Here’s Why Job Loss is No Longer Shameful (and How to Reframe It)


Embracing Change: Job Loss Isn’t What It Used to Be

We’ve all grown up hearing stories of individuals who’ve spent their entire lifetimes working for a single company without worrying about job loss. It’s been a cultural norm to perceive job stability as a metric of success. However, if you were to measure success with the same yardstick today, you’d probably find yourself behind the times.

The paradigm that many of us grew up with says that it’s normal to spend years with one company. In fact, recent surveys indicate that the average job tenure across the U.S. workforce is approximately 4 years. For younger workers (genZ and younger millennials), it’s often less than 3 years.

As I share in the accompanying video interview, this development is particularly difficult for older and more established professionals to navigate. But if you lose your job these days, don’t think that it’s because you did something wrong or couldn’t somehow contort yourself into what your company wanted you to be.

More than likely, it’s because you’re no longer the right “fit” for the job. As the economy has become more destabilized and change continues to accelerate as technology and strategies evolve to keep up with an evolving marketplace, companies need to pivot quickly to adapt to new market conditions.

(Yes, the concept of “fit” can be a slippery slope. It can be used as an excuse to get rid of a worker for any number of underlying reasons. But overall, it does describe a key criterion that employers are constantly evaluating.)

Rewiring this paradigm is a challenge, but it’s achievable. Your power and sense of agency lie not in your ability to hold onto your job, but in your clear understanding of your value proposition and what you deliver through the work that you do.

Here are some of the steps you can take to rewrite that deeply embedded script that is telling you you’re not enough, that you’re somehow at fault, or that you’ll never be capable of competing successfully in today’s job and career marketplace.

Reframing Job Loss: Why Feeling Ashamed Is Outdated and How to Find Positivity in New Beginnings

While losing a job may be sad and awkward, and it creates significant uncertainty and disruption for the person losing the job, it may have absolutely nothing to do with their performance.

The current work paradigm champions adaptability, innovation, and resilience more than ever before. This applies to companies and workers alike. The narratives of success today often include stories of failures, setbacks, and the lessons learned from them. The stories we tell about fabled entrepreneurs, from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs, including their successes, failures, and persistence, now apply, ironically, to everyone. We are all caught up in the same volatile economic flow.

Remember this when you find yourself judging yourself for losing your job. This is the first step. But how can you genuinely overcome the feelings of inadequacy after a job loss?

Positive Psychology Can Reprogram Feelings of Failure

You can literally change your mind. Your brain is malleable (Google “neuroplasticity” if you don’t believe me…). And your intention is the engine that can drive this transformation from a powerless victim of a cruel corporate culture to a growth-minded and resilient professional who embraces each change as an opportunity for new success.

The new paradigm is the shift from perceiving job loss as an endpoint to viewing it as a pivot point from which you can launch into a myriad of exciting directions. Embracing this modern, forward-thinking attitude not only aligns with today’s evolving job landscape but also prepares you for a fulfilling journey ahead.

A person's hand is seen pressing against a rainy window, depicting the emotional distress following a job loss.

Deep Dive: Self-compassion and Navigating Job Loss

Dr. Kristin Neff, one of the pioneering researchers in the field, defines self-compassion as being kind and understanding toward oneself in instances of pain or failure rather than being harshly self-critical. It involves perceiving one’s own painful experiences as part of the larger human experience and entails a balanced, mindful approach to negative emotions.

Self-compassion isn’t about ignoring your faults or avoiding responsibility. It’s about treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding as you would a friend in a similar situation. By adopting a self-compassionate mindset, you equip yourself with the emotional resilience to handle job losses and other setbacks, ensuring that such events become stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks on your career path.

Here are some ways you can apply self-compassion to a job loss.

Avoid Harmful Self-talk

Notice the narrative you’re telling yourself. Are you using phrases like, “I’m a failure,” or “I’ll never get another job”? Challenge these statements. Instead, reframe your thoughts: “This job wasn’t the right fit for me,” or “I have skills and experiences that will be valuable elsewhere.”


This is one of my favorite techniques. Write down your feelings about the job loss. By putting pen to paper, you’re externalizing your emotions, which can provide a different perspective. Over time, rereading your entries can reinforce your emotional growth and resilience.

Self-care Activities

Now might be a good time to engage in activities that make you feel good and help you relax. Whether it’s reading a book, taking long walks, practicing a sport, or engaging in a hobby, these activities can act as reminders that your worth isn’t solely tied to your job.

Even if you’re watching your budget after a job loss, think about buying some cheap nose-bleed seats to a concert. Get out and have fun and remember that you’ll be back in the swing of things before too long.

Seek Feedback

Sharing your feelings with trusted friends, family, or a counselor can be therapeutic. They might offer perspectives you hadn’t considered or provide resources that can help. Adopt the idea of creating a “personal board of directors” – a close-knit group of colleagues, friends, and mentors who have your back, and to whom you can turn for support.

