We examined the effect of career transition support and three other situational variables - financial reserves, social inclusion, and a partner - on the psychological strain of unemployed managers. We extended the theories of unemployment by investigating the mechanisms by which these four situational variables affect psychological strain. After using qualitative research to explore managers' experiences during unemployment, we used the themes that emerged from this first study to conduct a survey on the unemployment experiences of 281 managers. Each of the situational variables protected unemployed managers from psychological strain through a different pathway. The pathways that emerged were agency, the emotions associated with loss, financial strain, and a positive emotional response. The research provides evidence of the utility of providing a 'golden parachute' and the additive effects of financial reserves and social inclusion. Evidence from the research also suggests that support programs for unemployed individuals should focus on enhancing agency and regulating emotions to assist with the transition into employment. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.