3 Things I Learned When I Lost My Job

By Sallie Krawcheck

An Ellevest team member shared this Harvard Business Review article, “Making Sense of the Future After Losing a Job You Love,” with me last week. It goes over some research about how people who successfully move on from job loss process their grief and start to grow.

It hit me like a gut punch, both because I have “been there, done that” on the job loss front — and because I know so many of you are going through it right now.

A few things that resonated for me:

1. Grief is part of losing your job.

I always knew that losing my job at Citi was one of the dark clouds of my life. It was up there with discovering infidelity in my first marriage and losing my adored grandmother. But I had never put the words “grief” or “grieving” to getting fired. I thought it was unfair. I thought it was wrong. If I’m honest, I thought it was sexist. But I never realized the emotion I felt was grief.

I grieved the work, I grieved the people I worked with, and I grieved how I thought of myself. Before I lost my job, I had always told myself that I was not my job … but when I didn’t have my job any longer, I realized that it had been a big part of me. I no longer knew how to describe myself when I met people. “Hi, I’m Sallie Krawcheck and I …” I what?

I feel so bad for anyone who is going through this right now. What a sucker punch. Particularly with everything else going on. This article has some advice for anyone going through job loss: “You can be angry or depressed for a while, and then one day feel OK and ready to go do this thing, and then be ‘nope’ again the next day. Those feelings are likely to be much stronger with the grieving we’re also collectively doing during this pandemic. Treat yourself kindly.”

2. Meaningful growth can come out of a crisis.

If I can give you a small drop of lemonade from the lemons: Losing my job enabled me to take a step back and redirect my life for the better.

I know that may or may not be the case for you, and that getting from one day to the next in this unnerving time — maybe while looking after kids or caring for family or being sick or looking for ways to pay the bills or all of the above — may be the whole of your days.

I was fortunate enough to take my period of unemployment as an opportunity to step back and learn. In my case, I looked into what start-ups were doing. If it makes sense to you, it might be the right time to learn new skills (one good thing about the life we’re living right now — there are any number of inexpensive or free online classes to take) or research the next move you might want to make.

3. But growth comes from within … and it doesn’t have a schedule.

One of the findings of the research was that the more people were told to look on the bright side, see the positives, and evolve, the harder it was for them.

I get that. I spent time trying to be deeply honest with myself about what I liked about my old job, what I hadn’t liked, what was important to me, what I wanted to look back on from my death bed, what I wanted my kids to see from me.

I eventually found my way to coming up with the idea to found Ellevest. But it wasn’t an immediate a-ha or a straight path. It happened only after I gave myself every reason in the book not to, such as “women don’t need their own money platform,” and “money is gender neutral,” and “‘for women’ can be so patronizing, amiright?”

Nobody else could have told me to take that path, and I wouldn’t have listened to them if they had. I wouldn’t have taken too kindly to anyone’s lemonade recipes, either. I had to accept what had happened and struggle through my struggle before I ended up on the other side.

I hope the same for you.

Sallie Krawcheck Signature


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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Founder & CEO of Ellevest.