Often, in the face of job loss, we forget our achievements and contributions. A reminder from those who’ve worked closely with you can be a boost to your self-worth.

Avoid Comparison

In our hyper-connected world, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Remember, everyone’s journey is unique. Just because someone else seems to be progressing faster doesn’t mean you’re lagging. Your path is uniquely yours.

If you’re wondering why you got the ax and not the guy or gal in the cubicle next door, remember that these decisions can be complex, and may not necessarily be fair. Don’t waste time wondering why. Accept the reality, move on, and make the most of the situation.

The Power of Gratitude in the Face of Job Loss

The idea of practicing gratitude, especially amidst the turbulence of losing a job, may seem counterintuitive. You might think, “How can I be grateful when I’m facing one of the toughest moments in my life?” It’s a valid and natural reaction.

Gratitude isn’t about denying the pain of such a challenging experience; it’s about broadening your perspective and recognizing that your valuable qualities, both big and small, are still intact.

Why Gratitude Matters in Difficult Times

From a psychological perspective, gratitude plays a vital role in enhancing emotional well-being. Gratitude can:

  1. Act as a Buffer: By focusing on positive elements in your life, gratitude can counteract stress and depression.
  2. Boost Dopamine Levels: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure sensations. Even simple acts like writing down three good things that happened during the day, or a pleasant memory, can activate this ‘feel-good’ chemical.
  3. Reframe Cognitive Patterns: Because our brains are naturally predisposed to a negativity bias, we often focus and ruminate on negative events. Gratitude for positive experiences can help mitigate this bias, creating a more balanced view of our situation.

Countering the Question: “What do I have to be grateful for?”

Begin with the most basic elements. If you’re reading this article, you likely have a mixture of the following: reasonably good health, a roof over your head, food on your table, and the love and support of family or friends. These are fundamentals that we often take for granted.

Reflect on your accomplishments, both big and small. Even if your recent job didn’t end as hoped, it doesn’t erase the successes and contributions you made there or elsewhere.

While job loss is undeniably challenging, it can also grant you something invaluable: time. You may have been too busy in your job to think about how to actually improve your life and career. As you prepare to re-engage with the job market, use this valuable time to update your goals and reflect on how you can put your value to better use for some lucky prospective employer.

Every setback carries a lesson. What have you learned from the job you lost? Maybe it’s the resolution to never work in a company like that again! But seriously, your ability to take stock of what you’ve learned from your previous experience will be an important asset you’ll want to share in your upcoming job interviews. Employers love working with people who are mindful of their growth and learning process.

Harnessing the Power of Visualization to Counter Job Loss

Visualization involves creating a mental image or intention of what you want to manifest in your life. It’s often used by elite athletes to improve performance.

Visualization isn’t the same as wishful thinking. It’s about setting a clear intention, fueling it with belief, and then complementing it with actionable steps. Especially after a job loss, when confidence might be shaken, and the future seems uncertain, visualization can guide you toward next steps with a more grounded sense of conviction and belief.

Why Visualization Works

Visualization helps reprogram our subconscious mind, which in turn drives our conscious actions. By repeatedly visualizing a positive outcome or scenario, we start to believe in its possibility, which motivates us to act in ways that make it a reality.

Consistent visualization can alter neural pathways, priming the brain for new experiences and opportunities.

Envisioning the Ideal Role

Imagine your ideal job scenario – your dream job. What does your desk or workspace look like? Who are you working with? What tasks are you performing? How do you feel at the end of a workday? Write it down in your journal. Keep coming back to this vision to further refine it.

Sailing Through the Interview

Mentally rehearse your job interviews before you show up or log on. Picture yourself confidently meeting with the interviewer, expressing yourself eloquently and confidently, and leaving a positive impression because you’ve built personal rapport.

Effectively Processing Rejections

Inevitably, you’re not going to get every job you apply for. Embrace visualization as a way to anticipate disappointments and see yourself as more confident in the way that you deal with them. See yourself accepting these occurrences and being encouraged and supported by your friends, family, and colleagues.

See yourself continuing to refine your search and learn from your rejections. Visualize them not as setbacks but as stepping stones. See yourself moving forward with even more determination.

Reframing the Narrative: From Loss to Opportunity

The stories we tell ourselves have a profound impact on our mindset and overall well-being. Especially after a jarring experience like job loss, it’s natural for our inner dialogue to spiral into negativity. Reframing isn’t about creating a fictitious story or being inauthentic; it’s about choosing a perspective that’s both genuine and empowering.

By consciously reframing our story after job loss, we’re not only improving our mental and emotional well-being but also positioning ourselves for future success and opportunities.

Remember Thomas Edison’s famous line: “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

By reframing, you may realize that you are dealing with a long-held assumption or limiting belief that is holding you back from a more constructive or productive way of looking at or thinking about your situation.

Check out the following examples for some guidance on how you could approach reframing some ideas, beliefs, or experiences that are weighing on you:

From “I was let go” to “I’m free to explore.”

