In recent weeks, I’ve spoken with several people who lost their jobs after 20+ years with the same employer. One person is angry and bitter and takes every opportunity to vent about the unfairness of it all; another turned to drinking through the day; another is fighting the desire to hunker down in their “cave” and nurse their wound.
Some of these coping mechanisms might even be necessary in the short term as temporary relief. After all, this kind of job loss is often experienced like the death of a loved one. It’s serious stuff. In a previous post, I gave some examples of job losses and what your thoughts might be about it.
But life moves on. Learning to adapt to changing circumstances in life is a necessary skill. Lots of advice has been written about how to cope with job loss, and how to move on. Based on my 20 years experience, here’s what I’ve learned that works for most people most of the time:
1. Take care of yourself. Grieve your loss. Too many people don’t take enough time to let go of this major experience in their life. Think of all the time and energy invested in a job for 20+ years. It takes much longer than most people realize…to dis-engage from their work.
You have every right to be upset, so accept your feelings—anger, hurt, rejection, panic, relief, whatever you feel, go easy on yourself. When you get up in the morning, take a pad of paper and write down everything you feel—for 10-20 minutes, all the things you wished you’d said (or hadn’t said) to your former manager. Do this for as many mornings as it takes to dump your feelings. This is especially cathartic if your termination was handled in an insensitive way.
Then, if possible, take a vacation, get out of town, put some distance between you and the experience. It’s easier to process the emotions, the memories, when sitting on a beach, or in some other safe haven. Eat well, make time for regular exercise, practice stress relief exercises, stay positive.
If basic habits, such as eating or sleeping, are disturbed by the job loss, get professional help from a doctor, a psychologist, a counselor. Ask for the support you need. Don’t try to shoulder the stress of job loss and unemployment alone. Your natural reaction may be to withdraw, to resist asking for help out of pride, shame or embarrassment. Don’t isolate yourself and brood. You will only feel worse. Whatever it takes to accept the situation, get there. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get on with the next phase in your life.
2. Reaching out to others. Over the years, you’ve built up a goodwill network of family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances in your personal and professional life—now is the time to draw on that goodwill! Share what you’re going through with the people you trust, not necessarily the people closest to you, such as your immediate family, who also may be hurting from your termination.
Join a job club or form one with former colleagues who may have been laid off at the same time. Commiserating, talking through your feelings, focusing on shared issues can be energizing and motivating. Personal and professional support will help keep you on track during your job search.
Networking is not rocket science but it is a skill and, like any skill, it can be learned and applied in the real world. It is a simple fact that most job openings are not posted as job vacancies but exist as job opportunities off the radar screen, and filled by word of mouth. That’s why networking is the best way to find a job. Basically, networking isn’t about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself—it’s about building relationships, and getting yourself in the right place so that when opportunities arise…you are in the pipeline ready, willing and able to take on a task! Learn to network—if you persist, it will pay off!
3. Rethink your career goals, or rediscover what truly makes you happy. Not everybody needs to create a job search plan, or keep a regular routine, or list their positives. We all have talents and motivations that will kick in…but now is the time to leverage your natural strengths into understanding how they correlate with specific jobs in specific work settings. This is the central message of JobJoy, so visit our site to find resources that can launch you into a new career or help you build on your existing one.
If you know anyone who has suffered a recent job loss, please pass this post along to them…and remind them that you have an encouraging work, a listening ear, a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on whenever they need it!