Job Search

How to Move On After a Job Loss

When Dwain Schenck lost his job a few years ago, he was shell-shocked.

But with a strong track record as a communications executive and an impressive professional network, the then 49-year-old jumped right into looking for a new position. He had no doubts he’d find something quickly.

Four weeks later, he almost took a job as a door-to-door salesman.

Looking back, Schenck sees he was veering from denial to panic. And those were just some of the ingredients in the emotional stew he experienced while he struggled to rebuild. “Most people lose their jobs and lose their self-esteem,” says Schenck, the author of Reset: How to Beat the Job Loss Blues and Get Ready for Your Next Act. “I think there are two types of people: those that see their job loss as the result of the economy and other forces outside of themselves, and those that take it more personally and start thinking about everything they’ve done wrong. I was the second type.”

Schenck knows he was lucky to have some financial cushion and a supportive wife. He also had friends like Mika Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe on MSNBC, who encouraged him to write a book.

In Reset, Schenck weaves an honest account of his own journey (he started a communications firm after publishing the book) with interviews with career coaches, other job seekers, and high-profile names like Donald Trump and Brzezinski, who had her own experience with job loss before landing her current gig. I asked Schenck to distill what’s he’s learned into the key lessons.

5 Ways To Move On After a Job Loss 

  1. Become a student of the process. Accept that searching for a job is a process and then act like a student and learn that process. You don’t know what you don’t know when you’re starting out. It’s like building a house for the first time, you have to learn a lot of things very quickly that you never knew and may not even need to know again. For middle-aged job seekers, some of what’s new is learning how to use social media to assist your search.
  2. Set realistic expectations. I was sure I’d have a job in a month or two, but even with a good network and contacts that helped me land amazing meetings, I didn’t get an offer. Typically it takes six months to land a new job, and I would say that for some people and at some times it is much more likely to take at least a year. You have to expect that and plan for the long-term or you will just constantly get disappointed and let yourself down.
  3. Don’t go it alone. Most people isolate themselves as the search goes on. It becomes harder to talk to people about your progress. You might also isolate yourself for financial reasons. And depression can set in. If someone has vices, like eating or drinking too much, they can kick in, and that just adds another layer of problems. You have to put yourself out there even if you don’t want to.
  4. Network, network, network. I’m an extrovert, but I don’t actually like networking. It is a lot of work. But you have to do it. One thing really does lead to another.
  5. Be open. This is hard for a lot of people, but you have to really open up. You have to be open to people, to ideas, to relocating. Some people start out saying they won’t take a job that isn’t close to home or in a certain industry. But you can’t limit your thinking in any way while you’re searching or you will be out of luck.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.