The lifestyle we create for ourselves is greatly influenced by our job. Being responsible and happy means not having to worry about losing your job, right? So why do so many Americans feel blue on Sunday night when it’s time to prepare for work the next day? If you hate your job, there’s a good chance that you may also hate your life.

A World Health Organization study showed that long working hours led to 745,000 strokes and incidents of heart disease in a single year. Stress from work is quite literally killing people. Some choose to look for the solution rather than endure the pain. But whether it was voluntary or not, what should you do when you lose your job?

Bridgette, an IT professional, was coming to the end of her work contract, and she didn’t have another one lined up yet. Even though that worried her a bit, it also felt good. Bridgette had been burned out on her job for a few years. She enjoyed programming, but wasn't passionate about it.

She used her hobbies of cooking, interior design, and sporting events to overcome the dread of her 50-hour-a-week job; and she redesigned her house several times over the past few years to fill the void of not knowing her passion. As the contract came to an end, Bridgette decided that she would take a few weeks off to travel and find herself.

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What to Do When You Lose Your Job: Finding Your Purpose

A few weeks turned into eight months, and Bridgette still had not found her purpose. She did try several things, and she built a few side businesses that kept her busy and almost fulfilled.

Still, she missed her six-figure lifestyle and was ready to regain the ease of getting a regular paycheck.

With her great experience and large network, it only took her six weeks to find a job. She shifted her career from programming to implementation to see if she would enjoy that more. Either way, she planned to stick with one of her side business and grow it enough to leave her job someday.

In order to do this, she had to first rebuild her savings, address her debt, and continue to keep her expenses low. She created a two-year plan and figured that if she worked at a job while simultaneously taking care of her side business, she could generate a steady income after two years.

Getting Back on Your Feet After a Job Loss

Bridgette managed to find a job paying a $130,000 annual salary. This was below her normal pay grade, but it allowed her to reinvent herself and create a plan for the next phase in her life.

She already paid off her 5-year-old car and assumed that she could get another five years out of it. Plus, she had $5,650 in personal credit card debt, which she planned to pay off over the next 24 months.

She also wanted to avoid using the cards until she could begin paying them off in full each month. She applied for a new credit card with a zero-percent introductory rate and transferred the balance.

Bridgette also bought equipment for her catering and meal prep business on credit cards. That came out to a total of $3,240, which she planned to pay that off using the profit from the business rather than from her income.

She didn't plan to accelerate this payment. Instead, she paid just over the minimum, making extra payments as it came into the business. She’d get deposits from her clients, so she figured that the business should run without her using her personal income.

Bridgette's Two-Year Recovery Plan

Bridgette developed a recovery plan, listing out all of her debt obligations and regular monthly expenses.

  • Business credit card debt — $3,240
  • Personal credit card debt — $5,650
  • Savings needed — $30,000
  • Savings left from job loss — $5,000
  • Expenses — $3,980
  • Monthly savings — $1,041
  • Retirement savings — $1,500
  • Monthly gifting — $150
  • Special fun — $150
  • Credit card debt repayment — $235

Bridgette did everything she could to cut costs after her job loss, getting them down to just under $4,000 by eliminating some monthly costs and sharing a few expenses with neighbors. She also rolled her personal grocery bill into the business expenses and set aside monthly allowances for gifts and fun activities each month.

If she needed money for an emergency, she planned to take it from those two allowances before going to savings or credit cards.

If she still needed extra income, Bridgette decided that she might rent out space in her home through Airbnb. However, she didn’t want to do that until she felt she had to. Instead, she stuck to her plan and worked out a good strategy for life after job loss.

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The Bottom Line on Losing Your Job

The most important part of this plan was sticking with it. As such, Bridgette allocated $300 a month to financial therapy and joined a mastermind group. She was excited about the plan and didn’t want fear or laziness to kick in and keep her from reaching her goals.

Like Bridgette, many Americans make fear-based decisions and suffer through them. Losing your job can be a blessing in disguise. It can help to shift your focus toward what you really want in life — not what you think you have to do.

This is the second installment of a two-part series on job loss. You can read the first installment of the job loss series here.