  • Original Thought: “I can’t believe they let me go. I must not have been good enough.”
  • Reframed Thought: “This role has come to an end, giving me the freedom to explore roles where my skills and passion align even better.”

From “I’m too old to start afresh” to “I bring a wealth of experience.”

  • Original Thought: “I’ve been with the company for 20 years; I’m too set in my ways to start somewhere new.”
  • Reframed Thought: “I have two decades of experience and wisdom to offer. Many companies would value the depth I bring.”

From “The job market is tough” to “I can use this time to upskill.”

  • Original Thought: “The job market is so competitive now. I’ll never find something.”
  • Reframed Thought: “While I search, I can also take this time to learn and grow, making myself even more marketable.”

From “No one’s hiring in my field” to “Maybe it’s time for a change.”

  • Original Thought: “There are hardly any openings in my field; my skills are obsolete.”
  • Reframed Thought: “This could be an opportunity to pivot into a new area I’ve been curious about.”

From “I’ve lost my purpose” to “I can redefine my purpose.”

  • Original Thought: “My job was my identity. Without it, I feel lost.”
  • Reframed Thought: “This is a chance for me to rediscover and redefine what truly drives me.”

Tips for Authentic Reframing

Ask constructive questions: Instead of asking, “Why did this happen to me?” try asking, “What can I learn from this?” or “How can this lead to growth or new opportunities?”

Think about previous challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame them. Reminding yourself of your resilience can help you imagine ways you can approach your job search with new strategies or resources.

Finally, stay true to yourself. The aim isn’t to fabricate some fantasy narrative that’s unrealistic. It’s to find a genuine, positive perspective that can reassure and uplift you. If a certain reframe doesn’t resonate with you, it’s okay. Find one that feels true to your experience.

Career Opportunities Await!

Remember the saying, “When one door closes, another opens”? It’s never been truer than in today’s dynamic professional landscape. The rise of startups, remote work, the gig economy, and freelance opportunities means there’s always something new and exciting on the horizon. Expand your view of what you can do, where, and how you can do it.

Upgrade and Reach Out

A job transition is a chance to upgrade your skills. Today’s job market values versatility and a growth mindset. Learning is lifelong. By enrolling in a certification or degree program that builds on your current knowledge and skills, you are making yourself more visible and more attractive to new opportunities.

It’s a cliche, but your network is your net worth. Now that you’re no longer confined within your previous company, you have a chance to meet new people, build relationships, and get referred to potential new positions.

Stand Up for What You Stand For

If you’ve realized that the job you lost wasn’t in alignment with your core values, now is your opportunity to find one that is. Let your network know what you’re looking for and the chances are good that you’ll begin to hear of more on-target positions that could be right for you.

Realize that with your years of experience, you are an expert. You have a track record that has stood the test of time. Don’t hide what you know: share it in and beyond your community and make it useful. While you’re in the process of finding your next gig (and then when you’ve landed it), pay your knowledge forward. Be a mentor. Support your colleagues (and your manager) with your strategic insight.

Next Steps

Whether you are already in a career transition, or you think that one could be in your future, start adopting some of these attitudes and practices to build your inner resources and prepare for your next big step.

Start a Reflective Journaling Practice

Start by writing a single long-hand notebook page every day.

Write about what you’re experiencing, what your frustrations are, what your goals are, how you’re handling your responsibilities – whatever comes up.

Don’t overthink it or spend too much time on it. You’re building a conversational pathway between your conscious and unconscious mind. This will bring forward new ideas and insights.

Engage in a Skill-Building or Learning Activity

What’s on your mind? What have you wanted to learn that you haven’t devoted the time to pursuing? Now is the perfect time to carve out a few hours each week to learn something new.

Challenge those neural pathways. Get a little bit uncomfortable. Push your mind into a new direction. Use this as an opportunity to also meet new people and open up your perspectives.

Grow Your Community

It’s not just about your network. That’s just a collection of names in a contact file. Your community is your group of aligned, compatible connections who understand and support you. These are the people with whom you share common ground. Give to your community and your community will respond in kind, referring you to potential opportunities where you are, essentially, pre-approved.

Get Busy!

If any of this article sparks even a flash of enthusiasm, confidence, or belief, grab it and use it. And make sure to share your experience in the comments to help motivate others.


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John Tarnoff is an executive and career transition coach, speaker, and author who supports mid and late-career professionals in defining, planning, and achieving more meaningful and sustainable careers.

Fired 39% during his 35 years as a film producer, studio executive and tech entrepreneur, he learned how to turn setbacks into successes in a volatile business. He reinvented his own career at 50, earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology to share his career lessons with others going through similar challenges.

Since leaving entertainment in 2010, John has coached individuals, groups, and led career workshops for university alumni, including for UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Corporate coaching clients have included Bank of America, Bridgewater Assoc., Levi-Strauss, Softbank, TD Ameritrade, and Thrive Global.

He is the author of the best-selling Boomer Reinvention: How to Create your Dream Career Over 50 and has been named a Top Influencer in Aging by PBS/NextAvenue.


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