How to cope with job loss

Losing your job is never easy. The impact of COVID-19 has meant that many people have suddenly had their positions made redundant or are going through other difficult changes to their work.

SEEK’s Resident Psychologist Sabina Read says that due to the coronavirus, many people are experiencing loss and grief. “It’s absolutely normal to be grieving at the moment,” Read says. “You might have lost your job, have reduced hours at work or be living on a reduced income. You might also be experiencing a loss of personal connection, autonomy and security. It’s really important to acknowledge the impact of that loss on your life.”

The impact of job loss

While we all experience job loss in different ways, there are some common emotions, thoughts, reactions and challenges related to it.

“It’s not unusual for people to experience strong emotions associated with grief, such as shock, denial, anger and hope,” Read says. “And these emotions come and go. You may feel shocked today, angry tomorrow and then in between you may feel fear for your future. But there are ways to cope with these feelings and the current challenge.”

Ways to cope with job loss

Most of us like to have a sense of control and certainty about what will happen in the future. “I know many people are asking when COVID-19 will be over and when they will be able to work again,” Read says. “Sometimes asking those questions isn’t helpful because there aren’t definite answers. Those questions can actually create a deeper sense of insecurity and frustration with the situation.”

Instead, Read suggests that you:

  • Focus on what you can control
    “There are lots of things you can control, such as how you look after yourself, which government assistance packages you apply for and how you manage your budget.”
  • Share your thoughts and feelings
    “You’ll have your personal tribe of close people, but you can also talk to your broader networks of colleagues and peers. It’s very powerful to listen to others and share what it’s like to be in this position.”
  • Recognise that it’s not your fault
    “This is a global pandemic and losing your job is not just related to you, your team or your organisation. This is on a global scale.”
  • Reframe your experience
    “Rather than being wedded to a particular job title or career path, think about your skill set and what you may be able to offer future employers. That might open up new opportunities for you.”
  • Spend time being productive
    “Things are not going to be locked down forever and you’ll be seeking employment again soon. Take time to update your resume and ask people for references. Get your ducks in a row so you’re ready when things open up.”
  • Commit to self-care
    “Most of us know what will help alleviate stress – such as better sleep, exercise, meditating, writing in a journal, cutting back on alcohol – but often we say we don’t have time. Now is the time to take action and realise you have a choice. You can, and should, look after yourself.”
  • Keep professional standards
    “Your approach to job loss is a reflection of who you are. Your employer may end up employing you again or you might want a reference in the future. You need to take a professional, long-term approach.” 

Job loss can be really difficult no matter how it happens, and many people are experiencing it right now. But by trying some of these strategies you might find you’re more able to cope and get through this time ready for better things.