Professional grief. Let’s talk about it, so we can get past it and onto living our most successful lives.

Many people who I encounter often congratulate me on the growth of the VJMedia brand since they first met me. I’ve come a long way professionally and I’m proud of that. I often share my entrepreneurial journey about leaving corporate radio full-time to open my own full service multimedia company, Vanessa James Media, but I rarely share the process of how I got here. Let me be honest, the transition wasn’t easy. It was largely due to a layoff in May of 2010 that pivoted my career into a completely different direction than I had envisioned or anticipated. In retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened to me professionally. But let me be honest, there were many days of insecurity, loneliness and self-doubt before I got to the other side of that hill.

As I look back on that time, I’m grateful to have had mentors in my life who gave me invaluable advice on next steps and how to grow from what happened. I did though, experience a lot of professional grief during the transition period that I don’t think I fully realized or dealt with at the time. Looking back, in many ways not dealing with it head on somewhat stifled my growth during those crucial months post layoff when I could have been plotting my next moves. Had I dealt with all of the emotions that I was feeling instead of pulling back, I think I would have seen bigger gains quicker in my entrepreneurial career. #Truestory

So let’s talk about grief, you know, the kind that rarely gets discussed yet so many experience; the business of dealing with professional grief. Over the past year I’ve spoken to MANY friends and colleagues who had some pretty major career shake-ups. From sudden layoffs, blocking of promotions, to plans that went left, many of you have been dealing with a lot of heavy stuff lately. Whether you’ve confided in me personally, asked for advice via social media, or if you’re simply in need of some guidance and a boost to get out of your professional rut, let me share this with you.

A word of advice; the quicker you address the situation head on, the faster you can get back on track to living your most successful life.

In my circumstance, it was an mixed bag of emotions (maybe you can relate):

  1. The initial gut punch of a layoff after dedication to a company for over a decade and then having to suddenly make immediate decisions of whether to uproot my life and move to a new market to keep a job or go out on my own.
  2. The anxiety about my financial well being and how I would make ends meet after my savings safety net dried up.
  3. The feeling of loneliness when my once VERY popular cellphone that rang off the hook for every hot concert or party coming to town when someone needed (that now I couldn’t provide) suddenly stopped ringing.
  4. The anger and frustration of having to let down a staff that I was responsible for, which would be laid off too.
  5. The fear of how to get started if I wanted to go out on my own and feeling paralyzed, therefore not getting started at all. (In my case for about 3 months).

These were just some of the things that I dealt with when I left radio full time as a APD/Music Director and on-air personality for one of their popular urban stations in Miami. The station was flipping formats and I had to make a decision. I remember my SVP at the time telling me “VJ, you have to learn to be malleable in every situation to make it in this music business and in life. Change comes at you fast”.

At the time I don’t think I truly understood what he meant. As I look back it was about being open, understanding that situations change on a dime (especially in entertainment) and being able to deal with that change with courage and grace is how you grow as a professional and rise above the inevitable circumstances.

Now that I’m on the other side of that hill, I can look back on my radio career as a fruitful basket of knowledge and abundance in spite of the situation in 2010. But I had to overcome self doubt and the feeling of inadequacy in order to get there mentally.

Now, let me share some tips with you (regardless of your profession) on how to deal with grief of your own that you may have recently experienced. What I’m finding is that MANY of us have been dealing with some heavy career situations. Being overlooked for a promotion bc of your race or gender, uprooting and moving your life for a major career opportunity that didn’t quite pan out, suffering a huge let down from a company that you truly believed in only to discover that their work culture wasn’t what they sold on paper. All of these are real situations and are happening to many of us across industries.

We all have a vision board for our professional lives, which often includes how much money we want to make and how much we want to accomplish, which is great. But what about the plan to deal with sudden career change that stops us in our tracks? The change that makes us question what we’ve been doing and question our overall professional worthiness? Here are a few nuggets of wisdom from my own experience that helped me grow into the Vanessa that I am today:

  1. Face the truth of the situation head on. You need to simply deal with what happened.
  2. Be honest with yourself about the role you may have played in the situation so you can move forward and take note for future opportunities.
  3. Confide in your core group of friends and colleagues about what you’re truly feeling; the hurt, disappointment, the anger, the shame, all of it. Talk through it with your tribe knowing that they will be honest and sensitive to your feelings at the same time.
  4. If your core group of colleagues or friends can’t relate, ask for help, don’t grieve alone. There’s no shame in seeking professional counseling for major shakeups like this.
  5. Take a vacation (if you have the means) anything to help your soul get refreshed and refocused for the next chapter ahead. It’s so important that you get right within before you go out on another limb.
  6. Utilize your network as a guidance on your next move. This time ASK the people that support you for recommendations and referrals.
  7. IF you hit the six-month mark and still feel stuck, crawl if you must to get out of that mental rut and move forward. Just do it. Exercise and walks outside helped me a lot.
  8. When a new offer comes, ASK for what you truly want so that you feel satisfied and excited about going to work everyday. Remember that once an employer or contractor locks you in, a typical raise is between 3-5% over the course of the job.
  9. Finally, when you’ve restarted, recalibrated are refreshed and ready. Press go and go again.
  10. Know that you’re worth of all of your goals and dreams. Sometimes the greatest turns (off course) lead to amazing destinations, because you grow along the way!

If you’re reading this, I sincerely hope this post resonated with you and that you pulled from it what you needed. I wrote it for my past self and for you. Cheers to 2019 being our greatest year to date. Make clear intentions and purposeful moves that you’re future self will be proud of and most importantly love and appreciate how far you’ve come!

Wishing you an abundant year ahead,



  1. This was so helpful. Thank you for putting this out there. #respect #admiration

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