worked for you?




4 Responses to 8 ways to get back in the groove after a job loss

  1. What a relevant post! I went through a sudden and poorly handled (on their part) job elimination from a nonprofit in 2009. For much of 2010, I was in limbo without an identity, and depression took over. Finally, I took control of my life and started my own business in early 2011. While start-up mode is stressful, I’m much more content than if I had stayed with my former employer.

    Having a support system is critical. I could have done a better job of reaching out — yet I was ashamed and humiliated. Once I did ask for help from my circle of friends and former colleagues, I was in a better place.

    There is no easy answer to processing a job elimination, as I learned the hard way because mine was unexpected and handled so poorly. To be honest, the bitterness is still present, and I am not sure I will (or should) get past it.

    Yet I learned there’s light at the end of the tunnel, if I allow myself to see and pursue it.

    • Angie - thank you for sharing your poignant story and lessons learned from it. It’s unfortunate that far too many companies mishandle job eliminations, layoffs, terminations, etc. Those are life altering situations that, with some advance planning and compassion, can be handled with grace and dignity despite being such difficult discussions. It’s so easy (as I know) to get your identity all wrapped up in a career…confusing what you do with who you are. As you’ve discovered, reaching out is a critical step in moving on. Thanks much for sharing!

  2. Self-confidence takes a big hit in even the best of circumstances. This is great practical advice for how to keep from going into a downward spiral. #4 is essential. Negative self-talk does nothing for us. I love your suggestion to make a business card. Thanks for this really helpful post, Jane, on such an important topic.

    • I recently read an article guesstimating that between 70 and 80 percent of the 40,000 thoughts we have every day are negative…astounding…which makes focusing on self-confidence even more critical. Jesse, thanks for your kind words!

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