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ATD Blog

How the Emotional Impact of Job Loss Can Affect Your Job Search

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Though it’s incredibly impacting, we rarely discuss the emotional effects of job loss and job searching. It’s important to process these emotions so that you can adopt a positive mindset for your next opportunity.

Have you ever lost your job? What emotions did you feel? Having experienced layoffs three times in my career, I’ve experienced fear, loss, sadness, anger, and disappointment.

When you’ve conducted a job search, how did you feel as you went through that process? Rejection, disappointment, frustration, and fatigue are all common.

What happens if we fail to deal with these emotions when we experience career tumult? Usually they will surface unintentionally—at the wrong time or with the wrong people—and can affect how people view you. You may come off as negative or bitter about your former employer. Regardless of what happened and how it happened, you want to be as positive and upbeat as you can when pursuing new career opportunities.

How can you realistically deal with these emotions?

  • Identify the emotions you are feeling.
  • If you’re feeling angry, dig deeper to determine the emotion that’s fueling the anger.
  • Give yourself permission to feel, and know that it’s normal to experience these emotions.
  • Work through the emotions so you can move to a productive place.

How you work through emotions will be different from how others do so. For example, I’m a talker, so I used dialogue to process my emotions with family and friends. During one of my job losses, I spoke with a counselor to gain perspective. Choose the best way for you to process so you can move toward neutral or positive emotions.

When we lose a job, we experience a variety of losses:

  • Professional identity
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-confidence
  • Daily routine
  • Motivation
  • Purposeful activity
  • Work-based social network
  • Sense of security

That’s a great deal to work through and may take some time for you to understand and accept. One way to rebuild self-confidence is to write down your work accomplishments, and then prepare to share these examples in interviews. You can also document your strengths for future employers. Looking for a job is a job, so maintain a schedule to help you stay organized and make progress. All this helps you focus on the positive and move past the initial job loss.

When job searching, here are a few helpful tactics:

  • Remember that a job search is a journey and a process.
  • Maintain balance. Dedicate time for your job search as well as for breaks.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.
  • Network, network, network to meet people that can connect you with your next position or company.
  • Talk to a career coach or others who are job searching.

So what can we take away from these experiences—from losing a job and searching for a new one?

  • Your job is not your life.
  • All endings create opportunities for new beginnings.
  • You don’t have to lose connection with colleagues from former jobs.
  • Leaving well is what others will remember.
  • Focus on what you learn through the experience and implement it going forward.
  • Take time to reflect on what you’ve done well and what you can do differently for the future.

The key is to allow yourself to process the feelings related to your job loss so you can present yourself in the best possible way to potential employers and broader networks. We are humans. We have emotions that we need to acknowledge, process, and then determine how to move past toward a positive future.

About the Author

Amy Dinning is a talent development leader with a passion for attracting, engaging, and retaining talent through creative and measurable talent development initiatives. Known for her leadership, facilitation, innovation, and relationship-building skills, Amy strategizes with leaders to create development solutions to achieve business objectives. Amy is committed to creating interactive and engaging environments that support learning and growth. Most recently Amy was the global learning and development manager at Quaker Houghton in Conshohocken, PA, where she led learning and development for over 4000 employees globally. Previously, she was the manager of education and development at Main Line Health in Radnor, PA, for over 12,000 employees.

A sought-after speaker, Amy is a recurring presenter at the ATD International Conference and Exposition. In addition to presenting in ATD webinars, Amy speaks at various professional associations and networking groups. She serves as a board member and orientation leader for My Career Transitions and is the creator and chief facilitator of a workshop, Jump Start Your Job Search, which is offered twice a year for those in job transition.

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Hello, Amy. I enjoyed your blog. The importance of acknowledging your feeling associated with job loss can not be understated. One of the best takeaways from a job search is realizing your job is not your life!
So true Amy. We are much more than just our job!
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