Careers advice

How to cope with job loss

Some advice and insights

Losing your job can be a scary and unsettling experience.

The range of emotions you might feel in the aftermath of a job loss can range from anger to sadness to fear – everyone reacts differently.

So, how do you go about coping with job loss? In this article, we’ll explore some recommended tips for working through these tough times and getting back on your feet.

How to cope with job loss: the steps

1. Give yourself time to breathe and recuperate

The stress of unemployment can make it tempting to dive straight into a new job hunt, without giving yourself time to process what’s just happened. Not only is bottling up your emotions unwise for your mental health, failing to take a pause can lead to rushed, or sub par, job applications because your mind isn’t truly focused.

It’s important to adjust to your new circumstances, especially if your job loss was handled poorly by your former employer, or you left on a sour note.

In particular:

  • Avoid too much retrospection: reflecting on what happened can be useful (so you can learn from the experience), but your focus should be on what’s to come, not the past.
  • Don’t beat yourself up: if you made a mistake, acknowledge this and move on. There’s nothing to be gained from heaps of self-criticism.
  • Don’t feel alone: while losing a job can feel like the end of the world, it happens to more people than you’d think. Especially in the wake of Covid-19 in New Zealand, there are lots of people in the same boat.
  • Look for any silver linings: losing your job hurts, we’re not going to pretend otherwise. It’s important to feel these feelings and process them. But, in time, you’ll likely start to see some potential positives of the situation – for example, the opportunity to take your career in a new direction, or learn a new skill.

Remember, take care of yourself. It’s perfectly natural to feel rubbish after losing your job and you need to prioritise your wellbeing.

It's important to give yourself time to process your emotions, then it's all about getting back on the horse.

2. Look after the practical stuff

One of the biggest concerns you’ll have if you lose your job is your lack of income. It’s, therefore, important to know what financial support could be available to you while you hunt for a new role.

In New Zealand, the Jobseeker Support benefit exists to help people in exactly this situation. You can find out more information about this benefit on the Work and Income website, as you’ll need to meet a number of criteria in order to be eligible.

Also, due to the impacts of Covid-19 on the NZ economy, the Government has launched the Covid-19 Income Relief Payment. This is for those who lost their job between 1 March 2020 and 30 October 2020 due to coronavirus. The support provides up to 12 weeks of payments to help with living costs.

3. Develop healthy habits

One of the most jarring aspects of losing your job is the sudden loss of routine. You no longer need to get up at a certain time, you don’t need to leave the house and there’s no pressure to go to bed early.

However, it’s important to develop your own structures and routines. We’ll talk about this in relation to job hunting a little later, but this has a wider importance regarding your health.

There are heaps of studies that tie activity, a good diet and sufficient sleep to positive mental health. And, at a time when you’re likely to be more stressed than usual, anything you can do to boost your mental health should be prioritised.

Looking after your physical and mental health is paramount if you've lost your job.

4. Talk to people

There are all sorts of different people you can talk to to help you get through losing a job:

  • Your family and friends: talking, or venting, to family and friends can be a really good way to get your feelings off your chest. They can also provide different perspectives and advice on the next steps you can take, when you’re ready.
  • Your network: when you feel like getting back into the race, your professional connections can be great points of connection. Whether it’s just bouncing ideas around, or taking concrete steps towards a new role, their knowledge will come in handy.

Recruiters and careers advisors: these people have their ears to the ground 24/7, and can help you find opportunities you might have never known existed.

5. Be structured in your approach to job hunting

We recently spoke to Auckland-based recruiter Patrick Kirkland, who advised applicants to treat job hunting like a job. This means:

  • Get your ducks in a row: if it’s been a while since you updated your CV or Trade Me Jobs Profile, knock these into shape so you can tailor them to different opportunities quickly.
  • Sticking to regular hours: you don’t want to burn yourself out, so find a routine that works for you and keep to it.
  • Take breaks: while it can be satisfying to say you’ve applied for 15 jobs in a day, if only six of them were quality applications, you’ve wasted a lot of time. Keep your brain fresh with regular breaks.
  • Don’t cut corners: be wary of falling into traps like sending the same cover letter to every employer. Make every application count by tailoring your CV and cover letter to the role and organisation.
  • Prioritise: don’t just apply to anything and everything you see. Searching smart means being picky and looking for the opportunities that best match your skills and experience. This will save you time in the long run.