You’ve Lost Your Job: How Self-Made Women Can Recover and Rebuild

It's brutal out there. Layoffs are picking up. The latest flashy installment of how to blow up corporate culture in a single weekend is sponsored by Google, who recently laid off 12,000 people by—you guessed it—email. So rude, seriously. People were trapped at work conferences, credit cards frozen, no access to email, texting their colleagues to figure out what happened. This kind of nonsense has spawned posts all over the place with heartbroken emoticons, affirmation memes, and bitter commentary.

Look, corporations are psychopathic. Like the Terminator, they can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, remorse, or fear. It’s not about you, at least most of the time. Despite this, it’s easy to take a layoff hard.

As a fiduciary, fee-only financial planner for self-reliant women, I have several super-accomplished women clients who have experienced the chopping block and it throws them for a loop no matter how seasoned they are. It’s painful. It makes you question your worth. You feel out of control. It is disruptive on many levels.

Here are five guidelines for the self-made woman who has lost her job:

Triage. Address your biggest pain points first:

If you are feeling bad about yourself, or angry, or scared, spend time with your biggest fans and process everything. I, for one, advocate quickly moving from crushed self-esteem to outraged indignation at those who wronged you, but that’s me.

If you are burned out, take a minute, sleep, do some yoga or other low impact movement, and eat healthy. Nice and gentle is key. Do not minimize how mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing this is. Self-care is important to your ability to think clearly about next steps.

If you are freaked out about money (and even if you’re not), this is exactly the moment to speak with a financial advisor to break it all down—where you are, your options, and your roadmap going forward. Also file this under self-care: feeling that you are worthy of financial success. Sometimes that idea gets lost during times of crisis.

Be realistic. Many times, I have observed women making assumptions that they will be able to recreate their former income levels. Sometimes yes, a lot of times no, especially the further up the ladder you go. It might take a while to come back to where you were. So you must consider your timeline, your financial runway, and the tradeoffs you are prepared to make. Again, a financial advisor can be very helpful here.

Get help to reassess. Flailing about, revising your resume the day after the news, and calling everyone you know asking for a job is a ready-fire-aim approach, and you might be leaving options on the table out of a sense of panic or desperation. Instead, take a hard look at what you do, your core skills, and how they are valued in the marketplace. Think about how that ties back to your financial goals. It is important to get support, insight, and feedback to provide perspective. Consider your network, mentors, and career counselors.

Ask yourself, what do I really WANT to do? This seems obvious, but it isn’t. When your brain goes into survival mode—to the tunnel vision place—it is very easy to try to replicate what you did before. It seems like the least risky choice, but is that really true? Maybe your job made you miserable. Maybe your career trajectory is unsustainable. Maybe you don’t want to climb to the next rung because that job looks horrible. Now is your chance to consider a change since you are already in flux.

Make finding a job your job. Think of this as hiring yourself with the deliverable of a new job or career. Create tasks and deadlines that are realistic. It might help to continue routines that you had while employed, such as putting on makeup and work clothes, or getting out of the house and going to a coffee shop when you need to focus. The last thing you want is to wake up in six weeks in your jammies, eating potato chips in bed, binge-watching Netflix. Take yourself and your need for structure seriously.

For even the most accomplished woman, losing a job can be devastating. But taking thoughtful, caring steps can bring you to a better place with your career. And always remember—your value is not defined by your job. It’s the value that the job brings to you that matters.

If you want to kick around your financial plans with another woman who’s been where you are, let's talk.