Job Loss – Stages and Strategies For Coping

By Jane Finkle –

Are you one of the many talented and competent professionals who have suddenly fallen victim to a company lay off or termination? As you struggle with fear over losing financial stability, you may also find yourself on an emotional roller coaster. Knowing the best ways to deal with job loss will help you to recover your dignity and self-esteem and move forward in finding a new job with confidence and optimism.

Grieving Process

Losing a job follows the stages of grief similar to the death of close friend or relative. Initially you may have reacted to the news of your job termination with shock and disbelief. Often this stage of grief is followed by strong emotions of anger, fear or sadness. You might secretly blame yourself for the termination regardless of how irrational your reasons are or feel that all the quality time and effort you put into your work went unappreciated. People respond in different ways to job loss, but during this period it helps to surround yourself with people who are supportive and not judgmental.

Work and Identity

It is important to realize that in our culture, many of us define part of who we are by what we do in the workplace. When you meet people for the first time, one way you get to know them is by asking them questions about what they do. Since you lost your job, it is likely that you are feeling a loss of identity. The isolation combined with a general confusion about your current value in the world may cause depression or sense of shame and embarrassment. As long as you recognize and acknowledge these feelings, you will be able to work through this difficult period and eventually move forward.

Crisis as an Opportunity

While you are likely to be distressed over losing your job, you may be surprised to discover that this transition period can be a unique opportunity to carefully evaluate your experience, talents and skills and generate new career and lifestyle options that may potentially bring more satisfaction and reward than your former job.

How to Begin Moving Forward

Accept the range of emotions you might feel as result of losing your job. If you find that you are experiencing severe depression, loss of sleep and appetite, lack of energy and focus or intense sadness and anxiety, seek assistance from a mental health professional.

Take stock of your financial situation including severance, unemployment benefits, healthcare and savings. Be sure you clearly understand the stipulations and seek out experts if you need additional support and resources.

Consider hiring a career counselor or coach who can work with you to carefully evaluate your experience, skills and values and help you come up with viable career or job options as well as an action plan to achieve your goals. Especially in this current economy, it may take 6 months to a year to find a new job

Keep professionally active by building and maintaining your network. Meet former colleagues for lunch or coffee, attend conferences or workshops or participate in professional association events. These contacts might eventually be helpful as you begin your job search

Consider taking a non credit class or credit course to enhance your professional knowledge and credentials. This will also keep you stimulated and energized

Volunteer. A chance to give back even in a small way can be very satisfying and rewarding and you will benefit by using your time constructively

Exercise, Diet and Meditation. This goes without saying but especially during difficult periods, a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in fighting depression and keeping you motivated

Finally…live your life even if you are on a limited budget. There are many inexpensive ways to maintain your interests and keep your mind active. Think of your situation as temporary and imagine a better future.

Jane has over 20 years experience in helping individuals with career assessment, transition planning, job search strategies, action plans, and workplace adjustment. She counsels and coaches individuals at all levels and in all types of work settings and provides outplacement services to organizations.

Prior to founding Career Visions, she worked in career development at the University of Pennsylvania where she created and led the “Wharton Career Discovery” seminar and served as liaison to recruiters from major corporations. Jane served as a delegate for National Career Development Association/People to People Ambassador Program in China. She currently provides training and coaching to emerging women leaders in non profits through the Valentine Foundation and is a vetted coach for the Wharton MBA Alumni Consortium of Coaches.

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