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How To Recover From A Job Loss

How To Recover From A Job Loss
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A job loss at any age can be devastating—even more so for “people of a certain age”. But it does not have to be that way. There’s an old saying, “When one door closes, another one opens.” If you have the right attitude, you can rebound from a job loss.

Downsizing, outsourcing, freelancers, business closures, part-time workers — these are some of the reasons you may find yourself booted from a full-time position. You may have been nearing the homestretch in your career and now you find yourself looking for work.

When you lose a job before your 40th birthday, you brush yourself off and kept it moving. You feel confident you can find a new gig. If you’re over 40, losing your job will probably cause a bit of stress. Let’s face it, the economy is shaky. Younger adults are having trouble finding work. Some take work outside their field. The deck is stacked against older job seekers who have to compete with younger applicants. Unfortunately, the person conducting the interview or reviewing resumes and applications, may bring their own prejudices to the table.

I would like to believe most people aren’t prejudiced; however, I have lived long enough to know this is not always true. The person who makes the final hiring decision may have issues. They may rule against a candidate because of their race or sexual orientation (perceived or verified) or because the applicant is —in their opinion — too skinny, fat, tall, short, and so on.

Some people have negative feelings toward older workers. They may assume older workers:

  • Will not learn new tasks quickly
  • Will not take orders from a younger supervisor
  • Are computer and tech illiterate
  • Are in poor health or lack stamina
  • Will not adjust to change easily
  • Are bossy, know-it-alls

These myths can just as easily apply to younger workers. Another myth is that older workers won’t stay with the company long. Especially if the job is a step down in pay or position. The hiring manager may feel the applicant is only looking for a position until something better comes along. Again, this is true of any applicant.

Unfortunately, as with other types of prejudices, it’s hard to prove that you didn’t get a position because of your age. Even if the interviewer seemed blatantly prejudiced against you.

Fortunately for every bad apple in the barrel, there are good apples willing to give you a chance —regardless of your age. So, let’s look at some ways to rebound after a job loss.

As I said earlier, having a good attitude is crucial. If you think the situation is hopeless, you will not be able to move forward. Many people who lose their job go through the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Losing a job is not the same as losing a loved one to death or finding out you have a fatal disease, but it is emotional taxing. It’s perfectly acceptable to experience these emotions.

Aside from keeping a sunny outlook, what else should you do? Here are a few important tips:

Get Your Benefits: The first thing you want to do is apply for any benefits you are entitled to receive. You want to get the financial ball rolling as soon as possible. Knowing where you stand financially is crucial to planning for the future. Your monthly income will drop, but having some money while you look for work or plan your next move will help ease the burden of losing your job.

Update Your Resume: If you have worked or one company for a long time, you probably haven’t updated your resume in a while. Several years ago, I wrote a resume for someone who needed to find a job after working almost 30 years for the same company! With only one job to show, I concentrated on highlighting his skills and qualifications (and yes, he got the job).

Most experts say you should include the last 10 years of work on your resume. This presents problems for people in situations such as the one I just mentioned. A hiring manager can estimate your age by simply noting the dates on your resume. This may work to your disadvantage. I have read that you should leave the dates off, but that can also throw up a red flag to the person reviewing your resume. For some higher-level management position and work in academia, age may not be an issue. Focus on wowing the reviewer with your skills and experience and your age may not matter to most.

You can find many sources online to help you update your resume, including:

Purdue University Online Writing Lab

Network: Sometimes it really is who you know, not what you know, that will help you land a new job —or at least get your foot in the door. So pull out the rolodex (do they still have rolodexes?) or scroll through your phone’s contact list, and start making calls.

Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to let people know you are looking for work. You never know who can introduce you to someone in a position to hire you or recommend you for a position.

Check with your local chamber of commerce, they often have networking events you can attend. I suggest getting a set of simple business cards to hand out. Online networking and job fairs are also great ideas. Be sure to check with your local workforce development office (i.e. unemployment office), they often hold fairs and/or have on-the-spot interviews with local company representatives.


While you’re looking for work, one way to keep depression away is to volunteer. Not only will you keep busy, but your mind won’t be occupied with your own problems. Many unemployed people spend too much time sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. Volunteering can solve this problem. Plus, you can learn new skills and if a position opens, you already have a foot in the door. 

Consider a New Career: It’s never too late to start a new career. When faced with a job loss, instead of returning to your old industry, consider a new career. Maybe you have always dreamed of doing something different but didn’t want to make a move. You may have felt secure in your position or didn’t have time to invest in training. After a job loss, your previous dream could become your present reality. There are a number of free online classes you can take to explore career opportunities. Check with local colleges in your area to see if they offer special programs for adult learners. Also, make sure you see if you are eligible for financial aid. 

Start (or expand) a Business: If you have a side gig, a job loss can be the perfect opportunity to expand your business into a full-time endeavor. If you don’t have a business, this is also a good time to research business opportunities. There are many businesses you can start at home that can bring in money while you look for work. Some of these ventures can also lead to full-time income.

One of the best resources for exploring the ins and outs of running a business is the Small Business Administration (SBA).  A counselor at your local SBA office can assist you with any questions you have. The SBA also has tons of online resources including webinars. Another good option is to contact your local Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) office. Like the SBA, SCORE works with small business owners. They will even set you up with a mentor, in addition to workshops and training opportunities. 

Stay Busy and Stay Positive: I will close by reiterating the importance of staying busy and positive after a job loss. Whether you find a part-time job, volunteer, start or expand a business or get training for a new career, it is important for you to devise a plan and then work through it. Most importantly, realize that job loss happens to most of us at some point. You have to be able to shake it off and rebound.

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