Adjusting to Job Loss: Part 1

Adjusting to Job Loss

Part 1

by OI Global Partners – Abentigro 

Downsizing, rightsizing, layoff, termination, reorganization, and restructuring – these are just a few examples of some of the phrases used to describe job loss. Often, this loss is devastating because it takes away the security of a regular paycheck, the structure of a consistent work environment, the camaraderie of co-workers, as well as the intellectual challenge and comfort of having an external entity determine the priorities and tasks of the day.

Whether one lives to work, or works to live, a significant part of a person’s identity comes from his or her job … and its loss can be debilitating.

Losing the sense of stability because of job loss can create strong feelings, and these feelings are perfectly normal. A major change has occurred – a change you probably did not plan for and may not welcome.

It is critical to maintain perspective! You are, first of all, a fully functioning human being with enormous potential. You do have contributions and skill sets that will be useful as you begin to capture your career accomplishments, rebuild your sense of self-worth and move forward to a new career opportunity.

You may have lost a job, but not who you are and what you can do!

Identity does not rely on a job title. You may be a parent, sister, brother, friend, community leader or soccer coach, and leaning on these other identities is a good strategy for putting job loss in perspective.

Your skills, talents, expertise, and the wealth of knowledge and experience you have gained are still very much intact. Now, you have an opportunity to direct them elsewhere.

Honor your feelings.

Recognize that the range of emotions you are experiencing is normal; try to “step back” and see these emotions as part of the grieving process. Acknowledging what you are going through on an impartial and objective level is instrumental in allowing you to achieve acceptance of your situation. When that happens, you will regain your sense of optimism and be ready to move forward.

For most of us, losing a job sets off a grieving process, an experience that involves mourning the passing of something very important in our lives.

Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was the first to study the process that people experience when faced with a loss. Dr. Kübler-Ross believed that everyone goes through the same stages of grieving. Knowing about the stages of the grieving and recovery process may help you understand some of the strong feelings you may be experiencing. 

The first stage of loss is often shock, followed closely by denial – in the form of feelings such as, How could this happen to me? – and often accompanied by the hope that a mistake has been made and that everything will be fine in the morning.

After the truth sets in, anger follows quickly. How could they do this to me after all I have sacrificed for this company? or What about all those people who don’t work half as hard as I do? In this stage, it is not uncommon for feelings of anger to be directed at the company, the boss, and even friends and family members.

Some people go through a bargaining step. This can be an attempt to negotiate another job at lower pay, or even obtain help from a higher up (even on a spiritual level) to intervene and get the job back. 

When bargaining fails, depression and/or a sense of hopelessness may set in. Depression can cause thoughts such as, What is the point; why bother trying? Some people may yearn for their old job, even conjuring remembrances of the job and the people in a much more favorable light than is accurate.

The past is never so appealing as when one remembers it through rose-colored glasses.

Getting past this stage, whether for a few days or a few weeks, depends on the individual and his or her level of determination. It also depends on the level of support from other people and on developing effective strategies to regain a feeling of control and optimism about the future. 

As you reach the acceptance stage, the difficult times generally will be less intense and will last shorter periods of time. The acceptance stage includes recognition that the past cannot be changed, but the present and future are in your hands to determine.

In acceptance, there still may be regrets about the way the job ended.  But, there is also recognition that life does go on.  

Change is uncomfortable.

For most people, change is uncomfortable because it catapults them out of their comfort zone. Change requires looking at things differently, viewing the world in a new light, and considering options that may not have been considered before.  

It is often said that individual growth cannot occur without change. 

Yet, fear of the unknown can hinder the ability to see the opportunities that change offers. Change opens up possibilities, like the person who left behind a high-powered sales executive job to become a sailing instructor, or a restaurant manager who became the owner of a bed-and-breakfast.

Change affords the opportunity to think about what we actually want to do as opposed to what we may feel obligated to do to pay the bills and maintain the status quo. It can also be a catalyst that spotlights what we have been doing and allows us to embrace that career choice because it is where we truly belong. 

While a change event – such as a job loss – may be instantaneous, transition often takes place over a prolonged period of time, and represents the process through which we adjust to the event.

Think of transition as a bridge that takes you from firm footing on one side, to firm footing on the other. Transition is comprised of a three-step process: 1) Recognize that there is something on the other side – that means checking it out before you get there. 2) Prepare to cross the bridge by knowing yourself, gathering what you need to take with you on the trip, and realize that you are the one leading the way. Knowing who you are is the most helpful tool in maneuvering safely across the bridge. 3) Recognize the destination when you arrive!

Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have – and underestimate the value of what they might gain by giving that up. The key is to see change as an opportunity and career transition as a means of moving through that change. 

Adjusting to Job Loss: Part 2 coming April 28, 2021!


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