Leaving a job with a planned departure date can be stressful enough, but when you leave a job abruptly — whether it's your own decision or the boss shows you the door — the shock to your system can be real and palpable. You may even experience the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance, though not necessarily in this order. As heartsick as you may feel now, it may help to remember that you will overcome these feelings. Give yourself some time and try to be proactive about your recovery because you will recover.
Acknowledge and accept your feelings. There is no one “road map” to recovery after leaving a job abruptly. At first, you may feel bitter or you may feel awash in hopelessness. Indulge your feelings now so that you can move on.
Abstain from beating yourself up over the conditions that led to your abrupt departure. Rewinding events and replaying them over and over in your mind gets tedious. Acceptance of your circumstance will come with time, but do your best early on to avoid wallowing in negativity. It’s counter-productive.
Focus on the proverbial “good news” about your abrupt departure. You may have been saddled with a maniacal boss, or you might have felt stymied in your quest to learn new skills. View your ordeal as a learning experience. Then perhaps you can find true meaning in the cliché about one door closing and another one opening.
Reassess your career goals. With your abrupt departure as a backdrop, think about how you might avoid a repeat occurrence in the future. For example, if your tenure at a start-up company was marked by high drama, volatility and financial strain, you may smartly decide to avoid working for new ventures in the future.
Begin a job search, even if your heart is not really into the task. In this case, map out a plan whereby you gradually increase the number of hours per day that you devote to your search. Focusing positive energy on the future will help mitigate the feelings of loss associated with leaving your job abruptly. Early on in the search, don't research job ads as if you're under the gun to find a new gig immediately. You just left one pressure cooker and don't need to leap into another in the form of a mad job search. Use this preliminary search period to get a feel for the lay of the land, especially if you haven't been in the job market for several years. This way, you reduce some of the dread of "looking for work" because you'll reduce fear of the unknown. Think of it as leisurely job window-shopping.
Reach out to people and don't isolate yourself. Former co-workers may be a source of immediate solace, but watch that they don’t suck you into a vortex of negativity. Surround yourself with positive people who will support you as you come to terms with leaving your job abruptly and take proactive steps to move on.
Take care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep and yes, exercising too. To counteract the stress and anxiety associated with sudden job loss, learn some quick, but valuable breathing exercises that will help restore your sense of calm. Remember that you must feel physically and emotionally strong to start a new chapter in your life.
- You know yourself better than anybody, so trust your instincts. For example, you might be told to “reward yourself” or to take a vacation to unwind from the stress. However, if you fear that spending money on a trip while you’re out of work will only compound your stress, then skip it. At the same time, many people look back on periods of unemployment wishing they had spent more time on leisurely pursuits. Knowing all of this, reach a middle ground, perhaps by pledging to spend 30 minutes each day on a “mini vacation,” whether that means watching an old movie, doing a fun household project or going for a walk.
- Psych Central: The Five Stages of Loss and Grief
- HelpGuide.com: Job Loss and Unemployment Stress
- University of Florida Extension: Coping with Stress During a Job Loss
- Employment Crossing: How to Deal with a Sudden Job Loss
- New York State Department of Labor Job Search Guide: Handling Your Job Loss
- Georgia Department of Corrections: Coping with Unexpected Job Loss
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images