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What Pixar’s Inside Out can teach you about managing your emotions through job loss and career transition

Career transitions are challenging.  Whether you’ve lost your job or made a personal decision to change course, feelings of sadness at what you’ve left behind and fear at what lies ahead, are almost inevitable.   Your ability to manage these emotions will be the most factor in your success.

For a really fun take on how to manage feelings of loss and change, go and see the new Pixar animated film Insight Out, created for kids but with some important lessons for adults.  The story revolves around 11 year old Riley who falls into depression when she suffers the shock of moving to a new city far away from friends and everything that she loves.  The main characters are Riley‘s emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Disgust – who dwell inside the “control tower” of her mind and vy for control as she works through her painful experience.

So what can we learn about coping with job loss and career transitions from Riley’s experience?

1.   The key message of the film is a simple one, but not well understood by most people.   Sadness has an important role to play in keeping us well.  It’s OK, in fact it’s healing to allow yourself to feel sad in response to a loss.  The message:  If you’ve experienced a career shock of some kind, don’t exhaust yourself by putting on a happy face and throwing yourself into activity as if nothing has happened.  Give yourself time to process your feelings by staying with them, focusing on the physical sensations (not thoughts) that accompany them until naturally they will subside.

2.   Not only should you acknowledge and accept your feelings, it’s also important to be able to express them so that you feel heard and understood.   As the film points out, this is more difficult than you might think as well-meaning people often cut off the healthy expression of feelings by trying to cheer you up or offer advice.  The message for those experiencing career disappointments:  Seek out the support of people who have the emotional awareness to truly listen and empathize, and can create the emotional space you need to come to terms with your loss.

3.   When you allow yourself to recover emotionally, you set the stage for the natural return of more positive feelings that will inspire you to get moving again toward you career goal.  When coaching clients following job loss, I generally suggest at least a month of time for self- reflection and healing, before taking on the emotional challenge of the job search.   The good news:  You will emerge stronger and more emotionally resilient from the process with valuable skills that will serve you well coping with the ups and downs of your career journey.

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