Lessons from losing my job

3 insights from job loss to bouncing back

Steven Wakabayashi
5 min readMay 5, 2020


Image by Nikolos N

Times are tough, and it’s going to get much harder as economic conditions worsen in the coming months. Folks are losing jobs and reducing discretionary spending, leading to business impact and more jobs lost. Quite the not-so-positive feedback loop. Industries that rely on foot traffic have been devastated overnight, and many of my friends in the service industry and performing arts have been jobless for weeks. As of last week, 26 million Americans have become unemployed in the past five weeks.

Job security and I have had a rocky relationship. I’ve been let go from multiple jobs throughout my lifetime, all of which were due to circumstances outside of my control. While each one was difficult mentally and financially, these moments forced me to reevaluate my life and make changes that ultimately led me to where I am today.

Especially during these tumultuous times, here are a few insights I’ve learned along the way to cope and bounce back from job loss:

1. Getting fired or let go is not the end of the world.

The first job I was let go from was also my very first full-time opportunity. At the time, I was fresh out of college, working as a web developer in San Diego. After a year of freelancing around various companies, I landed at an advertising agency where I came to love the folks I worked with. Freelance turned to a full-time position but ended up getting chopped in a round of layoffs due to the agency’s poor business and financial decisions.

At the time, I was distraught. I had poured night and weekends into my work, and getting let go was the last thing I was expecting. A part of me was equally disappointed and embarrassed that this had happened to my first salaried position. My identity was deeply rooted in this company. Being let go felt as if I was getting kicked out of my own house.

Except, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

One of my colleagues had shared with me something that shifted my perspective: “we can still be friends without this company, you know.” This feeling of abandonment was fueled by an illusion that I would lose everything, including the deep friendships I had formed during my time at the agency.

In reality, everything you create will be with you forever — in the relationships you keep, memories you share, and the knowledge you retain. In departing from a company, you do not become lesser or lose yourself. It’s impossible to lose what you could not give away, to begin with.

2. Frugality and budgeting will help you survive.

Consumer spending runs a capitalist system. From the shows you watch on Netflix to the social media posts on Instagram, most advertisements are trying to get you to buy non-essential products. In tightening up finances, it will further extend the runway to survive and reach the next opportunity.

After my father passed away as a kid, my mom raised my sister and me as a single mother working as a hairdresser all her life. She always made sure that we had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. I never saw her spend any money on herself, and she was extremely frugal, making every single dollar count. When I threw away anything that could have been still useful, including office supplies and clothes, she would often reuse them herself without complaints. Looking back, I am floored by how she did all of that without ever complaining to my sister or me.

Since I started working, my mother inspired me to be smart with my money. I became interested in personal finance early on with help from Reddit (r/personalfinance). Budgeting and being frugal was key in bridging unemployment and covering living expenses for the coming months.

In buttoning up your finances, ask yourself:

  • How am I tracking my spending? (I love Mint and YNAB)
  • What are some reoccurring charges I can stop or consolidate? (Do you use the services you pay for?)
  • What are the fees I can reverse or avoid? (Always call your banks for forgiveness on the charges)
  • Is this spending a need or want? (Be truthful!)
  • How does this spending take away from my future goals? (It’s a balance)

In being honest and vigilant with our finances, you can create a system to weather even the toughest of times. And perhaps, this system will fast-track abundance into your future.

3. Losing a job is an opportunity to believe in yourself.

In every opportunity that I’ve lost, I gained a newfound sense of belief in myself. Through the struggles, I’ve somehow made it through each time. After a few job transitions, I decided to do something big. I dropped everything, packed two bags for New York City, and slept on couches for months until I was able to find a job in the city. I applied for jobs every single day and interviewed relentlessly. It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding things I had done deliberately. In hindsight, I would not have done it without having been fired and let go of my past jobs.

In the loss, a door opens for something new. In being released, you are free to do anything that you have ever imagined before. You are more talented and powerful than you realize. Life is too short of having lived without having faith and taking risks for yourself.

I host a podcast called Yellow Glitter, mindfulness through the eyes and soul of a gay Asian. You can find it on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Overcast, and TuneIn.

Along with a bit of weekly mindfulness, I send out my favorite things I discover each week on my email newsletter at Mindful Moments.

Thanks for reading! Until next time.

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Steven Wakabayashi

Creative unicorn with an avid curiosity of life. Regular dose of mindfulness, social commentaries, and creativity: mindfulmoments.substack.com