Two years ago, I lost a job I didn’t love. I immediately felt relieved. Not only did the thought of going into that office every day keep me up at night, but my wife and I had a decent amount of money saved up. And on top of that, I got a bigger-than-expected severance. So when the time came to part ways, it felt like everything would actually be OK.
However, a couple of months into my job search, I realized that being let go isn’t just hard for financial reasons (although it definitely can be), but it also had a larger emotional impact on me than I thought it would. So if you’re in the same boat—or are worried you might be soon—here are a few things you’ll probably experience.
1. The Fear of the Unknown Is Very Real
I quickly lost count of how many times I’d wake up and say to myself, “Not knowing is the worst. Why won’t anyone just tell me what’s next?” The truth is that no matter how much cash you have saved up, you’ll still want the job search to go as quickly as possible. In my case, I would’ve given someone all my money if that person could tell me the exact date on which I’d start my next role.
While there isn’t a silver bullet solution to putting those fears to rest, do your best not to keep these feelings to yourself (like I did for a very, very long time). Find someone you trust and lay it all out there. It might be uncomfortable, but even if a confidante doesn’t have any remedies, you’ll be able to move on much faster if you confront what’s stressing you out.
2. You’ll Wonder if You Were Good Enough at Your Last Job
In those first few weeks of being unemployed, I tried to pinpoint the times when I’d dropped the ball at work. And when I found a few examples, I couldn’t think about anything else. “If I hadn’t messed those few things up, I might not be in this position,” I’d say to myself. “But maybe I messed them up because I just wasn’t smart enough for the job.”
If you’re saying similar things to yourself right now, I have a lot of empathy for what you’re going through. I’d also encourage you to jot down a quick list of accomplishments and focus your energy on those instead. Everyone makes mistakes, and although we’d all like to hit the rewind button and undo them, it’s just not possible.
So, take a deep breath and have a little compassion for yourself. Your recent layoff doesn’t change the fact that you’ve done some pretty awesome things in your career so far.
3. You Will Still Obsess Over What’s in Your Bank Account
OK, so we weren’t billionaires when I got laid off. My wife and I cut back on a lot of things to maximize what we had, and even though we were pretty thorough about the whole thing, I couldn’t help but stare at our bank account to make sure we’d be able to afford groceries next month. In fact, I was pretty obsessive over it to the point where it kept me from staying on top of my job search.
Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, find ways to shore up that account—such as analyzing your budget and making cuts. Or, taking on a side gig. In my case, I took a temp job folding boxes for a few days to make up for some unexpected bills.
Be creative and flexible—soon enough you’ll land a new position that’ll allow you to make more room in your budget again.
Getting laid off can stink. And while many people who aren’t in that boat assume that the stress comes from finances—that’s not always the case. Yes, paying bills when you’re not working can be very (very!) stressful, but so is not knowing what your next career move will be. So if you’re currently freaking out a little bit, take it easy on yourself and know that your reaction’s completely normal.