Adjusting to Job Loss
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.
In Part 3 of Adjusting to Job Loss we will look further at how to manage stress in this situation and the steps you can take to move your self forward and come out on the other side.
Stress can be managed.
Job loss is one of life’s most stressful events. And, many people drop their healthy habits after they lose their job. The golden rule of job loss stress management is this: Keep doing everything you were doing to promote physical well-being and personal self-esteem. If this was not a previous priority in your life, now should be the time to focus on you.
Life is full of crises. Once this one is over and you have found a terrific new opportunity, you and your family will be facing yet another adjustment – to your new work situation. Whatever you learn now to take care of your physical and mental well-being can help you throughout the rest of your life.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate the stormy waters of a recent job loss.
- Engage in regular aerobic exercise. It is the best natural antidepressant and the most important component in reducing stress levels. Even if you have not been active before, a walking program is a safe way to keep emotionally and physically fit. A moderate but steady exercise plan can energize you, enhance your self-esteem and give added confidence to your job search. In addition, physical fitness produces an increased energy level that is critical in a successful job search.
- Commit to a nutritious eating regimen. Eating nutritious foods maintains the body’s ability to fight infections and ward off stress. A nutritious diet will also help you look your best when you go on job interviews.
- Establish and stick to a daily routine. Avoid using the circumstance of job loss as an excuse to lie around. Get up each morning, get dressed, and decide what you will be doing for the day.
- Be open about your situation. Do not be embarrassed to tell your family and friends that you are looking for other employment. Do not add to your stress by trying to hide your job status. (Besides, you can never know in advance who will be able to help you find your next job.) Practice ways to talk positively, such as “I’m in transition” or “I’m in between jobs” rather than “I’ve been laid off.”
- Do not keep all your worries to yourself. Find a confidante who will let you vent your frustrations. You need to have outlets so that your negative feelings do not get in the way of your job search.
- Use positive self-talk. We all play the inner talk game. When you catch yourself being negative, substitute some positive self-talk instead. Be your own best supporter and know that you have the internal wisdom to overcome any anxiety.
- Make a plan. Finding another job is a full-time job! Design a schedule of your search activities and consider listing your weekly accomplishments. The more you know about the situation, the less of a threat it will seem to you and the better able you will be to make good decisions.
- Clean up your environment. Messy work areas are not conducive to quality efforts. It is not easy to be productive if you cannot find the materials you need, or if you are surrounded by clutter, papers in disarray, and general confusion.
- Keep emotions in check. Loss of control and/or panic often accompanies the moment that job loss occurs. Avoid lashing out at your past employer, coworkers, family, or acquaintances. Take time to determine what cut-backs you need and how it will affect the family. Acknowledging your feelings will help remove the fear of experiencing feelings that are probably uncommon to you.
- Know that you are unique. Your combination of skills, experiences, accomplishments, education, personality, and values cannot be duplicated by anyone else. They do not disappear when you lose your job, and they are transferable to another position.
- Bring the support network in. Think of how you should discuss the issue with your family and friends. Prepare answers in advance to practical questions such as why you lost your job or how you intend to deal with selecting your next career move.
- Avoid snap judgments. You will hear many things from friends, colleagues and the media about how to find a job, write a résumé, state of the job market, etc. Do not assume it is true. Talk with many others and find out for yourself.
- Remain involved. Stay involved in your kid’s sports, your exercise routine, religious activities, hobbies, etc. Remain engaged and know that you do not have to shut down until your professional life is back.
- Find out what resources are available through your employer after you leave your job. Talk with your manager about supports that may be available through the company such as an employee assistance program (EAP) or an employee resource program that offers referrals for counseling and other resources.
- Consider joining a support group. Some people join or form support groups following a job loss to connect with others and to talk about job-search strategies. The group might meet for breakfast or lunch at a local restaurant or coffee shop. Many communities have free networking and support groups that meet in public libraries, community centers or houses of worship that can allow you to meet others who are in transition, too.
Try to remember that this situation is a temporary one, and that things will get better in time. Most people who go through a well-defined career transition process usually end up with a job they enjoy even more than their last one.
You can literally create your future.
Take advantage of the opportunity you have been given, whether you asked for it or not, or whether you knew it was coming or not. The people who invariably say they are happier a year later are those who have taken the time to gain a better understanding of themselves, their career objectives, their skills and accomplishments, and what they truly want out of life.
Do not assume that you know all the answers; it can create self-limits at a time when the sky is the limit. Allow yourself to consider all possibilities. Play with fantasies that you always assumed would remain dreams. Don’t settle for thoughts such as “I can’t do that because we can’t relocate now” or “That won’t work because there’s no money in it.”
Try one of these strategies if you are having trouble recognizing and considering the endless possibilities open to you: 1) Assume that you do not know the answer to a question or idea; 2) Brainstorm with others. Groups often generate ideas that add a different perspective to your situation, as well as provide helpful information from their own unique experiences; 3) Identify the most pressing problem you are facing right now. Examine it and come up with a list of possible solutions; 4) Take time to play. Ideas come from play, not pressure.
Your career is an ever-developing process.
The inherent concept of the new marketplace is career entrepreneurship, where each of us is responsible for our own career.
“Own” your career. Create it with vision and imagination. Embrace it as a way of leveraging your strengths while learning new skills. Develop a strategy to identify and use your talents, skills and knowledge. This is not just about getting a job – it is about getting a life, and a career is a major part of your life.
People entering the workforce today will likely change jobs and careers several times because careers in the future are more likely to be cyclical rather than linear. To be successful, professionals will look for ways to become more resilient and to take this cycling (or change) through different careers in stride.
The end of a working relationship with an organization may seem a cataclysmic event, or part of a natural progression toward a different opportunity. With resiliency, solid effort and vision, you can achieve your goal!