Today’s guest post comes from Gwen Hill.

Fiscal year end has come and gone.

And it seems to have taken a lot of jobs along with it–mine included.

We’ve all heard about the stages of grief, but what do those look like when we apply them to the loss of a job?

Here’s my take on it.

Stage One: Panic

The Caution: No. Big. Decisions. Seriously, do not sign that contract. Put the pen down. Put it down. Good.

Honestly, if you were still in this stage, you likely wouldn’t be reading this article. This is one of those things that just lasts as long as it does, and it comes and goes in waves.

You can still have intelligent thought and plan for the future during this time, but it’s important that you do not make any decisions. You’re not at your best in Stage One, and you’re liable to do something you’ll regret.

Think of it as a roller coaster, and you’re at the very top of the first drop: your stomach is in your throat and you’re white-knuckling the handlebar. Does this feel like a time when you’re really, really clever?

Stage Two: Anger

The Caution: Go ahead and be angry at home, but know your audience – this is not the right time to write letters to the President or CEO, or to post a long rant on Facebook.

I didn’t spend time in this stage, because it’s not personal. This is a good place to try to find some objectivity.

If you’ve been laid off and not fired, the odds are good that this layoff has nothing to do with you. Budget cuts or organizational restructuring come down from an executive level of people who likely don’t know who you are or how important your work may be. If they do know you personally, odds are that they feel quite badly about this whole thing.

And while I understand wanting to think that the whole place will fall apart after you leave… well. If one person’s departure will destroy the entire department, then it likely wasn’t a great place to work in the first place.

Consider Stage Two to be the worst part of the roller coaster. You’re being spun around and corkscrewed (no pun intended) and you have very little control. Once you figure out that most of the anger comes from frustration, things will even out a bit.

Stage Three: Acceptance

The Caution: Stages One and Two can still rear their ugly heads on occasion, generally around 2am. Take deep breaths. It will pass.

Ahh, this is a nice stage. You have realized that you are, in fact, more employable than you used to be, because you have gained skills that are applicable to the world outside. The exit is in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel is not, in fact, an oncoming train.

This is where the roller coaster has led you so that you can remove the bar, stand up, and get off the ride. Sure, your legs are shaking, and sure, you feel utterly wrung out, but you got here. Because you are an impressive human. And that leads us to the most important stage.

Stage Four: Seizing Opportunity

The Caution: What caution? You’re a rock star! But maybe make sure that you can still pay your mortgage. Mitigate your risks.

This is how you’re going to turn a lousy situation into a fantastic turning point. What do you want out of a job? What are your options? Is it going to be more of the same sort of work for you, or is it time for a change? What were you not getting from this job, that you might find elsewhere?

This is where you stop looking at a layoff as a horrible thing that has happened to you, and you start looking at it as a change that you can own. That gives you back some power and control, and that’s where we find the best moments of growth.

Make a list of the skills you have, and the ones you want to grow.

Figure out what you need in your life, from a financial and support standpoint, and make a plan to get it.

Find a way to grow the skills you want, and seek out jobs that match your wish list. You’re off the ride now, down the stairs and facing the rest of the park: make sure that you walk in the right direction.

Beyond The Four Stages

One last thing: unless this is a scramble on the part of the executive, you probably have a few weeks left in your job.

My advice: do not check out.

This will be more difficult for some than others, but the very human truth is that it’s hard to remain committed to a project of which you likely won’t see the final outcome. Commit yourself to ensuring that the work you did will continue once you’re gone.

Work with your coworkers and managers to figure out how to hand off your projects and tasks, and leave positive feelings behind you when you go. (This can be summarized by the phrase ‘be a grown up’.)

Me? I’m going to take some time. I’ve picked up a couple of contracts and workshops, I’ve got a novel to finish, and I’m going to focus on some other writing. What about you? If this came up in your life, right now, what would you do?


gwen-hill-writerAbout the Author: Gwen Hill is a writer, pilot and lifelong learner. She is passionate about meaningful engagement and the importance of thriving in the workplace. You can connect with her on Twitter.