From Despair to Renewed Purpose – A Client Story

By Cari Frame, Career Coach 


The first time I meet a client, they are often in the middle of one of the most vulnerable moments in their working lives – being let go from their job. I am there, as a professional career coach, to support them through the departure and their career transition. 


A previous client, I will call her Riley (and I have modified all identifiable details to uphold my professional code of confidentiality), was still in a state of shock when we arrived on the street outside her office tower after she was let go. Riley had received the usual efficient exit meeting, including vast amounts of information on pertinent next steps that went completely over her head. Most statements that come after “today is your last day of work” or “effective immediately” are received by the departing employee as a wash of noise that contains none of the reassurance they hope for, and all the details they are not ready to hear. 


Riley and I stood on the street, looking out at the early morning hubbub, she swiveling her gaze left and right, me looking at her, giving her space and time to process, ready for all questions that may bubble up through her haze.  

“What happens now?” she asked.  “I mean, what do I do now?” 

“First step is to get home safe and call someone close to you to talk. Do you have someone to call?” 

“Yes, my husband works from home.” Her chin dipped down as the heft of that impending conversation began to sink in. 

“And did you drive to work today? I can call you a cab if you don’t want to drive or take transit.” 

She looked over at me, searching my face as if I had the answers.  

“I drove. I am parked in that parkade over there,” she said pointing across the street. 

“Is it ok if I walk to your car with you? In case you have any other questions?” 

Again, Riley looked at me, searching for focus. 

“Yeah, sure,” she said and started walking. I followed alongside, quiet but ready to help however I could. 

In these moments, I am aware of everything I do not know. 

  1. Who this person is or what they are experiencing in this moment, and
  1. What help I can be to them, because of #1.

There is, however, two things I know for certain –  

  1. This person deserves my respect and my support, and
  1. It is my job to follow their lead and provide as much (or as little) support/guidance as they ask for.

Losing a job is often a jarring surprise that can cut to the heart of your sense of personal agency. Like a giant hand has reached down out of nowhere and plucked you from your work life, depositing you onto an unknown landscape. You do not know where you are, why you have been extracted and, most challenging of all, who you are if you are not able to be who you were. 

A big part of being a career coach is helping a client regain that sense of agency, empowered to make their own goals, and set a course to achieving them. For Riley, this began in our first session. 

“So, can you find jobs for me, like a recruiter? That would be great, because I haven’t looked for work in 14 years, I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to land a job these days.” Riley massaged her forehead as she spoke. 

“We will make sure you have all the up-to-date know-how you need to apply, interview well and land a good position. We can start that today. Or you can take some time to review your career path and make sure you are reaching for your next BEST job, instead of taking the first job that comes. You are the driver of this process; I am just your supportive passenger with a big cooler bag of tools and resources. Where do you want us to start?” 

Riley sat quietly for a few beats. With a shake of her head, she said “Honestly, I don’t even feel ready to start thinking about applying because I cannot stop wondering why they let me go. I had nothing but good performance reviews and really strong relationships with my team. My mind keeps searching for something I’ve missed, some error I must have made that was so bad, they had no choice but to let me go without any notice.” 

I asked, “I believe you were let go without cause, right?”  

Riley nodded. 

“That means that the company let you go for reasons other than your performance. You likely won’t ever know what those reasons were, but you CAN know that it did not have to do with the value you brought through your work.” 

Riley and I spent our first session together going over all the ways in which she brought undeniable value and betterment to her department over the last few years. We made a list of her proudest moments and the accomplishments she received appreciation and accolades for. 

At the end of the session, Riley said “I really needed to make this list today. Ever since being let go, I felt so much shame and I couldn’t find my old confidence. But now I remember a bit more of who I am.” 

I nodded and we smiled at each other. 

“Now I am starting to feel angry for being let go when I was such an asset. I mean, what the hell?!” 

“Being angry makes a lot of sense. We can certainly talk about that in your next session.” 

Riley chuckled. “I think we better, because I sure don’t want to bring this fury into any interviews!” 


Within 5 months, Riley landed a new role worthy of her talents and has been professionally thriving ever since.  

To bring career transition support to your organization through outplacement and inplacement programs, reach out to us today at 1.877.777.6827 or online. 

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