How to Handle Being Laid Off
By Courtney Clark
It’s a moment that can shake your self-esteem. It can ruin your finance. It can change your life plans in an instant. You just got fired.
Getting fired or let go is a major ego blow, because – if you’re like many of us – your jobs is tied in with your identity. Your career is a major part of who you are. Your success gives you worth. So when you lose your job, it can destroy more than just your sense of comfort and security, but also your sense of self.
Getting Fired Does These Three Things In Your Brain
When negative things happen, like being let go from a job, our brains naturally look for explanations. Your brain may be more prone to a positive explanatory style, or a negative explanatory style (and when you’ve just been dealt a major blow, it’s no surprise that your brain may start to veer more toward the negative!)
There are three elements to a negative explanatory style:
When you’re trapped in a negative explanatory style, you believe the things that happen to you are your fault (permanent), are going to negatively affect you forever (permanent), and are going to bleed over into all areas of your life (pervasive). On the flip side, people who are using a positive explanatory style are able to remind themselves that the situation they find themselves in is just unlucky (not personal), temporary (not permanent), and only a small blip compared to other opportunities in life (not pervasive). Even Sheryl Sandberg used the “Three Ps” after losing her husband!
Here’s Your Script After Getting Fired
So if you get fired, how do you trick your brain into adopting a positive explanatory style, even in the face of bad news?
The key is to start an internal conversation with yourself to remind yourself of the truth: that being let go is not personal, permanent, or pervasive. Some people start with the “not personal” part, but I’ve found that to be a tough one to accomplish right off the bat (yup, I’ve been fired). In this case, I find the easiest element to start with is reminding yourself that the situation isn’t permanent. There’s another job out there for you, and it may even be a better job, that’s a better fit! Back up your internal conversation by going to job seekers groups (which is where I found a job and a new career path after my first layoff at age 22).
Once you’ve reminded yourself that the situation isn’t permanent, take responsibility for keeping it from becoming pervasive. You may be tempted to crawl in bed with a blanket and a Netflix subscription for the next two weeks, but don’t. Keep up with all of your regularly scheduled activities. Go to your volunteer work. Hang out with friends.
If you allow your unhappiness to start edging out all the happy elements of your life, that’s when negativity becomes pervasive. And finally, keep reminding yourself that being let go isn’t personal. That’s a tempting trap to fall into, especially when you know they’re going to hire someone else into that spot, because it feels like you must have done something wrong. But sometimes a job is just a mismatch for your skill set. And moving on is better for the company and for you.
When you get fired, it isn’t personal, it isn’t permanent, and it isn’t pervasive. Even if it feels that way. If you can remind yourself to shift to a positive explanatory style, and keep up that internal script, you’ll be ready to be a rockstar on the job hunt in no time!
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