By the summer of 2015, Career Valet – my first company – had been growing each year since I started in 2012 and I had a few freelancers working with me. I felt confident that I could keep it going and add something new to my plate, which is what I did. And I’m proud Career Valet is still going strong today.
What did I add to my plate? I’d been asked by several people over the years if I had considered starting a recruiting business for US military and foreign service (diplomat) spouses like me, and I thought, this is a SIGN! Everyone sees this need, and I can fill it and tackle the massive problem of spouse unemployment, which is over 28%. And even better, I found someone who wanted to tackle it with me!
We went all in. Everyone was excited. I myself felt elated at the beginning as I drove my kids to school, took the dog for a walk, and stayed up late at night planning.
For 3.5 years, through several moves (including an overseas move) and having my third child, we trudged on. We had ups and downs like any business but we were growing. People were excited. Companies were excited. Yet, the more potential clients and partners we met and the more pivots we made to try to build additional business, the less we grew. It didn’t make sense. But the truth was there – companies simply did not want to pay for our services. We kept trying new things, but nothing seemed to work.
For a long time, I thought about shutting it down. But I did not want to disappoint countless spouses who thought of us as their voice and as their cheerleaders. However, I finally decided it was time to move on and it was far from easy to muster the courage to walk away.
I did not at all realize how difficult it would be - that I would feel disconnected for a few weeks, negative (very unlike my usual self), and down. I felt like a different person.
It didn’t feel much different from grieving a loved one. I was able to get over the business loss quicker, but it affected me in much the same way. And the same is true when you lose a job or a career, because it’s a sharp departure from the path you envisioned.
I looked for books or resources on this topic. There aren’t any books. Our culture doesn’t like to talk about failure or disappointments, or even depression often.
Here’s what helped me get through my business loss, which will also help you get through a job or career loss.
Allow yourself time to be angry and/or sad. The loss is a big deal. You pour so much of your life into work; it is a life event when your work situation changes. Be nice to yourself – give yourself permission to feel all the emotions. Go hit a punching bag, sit by water, binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. And don’t feel bad about it. Take as much time as you need.
Don’t dwell. Be aware. It’s far too easy to get in a downward spiral when something doesn’t go right, and let yourself keep plunging into the great depths. You should think about the situation so that you understand what you feel and how best to respond. From there, do things that increase your positivity. It could be exercise, reading, baking, or playing with your dog or kids. Mindfulness is big now, and it’s simply paying close attention to things around you. It’s very easy to do. Let yourself enjoy one thing at a time, such as listening to a song or turning off phone notifications when you are doing something so you can be in the moment. Take a look at the flowers blooming and the birds flying. In other words, slow down your so you can see what’s going on around you. You will notice that the world is large and there’s a lot going on that you can and cannot see. In truth, there are problems much bigger than yours.
Be around people who care about you and make you feel good. This is important. Even if you are an introvert, you shouldn’t go this alone. Surround yourself with people who understand your challenge and will listen. They will encourage you to take care of yourself, which is often something we forget when the going gets tough.
Reflect. Once some of the sharper emotions begin to pass, get out a paper and pencil. Marketing coach Stephanie Ward of Firefly Coaching encouraged me to ask myself the following questions and save it for the future to refer back to when needed.
Why did I start my business?
What went wrong?
What lessons can I take with me and apply to my other business and my life?
If you’ve experienced job loss, you can ask yourself similar questions.
What am I most proud of doing in my last job?
What are my favorite things I’ve done at work?
What lessons can I take with me and apply to my next career step and my life?
Most importantly, remember that this acute feeling won’t last forever. Do what you need to do and then get back on track by surrounding yourself with the people you love most and reflecting on the experience you had. You’ll be back to positive in no time.