Career Transitions: Hints for Coping with Job Loss

By Beverly Baskin, MA, NCC, CPRW


Being out of work is not a fun experience for most of us and can be emotionally harmful and even dangerous for some people. According to the Social Adjustment Scale by Holmes, job loss is one of the top three stressors in a person's life. If we understand the psychology of job loss, we usually have an easier time adjusting to it and moving on with our lives.

People often have feelings similar to those of grieving or mourning the loss of a loved one, or the loss of any meaningful relationship in their lives. As author Michael Farr points out in his book, The Quick Job Search, when we loose a job, grief doesn't usually overwhelm us all at once; it usually is experienced in stages. The stages of loss or grief may include:

Shock -- you may not be fully aware of what has just happened. Denial -- usually comes next; you cannot believe that the loss is true. Anger/shame -- often follows; you blame (often without cause) those you think might be responsible, including yourself. Depression -- may set in some time later, when you realize the reality of the loss. Acceptance -- is the final stage of the process. You come to terms with the loss and get the energy and desire to move beyond it.

Michael Farr feels that the acceptance stage is the best place to be when starting a job search, but we might not have the luxury of waiting until this point to begin your search. Knowing that a normal person will experience some predictable "grieving" reactions can help us deal with our loss in a constructive way.

It is important to realize that every person has his or her own timetable as to when they reach the stage of acceptance. People go through a roller coaster ride of emotions in no particular order, and at different times of the job search process. The important thing to remember is that all of these feelings are normal and part of the grieving process associated with any type of loss. If you are wondering what is "normal" in terms of your emotions, or you are having emotions that are taking a toll on you or your family, you may want to discuss your feelings with a professional counselor.

Choices Regarding Re-employment Think about your ideal job and remember that abilities + enjoyment = Strengths. You really have four choices regarding you new job. They are:

  • Same Job, Same Industry
  • Same Job, Different Industry
  • Different Job, Different Industry
  • Owning Your Own Business

Explore how your present interests and abilities intersect with the current marketplace. With the concept of lifelong learning taking place in the workplace and the introduction of long distance learning on the Internet, people in all age groups have a chance to retrain. Many of the new skills do not require years and years of extensive schooling. There are several 3 to 18 month courses that constitute excellent retraining opportunities in data processing, computer repair, network engineering, allied health professions and other fields.

How to find a Job in Less Time When speaking to potential networking contacts, instead of asking for a job, try to ask for help and suggestions. In this way, even if there aren't any jobs available in the company, the person can help you by giving you the names of two or three people that he or she knows. Think of at least 50 contacts and ask for their help and advice regarding your job search. A contact is someone who knows a lot of people, not necessarily someone who is in your industry. A contact is a friend, neighbor, doctor, dentist, travel agent, etc. Research has shown the people joining employment support groups find jobs one-third faster than those candidates doing it alone.

Job search can be very isolating. Seeking out the support of warm, caring individuals, and those who are in the same "place" as you can be very comforting, and you can share networking contacts with others. Support groups draw on everyone's knowledge and life experience to help all the members of the group. It is really the perfect example of giving and receiving. The National Business Employment Weekly has a list of local employment support groups by State in the "Activities" section" . This national newspaper can be found at bookstores, newsstands and libraries.

Set small, reachable goals for yourself. Try using this metaphor: don't think about getting from A to Z. It is too overwhelming. Think about getting from A to B, B to C, etc. Each time you reach a small goal that you set for yourself (like networking with five people each day) you are moving closer to the end goal of Z when you land your job!

Send a thank you note after an interview. Besides being courteous, a thank you note will give you a chance to recap the highlights of the conversation. It becomes an excellent selling tool.

If you want to talk with a hiring authority on the telephone, (other than Human Resources) you might have a better chance of speaking with him or her if you call before 9 AM or after 5 PM. Key decision-makers are usually in their offices by 7:30 am, and at that time of the morning, they pick up their own phones. There is a good chance that they will be more receptive to informational calls before the workday begins.

Think positive and affirm your strengths and assets. Examine your track record of achievements in former jobs and in other areas of your life. Write them down. Remember to be good to yourself. Exercise, eat right; try to put "balance" into your personal life.

You will survive this transition, and perhaps you might obtain a higher paying position. Looking back at it, many people say that losing a job was the best thing that ever happened to them. It gave them the opportunity to start fresh and obtain a position in an industry that really sparked their interests and enthusiasm. One of my clients recently told me: "After I lost my job, I reassessed some of my values. I realized that my job was only one part of my life, it wasn't my whole life."



Beverly Baskin, MA, NCC, CPRW is the Executive Director, Baskin Business and Career Services Executive Offices in Woodbridge, Princeton and Marlboro New Jersey Phone: 732-536-0076.

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