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How to Survive the Emotional and Financial Devastation of a Job Loss

The loss of a job is one of the most devastating things a person can go through. The results of a job loss can be long lasting and the implications go far beyond the financial. While losing your job will most likely put your financial life at risk, the emotional consequences can be just as damaging.

When you consider that most of us spend more time at our jobs than anywhere else, the sudden loss of employment can mean losing our identity as well as our paycheck. If you’ve just received the unwelcome news that you will not be returning to work tomorrow morning, you need to step back, evaluate your situation and find a way to move on.

Stop Panicking

The first thing you should do when you lose your job is stop panicking. Losing your job is devastating, but the loss is a temporary one. Life will go on, and you will most likely find a suitable position sooner rather than later.

There is no reason to panic at the sudden loss of a job. Panic can blind you, and that can be just as dangerous as the loss of a paycheck. We tend to make poor decisions when we let our emotions get the best of us. No matter how hard it may be the best strategy is to detach emotionally and let your brain take the lead.

Gather Your Resources

The immediate aftermath of a job loss can be very difficult, but how you handle the first couple of days can make all the difference in the world. Now is the time to gather your resources and start your job-hunting strategy. If you still have access to the email addresses and contact information of your former colleagues, record that data as soon as you can. Your former co-workers can be valuable resources going forward, but you will want to give yourself a few days to cool off and take stock.

You can use that time to start building your online network and get ready for the job search to come. If you do not already have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to create one. If you already have a profile, spend the next few days polishing it. Take the time to update your resume and post it online. Make sure the information is up to date and that the document meets the recommended formatting guidelines.

Assess Your Monthly Expenses

The sudden loss of a regular paycheck can be financially devastating but taking some proactive steps now can reduce the pain substantially. Grab your checkbook, pull out your monthly bills and do some serious financial planning.

You may not be able to afford a high-end mobile phone bill and you may need to stop eating out for a month or two or kick your morning Starbucks habit. Making a few temporary changes now can reduce your expenses and make surviving on unemployment a lot easier. You may even find that you do not miss the fancy phone or daily latte. If so, making your temporary changes permanent could give you more money to save and invest once you do find a new job.

Get What You Have Coming

Most large companies offer laid off workers some sort of severance package but the rules are not written in stone. If your tenure with the company was a positive one, you may be able to negotiate a much better severance package than the one you were originally offered.

Do not be in a hurry to sign your exit paperwork; that impatience could cost you a lot of money. Take the time to read the documents carefully and negotiate a better package if you can. Whether you negotiate a longer severance period, company-paid health insurance or both, you will put yourself on firmer financial footing and reduce the stress of your sudden unemployment.

Stop Blaming Yourself

Most people will suffer an involuntary job separation at some point in their careers. Losing your job does not mean you were not a good worker or that you are not worthy of respect. Stop beating yourself up and place the blame where it belongs –on the financial conditions that forced the company you worked for to cut back.

Even if the job loss was partially your fault, you can learn from the experience and be a better worker going forward. It is easy to be defensive when faced with an unexpected termination but paying attention to the reasons and moving forward is the best strategy.

Nothing can fully soothe the emotional and financial devastation of a job loss, but making the right moves now can make recovery faster and easier. Whether your job was an integral part of your life or just a way to pay the bills, you can recover your financial independence and your dignity. In the end, you may end up with a much better job and a more secure future.