Making the most from losing a job


IN ANY episode of Mad Men in which there is no infidelity, you can be sure that someone will get fired. As the insincerity oozes through Don Draper’s “I know you’ll do well”, we imagine the victim floundering in the harsh world beyond Sterling Cooper. In fact, however, they may be better off. People who lose their job and find another have better health and suffer less stress than those who keep their job.

Here is a plan for turning the pain of losing your job into gain. Firstly, release the anger. Shout, swear, cry then go for a long run or whatever is your way of getting distracted and exhausted enough to sleep well.

Next, chat with honest friends who won’t let you get away with “this really isn’t a big deal” and “I never liked the job anyway”. We all tend to minimise or deny the significance of bad changes. These are unstable foundations on which to build our new future. A challenging voice will help us come to terms with the reality faster.

There will be times when it feels like you’re stuck in a bad place from which there is no escape, remember how you’ve got through past disasters – if you’ve done it before, you can do it again. Look at how friends or people you admire emerged from darker tunnels and let their achievements give you renewed faith.

Then it will be time to reflect on what you really want in life. When were you at your best? What are you really good at? What do you want to have achieved in five years? Let your mind wander so you conjure up a wide range of new dreams about the (working) life that would make you happiest. If you rush this you will regret it later. Go and talk with interesting people, walk round medieval churches or stay with an old friend in a different part of the country. Fresh stimulus will give you a new perspective.

And finally, start to explore new opportunities. The bar on a beach in Jamaica may have been appealing but securing property rights could scupper the deal. This is the stage to start planning and seeing what could work in practice.

We tend to stick with what we know. Losing a job gives us the impetus to go out and do what will make us fulfilled. It really can be the opportunity of a lifetime.