Coping with Job Loss

For more information, see The NC Dislocated Worker Toolkit

Sudden or involuntary unemployment is difficult under any circumstances, especially in today's economic climate. People of all ages, stages, and locations are experiencing the implications of these worldwide changes. You are not alone. If you find yourself suddenly unemployed or out of sync with new management, here are some strategies to re-launch your career:

  1. Allow yourself time to grieve your loss. Many newly unemployed rush headlong into the job search in a frenzy of immediate activity. Pace yourself to avoid exhaustion and depression. Take time to thoughtfully assess your current situation (financial, emotional, family, career goals, etc.) and allow some time to relax and refresh before launching yourself haphazardly into a job search. BUT…

  2. Don’t wait too long! Face reality early on. As soon as you anticipate a lay-off, get in gear. Set networking activities in motion in advance. Never stop networking – even while employed. It’s good for your career at any stage.

  3. Think of this time as an opportunity to make positive change in your life. Take stock of your past work history. Have you always thought about being an entrepreneur? What were those early (childhood, teen, or young adult) dreams? Is this the time to act on them? Conduct assessment activities (Check out the Career Changes page for some options!) to really know what your transferable skills are and which ones you really want (and don’t want) to use in the next job.

  4. Think about these questions to determine if this could be the time to follow a different path:
    • If you could create the ideal job for yourself at this moment, what would it look like? Imagine in detail the work environment (people, places, things), your daily activities and interactions, you responsibilities, your time commitment and much more.
    • Do you know anyone – either in reality, in film, in fiction, or other media – who has a job that you would LOVE to have? What about that job makes it so intriguing and compelling? What’s stopping you? If it’s a job belonging to someone you know, that could be your first informational interview.


  5. Develop a support system. This could be family, friends, former colleagues or associates, or it could be a local networking group of professional career counselor, coach, or therapist. Being with those who sympathize, encourage and push you forward, and developing those relationships are important for your well-being. Don't forget about the groups in the county who are here to support you in this time! The ESC and Joblinks centers, along with WPCC and the Library will help with support and moving forward!

  6. Inform EVERYONE you know of your situation. Ask for assistance, advice, referrals, and support. You never know who is amongst their contacts and who might be useful to you. Always return the favor as appropriate and when possible. Network, network, network! Don’t overlook opportunities to do so through sports, social clubs, organizations, old co-workers, and interactions.

  7. Update your resume. This has the immediate benefit of reminding you of your value to employers in the past, what activities you most enjoyed in your job, and those you would like to avoid in the next one. Classes to help you with your resume, as well as online and print resources, are available at the ESC, WPCC, and the Burke County Library

  8. Ask your friends and family to help remind you of past jobs and your duties there. Don't forget about accomplishments and awards!

  9. Start reading classified ads – in print (newspapers and journals) and online. Highlight positions a) that interest you and b) for which you are relatively qualified. You may stumble upon a position that interests you, but may be unrelated to your past work history. Are your skill sets transferable? If you are relatively qualified (80 percent or better!), apply. If you feel unqualified, what do you need to do to become qualified? This may be the time – and opportunity – to get that additional coursework, degree, or special skill.

  10. Develop cover letters that count! A resume alone never tells your whole story – particularly if you are changing careers or appear to have a checkered work history. An effectively tailored cover letter allows you to sell yourself to the employer, making the connection for the reader about how your skills and experiences meet his/her needs and benefit the company.Classes to help you with your cover letter, as well as online and print resources, are available at the ESC, WPCC, and the Burke County Library

  11. Keep a positive attitude. This is not always easy, but be sure to engage in activities that energize and motivate you, like volunteer. Allow yourself moments – even a full day – of self-pity once in a while, but limit the negative time and get back on track as quickly as possible. Get help if feeling inordinately depressed over an extended period of time. Above all, keep moving forward – positively!

Adapted from Duke University's Career Center Website