When It Ends How Long Do You Wait?


The job is over and apparently it didn’t end well. How long you wait before launching a new job search largely depends on two key factors: what else is going on in your life and what state of mind are you in at the moment.

Simply put, you can be self-motivated to find a new job but find that the distractions going on around you in your life make giving the job search the focus it requires an impossibility. You could also be conflicted in wanting to work; needing to work, but so mentally fragile due to how a job ended that you’d be better off taking some time to process and resolve things first.

For many people, losing their job has a similar impact as losing a loved one. You could be in shock when it happens, angry, might even go so far as to try to plead your case to have the termination undone or pray to God to have it back. Then eventually you come to terms with things and move on. Just as different people grieve the loss of people in varying amounts of time, the same is true of mourning the loss of employment.

Now of course it doesn’t always end with a termination for a job to end badly. No, you could quit a job due to harassment or where the working conditions were so toxic and your physical and/or mental health were being so negatively impacted that you quit to preserve your safety and sanity. In such a case you made the decision yourself to leave and that decision put the control in your hands, but the fact you are unemployed and the stress that brings are still taxing.

Remember though some people have to have some things end before they can turn their attention to new and better things. So while yes many people would look for another job while employed and make a seamless transition between the two, for others the one must end before they can invest energy in finding a new one. There are after all just so many hours in a day and your hours of work may preclude a real job search if you’re sleeping when the Hiring Managers of the world are working.

We are all different though aren’t we? In so many glorious ways we differ from those around us. Were we to sit down in a room of people in the same relative situation we found ourselves in, we’d find varying opinions on how long is right to wait between ending one job and starting another.

Some people would like a week or two; seeing the time as a holiday of sorts. Sufficient time to relax a little, decompress and even spend a little money on fun things or extravagances knowing that secure income is guaranteed in the near future. These folks find the 2 weeks healthy and see it as a transition period, washing away the anguish of a bad experience and living in anticipation of a better one.

Ah but then there are others for whom the trauma is so intense it is as if they are paralyzed. These people are fragile, unstable, finding it difficult to cope with the simplest of daily tasks. Their self-esteem is leveled, their confidence shattered and they question their decisions on everything from what to eat to what to wear. For these folks, the pressure of launching a full-time job search is unthinkable. The problem is that to look at them from the outside, they may be doing an adequate job of masking all this; they look, “normal”.

Creditors, landlords, banks and other people to whom they have obligations don’t generally sympathize to the point where they are willing to forgo payments however so the pressure is on to get a job and do it quick. The outcome then is people looking for work who are not marketing themselves as they would otherwise; they are damaged, broken, wounded and reeling – but all of this internally.

Of course there are those who even when a job ends terribly have the self-confidence intact and the fortitude to pick themselves up and get out there immediately. These are the realists I suppose; life sent them a lemon but rather than making lemonade, they opt for something entirely new altogether and no job is going to land at their doorstep unless they get out there, so out they go!

On the other end of the scale however are those for whom the trauma is extreme. They may go not just weeks or months without really even looking for work but perhaps a year or more. They wouldn’t wish it so, but they are entirely incapable of moving forward in this one area of their life. The danger of course is that this one area impacts all the others; income, housing, finance, debts and assets, social integration, recreation and discretionary activities, family and friends dynamics etc.

“Just deal with it and move on” is often what people hear when a job ends badly. In a way that flippant (and often annoying) advice is the best advice in the broadest sense. “Dealing with it” however, well that’s where those who give the advice are often the ones who can accelerate the transitional grieving period faster themselves.

Got someone going through this you know? Be patient and supportive, help as you’re able and wait.

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