Change is constant. We just aren’t always aware nor do we pay attention to every change that we make through the course of a day. But when big changes occur, like a layoff or termination of employment, we stand up and take notice. We have to!

With every change we experience, there are three phases we go through. In this article, I describe these three phases along with the emotions you can expect to experience through each phase and offer coaching strategies for managing your emotions so you can access your courage to take action for finding new employment and reexamining your priorities.

The Ending of What Was
The first phase of change is evidenced by an ending. Endings are often quite difficult, especially when they are unexpected as in a layoff, relationship break up, or death.

The initial emotional reaction might be shock if the event was unexpected. And, as with any ending, you can expect to mourn. You will travel through each of the five stages of grief including denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. These emotions will come and go – there is no right or wrong way to experience your emotions. Each of us is different and each grieving experience can be different depending upon the situation.

If you were just laid off, then you will experience all of the emotions and the challenges of loss. And so will those people who are left behind. They, too, experience a loss. There is a change in the landscape and the work environment, including the space that you once filled for the company.

Your family will also experience the loss – the loss of stability and of financial security. And there will be fear – for you, the fear of finding new work, what others think of you and your situation, whether you will be “okay” financially and emotionally. For others left behind at work, they fear additional work and the possibility of being laid off as well.

Everyone affected experiences the end of what was.

In addition to grieving, you may question your self-worth. Without productive employment, you may feel lost. We tend to associate ourselves with our work. But you are not your job; you are YOU. Reconnecting with your sense of Self will require you look beyond your work for your value. YOU are of great value beyond your job…

Coaching Tip: The way to shorten your time in this phase is to move toward acceptance. The sooner you let go of the way things used to be and wishing things were different, the sooner you accept your current reality, the easier it will be to act. You will need to let go of your attachment to the status quo until you come to terms with your new reality. Your goal for this phase is to embrace what is and to enjoy the experience of your emotional rollercoaster without becoming attached to the emotions, without allowing them to overwhelm you. Simply learn to enjoy the ride and you will sail through them. They will pass.

The Middle Phase
You can travel through these phases concurrently or consecutively. There is no right or wrong way to travel this path. And often you’ll have several changes occurring at once so you may be experiencing different phases for different events all at the same time.

The middle is the uncomfortable place where you are finished with what’s come before but haven’t quite started the new. It is characterized by a feeling of being scattered – no longer with what was and not yet embracing what is to come. It’s uncomfortable because it’s unclear and foggy. You may not have a good grasp of what opportunities are coming next but the door is closed (or closing) behind you. And this uncertainty is uncomfortable.

The middle is just the middle. It’s a place where you can easily find yourself frustrated, wishing something would happen. You want things to move faster or to materialize, and the unknowing and your impatience causes you stress.

Coaching Tip: There is not much to do in this phase other than relax. Don’t push. Things will unfold as they should. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty. This too shall pass. Eventually, next actions will become clear and you will know how to proceed.

The Beginning of What’s to Come
In the third phase of change, you envision what you want and then begin to take the necessary actions to create that reality. The beginning is the most exciting phase because you get to create something new – to dream what you want. Layoffs are interesting because often they offer you the space and opportunity to explore new options, options that you would never have considered had you remained employed.

Coaching Tip: In this phase, although you may be fearful and nervous, take the time to explore what you want for yourself moving forward in your career. The clearer you can imagine what you want to be doing, how you want to contribute using your skills and talents, and how you want to feel, the quicker you will become attractive and bring this new reality into being. Most of the time, people allow their fear to dictate their actions. Desperation never sells well in an interview. It’s also very easy to take on the panic of others who share their own fears of being unemployed. This is not helpful.

Develop a strategy for your job search and elicit assistance from the right support. Enjoy the process of self-discovery. Look at the job hunt as an adventure into the next stage of your life. Where are you needed? What are the skills and talents you enjoy using? Think of work as “play for pay”. And stay positive. Somewhere, there is an opportunity waiting for you now that you are not tied down by your previous job. (Use the Job By Design Worksheet to assist you in your efforts.)

Being out of work is not easy. Give yourself the space to manage the emotions as they arise through the process. Looking for new employment takes a lot of work. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself too. It is rare to be out of work for a period of time when we are young. Often this luxury is saved for retirement so give yourself the gift of learning to pace yourself, enjoying your family, and reconnecting to what is most important to you in your life.

Author's Bio: 

Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? Julie Donley, a psychiatric nurse and author of this essential book on change, was tired of life being SO hard and went in search of an easier way. What she found was quite intriguing: “Hard or easy, it’s how you think about it!” Want to learn more? Contact to arrange a free 30-minute coaching session to learn how you too can change a HARD challenge to something EASY. An addiction and change expert, Julie is named one of the top 100 thought leaders in her field. She has published hundreds of articles and is author of several works including Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? and The Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery and Acceptance. Visit to learn more about her work, sign up for her newsletter or arrange to have her speak at your next meeting or conference.