How to cope with unemployment

Being discharged is one of the most stressful experiences a person can undergo. The immediate priority is to deal with the aftershock. You have to be careful what you say and do, or you may seriously damage reemployment prospects.Avoid the following missteps:Things to do:A final note—keep telling yourself you will find a position that will make you much happier than you have been re...


Being discharged is one of the most stressful experiences a person can undergo. The immediate priority is to deal with the aftershock. You have to be careful what you say and do, or you may seriously damage reemployment prospects.

Avoid the following missteps:

  • Emotional outbursts or arguments with the ex-employer. They serve no purpose and may harden the company's stance against you regarding severance. For whatever reason, the employer decided discharge you. That decision is not going to change. Your first impulse may be to want an explanation, but employers aren't obligated to let you know their reasoning.

  • The urge to sue the former employer. Trying to "get even" by suing an employer can be extremely damaging to your career. A lawsuit against the ex-employer may effectively turn you into a non-person in the job market. Most prospective employers shun anyone who has sued a former employer, even though such action is illegal. Also, an individual's prospects of returning to the workforce after litigation in an equivalent or better status are diminished, regardless of whether their litigation was successful.

  • Burning bridges when you leave. "Telling your ex-employer off" is a great temptation, especially immediately after being discharged, but this is another ill-advised action. You may need the ex-employer, former associates, and friends for references, which you are much less likely to get—even from friends—if you launch a diatribe and leave under a cloud of anger. Plan on leaving with dignity and calm. It shows you are a class act.

  • Dumping on your family when you get home. It's not their fault you were discharged, and they should not be made to bear the brunt of your anger and frustration. You may say things in the heat of anger that will impair relationships with your family. Do not take that chance.

  • Don't try to hide the discharge. Tell your family what has happened. Keep it factual and to the point. Involve each family member in your search. Tell them you fully expect to find another job. Especially where children are concerned, concealing a discharge can have damaging effects.

Things to do:

  • Immediately find a close friend. Venting negative feelings to a confidante—not bottling them up—is critical for your emotional recovery. You need someone with whom you can be irrational, without fearing the conversation will be repeated elsewhere. Clearing the air is essential, or you will be burdened with emotional baggage that will hamper your job search.

  • Take few days to "cool off." Job seekers often reenter the job market too soon. Use this period to regroup your thoughts, chart your job search plans, and prepare your resume. However, do not take a vacation.

  • Teach yourself to think positively. It may be hard, but you have to regard your situation positively. You have not been fired; you have been given an opportunity to start over in a better job somewhere else.

  • Establish daily and personal routines. Keep busy. When you are unemployed, you suddenly have large blocks of time formerly occupied by your job. Avoid developing a tendency toward idleness. Regular business hours should be devoted to interviewing. Prepare for the next day's interviews the prior evening, so you don't waste time during the business day. Above all, don't while away time on the golf course, in front of the TV, or waiting for the phone to ring. Also, set up a personal routine that includes exercise, arising at your usual hour, and some recreation.

  • Keep up normal social contacts. Some people react to unemployment by withdrawing and shunning their usual social contacts. You should not try to hide from the world. There is absolutely no shame in being unemployed, especially now when so many people are victims of mass layoffs that aren't their fault. Social contacts can also provide important job leads, so don't wall yourself off from those sources.

  • Draw up a budget that conserves your assets. Start out with a basic spending plan that includes mortgage or rent, auto payments, food, insurance, gasoline, job hunting costs, and other prioritized expenses. By the way, well-documented job hunting expenses may be tax deductible if you're seeking a job in the same field.

A final note—keep telling yourself you will find a position that will make you much happier than you have been recently because that is the way it nearly always works out.

For more information, visit or .

Author Information

John A. Challenger, ceo, Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., Chicago, Ill., an international outplacement firm.

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