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 my company VJMedia. I’ve come a long way professionally and I’m proud of that. I often share my entrepreneurial story about leaving corporate radio full-time to open my own full service multimedia company, Vanessa James Media, but rarely have I shared the process of how I got here. Until now.

Let me be honest, the transition wasn’t easy. It was largely due to a layoff in May of 2010 when Clear Channel was transitioning to IHeartMedia. The layoff that came without warning as so many often do, pivoted my career in a completely different direction than I had envisioned. In retrospect it was the best thing that could have happened to me professionally but it was still hard. Let me be honest, during the transition (which for me was about six months) there were many moments 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 instead of allowing it to control my future path and plans. 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 in some ways 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, going dark, even turning down opportunities, I think I would have seen bigger gains alot sooner in my entrepreneurial career. #Truestory

So let’s talk about grief, you know, the kind that rarely gets discussed yet so many experience.  Let’s get right to the business of dealing with professional grief. We often associate the word grief with the death of a loved one or a pet its rarely comes up when we talk about the loss we feel when we lose a job, especially one that we loved. Think about it. We pour countless hours into our professions, often without any fanfare, so the end of that can be a jolt to the system.

Recently, I’ve spoken to MANY friends and colleagues who’ve 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.

Let’s start with my biggest piece of advice. The quicker you address the situation head on, the faster you can get back on track to living your most successful life. Have your time to deal with what happened, the loss you feel about losing the job, talk to someone professionally if you have to, just dont stay down too long. 

In my circumstance, it was an mixed bag of emotions that took up a good chunk of 2010. Maybe you can relate to:

  1. The initial gut punch of the 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 pursue my entrepreneurial path.
  2. The anxiety about my financial well being and how I would make ends meet after my savings/safety net dried up assuming it would take longer than expected to find new work. 
  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 tickets (that I could no longer provide) suddenly stopped ringing.
  4. The anger and frustration of having to let down a staff that I was responsible for, some of which would be laid off too.
  5. The fear of how to get started if I wanted to go out on my own, feeling paralyzed by fear, 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 Miami’s WMIB back in 2010.  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, learn to adjust quick”.

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, to ride the wave with courage and grace is how you grow as a professional and rise above the inevitable circumstances that an ever changing marketplace would surely bring.

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. Radio in many ways was and still is the best professional foundation I could have asked for. It taught me grit and gumption early on. It broke me out of my shyness, rose my confidence and even managed to erase my stuttering habit. It continues to be fruitful in its lessons now as an entrepreneur as I manage multiple projects at once, and most importantly the thick skin needed to deal with difficult people, self doubt and the feeling of inadequacy.

So 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 including: being overlooked for a promotion because 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. The list goes on and on. All of these are real situations across industries. So know that you are not alone.

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. I’d like to challenge you to create a plan for the unexpected. For some that may be dealing with sudden career change that stops us in our tracks, understand that change comes at us fast and often makes us question our overall professional worthiness.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom from my own experience that helped me grow into the entrepreneur that I am today. Take from it what you need. 

  1. First, face the truth of the situation head on. You simply need to deal with what happened.
  2. Be honest with yourself about the role that you may have played in the situation, so that you can move forward fully. It could simply be budget costs but analyze this for yourself 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 entire job.
  9. Finally, when you’ve restarted, recalibrated  and are refreshed and ready, press go and start again. Often that fresh start is exactly what you needed.
  10. Know that you’re worth of all of your goals and dreams. Sometimes the greatest turns (often 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 the new year and decade ahead. May it be our greatest to date. Oprah challenged me and I’m passing the challenge onto you to make clear intentions and purposeful moves that your future self will be proud in a year. So let’s hold each other accountable on that and most importantly love and appreciate how far you’ve come!

Wishing you an abundant year ahead,


Want more insight on living successfully? Click below for my latest post on opportunity. 


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

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