Coping with Job Loss
Losing your job can be one of the most painful and traumatic events that you will ever have to endure. It can affect every aspect of your life, from your interpersonal relationships to your sleep patterns. It can cause feelings of anger, inadequacy, fear, shame, failure, isolation, and embarrassment, to name just a few. In fact, if you remain unemployed for an extended period, a situational depression may ensue.
"Job loss is one of the most life-changing experiences one ever faces. Its negative impact on individuals is exceeded only by the loss of a loved one or a family breakup," said Fred M. Riley, previous commissioner of LDS Family Services and licensed mental health therapist (interview, 21 Jan. 2010).
Many professionals feel that other than the death of a child or going through a divorce, job loss is probably the single most terrible event of a lifetime.
What makes job loss so traumatic is the shattering blow that it delivers to the self-esteem. When you are let go from a position, for whatever reason, the underlying or subliminal message you may receive is, “I’m a failure. I am just not good enough. No matter what the economic times, if I were any good they would have kept me.”
Isolation and Counterproductive Behavior
Sudden job loss tends to have an isolating effect. When people undergo divorce or other painful experiences, they tend to share with those whom they trust. They talk it out with business associates, friends, and family. Consequently, there will always be people to comfort them and offer them advice. Conversely, when people lose a job, the last thing in the world that most people want to do is tell others what has happened, fearing that others will perceive them as failures. They withdraw into a “cone of silence” and wind up isolating themselves from the very people who are highly motivated to help. Unfortunately, this tendency to retreat behind self-created walls and limit social interaction is counterproductive to a job search. It can greatly exacerbate the difficulty of your search. Research suggests that 70 to 80 percent of all job openings are filled by people who network. Seize every opportunity, every forum possible, to inform everyone you come in contact with that you are conducting a job search.
Steps You Can Take
Here are a few suggestions on how to overcome the natural but counterproductive inclinations and emotions that may inhibit you from conducting an effective job search:
- Find a coach. Allow others to help you. Identify and ask a friend or business associate to act as your job-search coach or mentor. Interact with this person at least two times per week.
- Develop a search plan with your coach and then follow through.
- Prepare a “Me in 30 Seconds” statement and share it with everyone you meet.
- Be proactive. Do not sit at home and wait for the phone to ring with that perfect job offer. Go make it happen.
- Start the morning well. Get up by 7:00 each morning, have breakfast with your family, revise your “to-do list,” and follow through.
- Get out of your house. Tempting as it may be, do not sit at home in your pajamas searching the Internet for jobs until noon. According to most experts, only about 7% of all jobs are found through the Internet. Get up, get dressed for potential interviews, make all your calls by 9:00, and get out of the house by 9:30.
- Exercise at least 20 minutes a day, 5 days per week. Exercise is a natural depression fighter that releases endorphins into your system and helps you to maintain that positive attitude and high energy level so necessary to successful interviewing. Eat healthy meals.
- Apply for government assistance as appropriate. Upon layoff, immediately apply for unemployment benefits, tax credits, and home heating assistance, if you deem it appropriate.
- Conceptualize your job search as a job in and of itself. Then spend at least 30 to 40 hours per week conducting your search. If you do not put in the requisite time, you will be out of work for quite a while. Schedule a minimum of five interviews or walk-in company visits per week.
- Smile. Laugh. Make every effort to maintain your sense of humor. No one wants to hire bad-tempered employees. Continue to socialize. Get out of the house and meet with clients, networking contacts, or other resources at least twice per week. Play with your children and pets daily.
- Consider finding temporary, part-time work. Think about taking a part-time job or consulting for companies in your area of expertise. Those who are employed are more employable. Whatever the position you take, whether working below your skill level or part time in your field of expertise, this will generate an immediate cash flow and help relieve some of your pressure while you are job hunting.