Bruised and Gun-Shy: How to Heal After a Layoff

It’s difficult enough to be issued the Pink Slip, but how you deal with the sudden unemployment in the weeks and months that follow is what matters most to your future success.

You can either crawl into a hole and feel sorry for yourself. Or, you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps — putting one foot in front of the other — and start the next chapter of your career. 
 In order to the do the latter, however, you may need to do some soul-searching first. 
 Even though the circumstances under which you were let go were out of your hands, your self-esteem has likely taken a hit (and rightly so).

It’s important to be in a healthy place when looking for a new job. In a short while, I’ll share some advice on how you can be productive during this time.

Experiencing a layoff or dismissal can be devastating. There’s a saying that time heals everything, but I think time plus some thoughtful decisions on your part is where the real healing begins.

It’s easy to become cynical and bitter after the loss of a job, but it’s totally possible to turn a negative situation — such as a layoff — into something positive and rewarding.

Sure — thinking positively is easier said than done. But taking some time to constructively think through what transpired could help you heal from being let go and put you in a more positive frame of mind.

Photo Credit: graur razvan ionut

Julie Hansen, the author of I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work (affiliate link), offers some sage advice in this regard for professionals out of work and who are seeking new employment.

It’s important to know yourself before you reach out and find another job. Know your preferences, your values, and your parameters, and you will find it easier, wrote Hansen, to understand your needs and boundaries in a new work situation.

What she’s suggesting is to reflect on your past work experience and situation to help you determine what you want in a future job. Was it difficult to function effectively in the previous work environment? Did you experience physical pain getting out of bed in the morning because you dreaded heading into work?

These are important clues to finding more gratifying work. In the book, Hansen offers a great assessment, which I’ve duplicated, in part, here:


Were my values truly being met in that particular work situation? 
Which ones were?
 Which values were not?


Look back at the job or work situation that caused you to feel “Bruised and Gun-Shy,” she wrote, and assess what you have learned about your attitudes.


Has your self-confidence eroded? If it has, focus on using one of your strengths or skills to help in regaining your confidence.

If you’re working now, look for a task or project you can complete or a goal you can reach that will help you feel good about yourself as well as give you recognition. 
 If you aren’t working, can you find a consulting job in which you can use your technical expertise to help a client solve a problem? Write down ideas.


Did you learn something new about yourself during your difficult situation that you weren’t previously aware of? Did you receive feedback about a particular behavior or skill? Be honest with yourself.

Write down what it is along with ways that you can change or improve it, such as taking a class or identifying a mentor.

Managing Relationships

Did you experience friction or discord with a specific person during your difficult work experience? “While some people are truly tough to deal with in the workplace, a relationship involves two people, not just one,” wrote Hansen.

What did you learn about the way you handle relationships from your negative experience? If you experienced a difficult relationship at work again, what would you do differently?

Maintaining Motivation

Do you still feel motivated and focused about your career? Does it still interest and stimulate you? If not, write down three to five activities that you can become involved with to increase  your motivation overall, Hansen wrote. Take an art class, research a new industry, start a support group or volunteer, for example.

Goal Orientation

Write down two goals that will help you move toward a more optimistic frame of mind, she said.

Professional Commitment

If you don’t feel completely committed to your job and career because you feel battered by your previous experience, write down the things you can do to regain your commitment.


When you think about the negative work situation, how did you feel about the work itself? Was the work you were doing interesting to you? If so, what interested you?

Were there aspects of the job that did not interest you? Explain why.

Final Thoughts

Indeed, the unemployment rate is rising nationally and in individual states. We are certainly in a volatile job market, but don’t let that discourage you. Nor should you let your own unemployment status stop you from going after your dreams and claiming new opportunities.

Therefore, as you wait for doors to open — or as you make plans to create your own doors of opportunity — consider this as a time to heal, regroup, and refocus on building a career you’ll love.

What positive steps are you taking today to put you on the road to job recovery? Have you suffered a layoff or dismissal, and want to share what helped you survive in the weeks and months that followed? Please share in the comments section below!