Friday, September 02, 2005

Career Changes: Dealing With Job Loss

It’s been a while since the last podcast. Part of the reason for that is that we took some vacation time, spending some of it taking in the beautiful vistas and refreshing cool of Northern New Mexico. Now that we’re back, I’ll be blogging regularly on career change and, as part of that will post several podcasts each month. There will be a lot of material on the blog that does not make it to podcasts, so for those of you who have discovered the podcast, I want to encourage you to visit the blog and to subscribe to it as well. There are lots of RSS feed readers out there that allow you to be notified and read new posts, so if you don’t already, just use one of those to keep up with the blog as well as the podcast. I love these services because I can quickly see what’s new and determine if it’s something of interest.

Today, let’s talk for a few minutes about what to do if you’ve been working for the same company for 15 or 20 years and you suddenly find yourself laid off and forced to make a career change. Today, I want to focus on the emotional and physical effects of having your job leave you. It may be a layoff, a reduction in force, a downsizing, an early retirement, or any other of the phrases we have attached to losing your job.

If you find yourself in this position, you’ve got a lot more questions than answers. You’re likely in shock, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed, and you’re undoubtedly feeling stressed. Having worked with hundreds of folks in this situation, here are the principle points I cover with them during our initial conversation, even before we talk about specific career change strategies.

  1. It’s important to understand that during the coming months you will be experiencing the grief cycle. It generally begins with denial, moves to anger, then next to bargaining, followed by depression, and eventually to acceptance. These emotions may happen in this order, or in some other order. You may bounce back and forth, angry one day and in denial the next. You will go through this cycle, even if you have been expecting to be forced to make a career change and even if you have decided to make the leap yourself. Anytime we lose anything of significance, even if we didn’t particularly like things about it, we’ll go through grief. Just recognize that it’s natural, and something that you will experience. Denying that you are experiencing any of the effects of grief or stress – and I’ve had lots of folks do just that – simply is proof that you are in the first stage of the cycle, denial.

  1. You must develop effective strategies for dealing with the grief cycle and the stress of job loss to be effective in developing and implementing strategies for making a successful career change. Failure to deal with grief and stress associated with job loss will sabotage your job search. Grief and stress have physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive effects. I’ve put a couple of posts discussing these on another of my blogs that deals with caregiving ( and ). The effects are the same for those who have suffered job loss, so I encourage you to read them and apply them to your situation.

  1. Here are some of the important strategies for handling grief and stress that result from job loss.

  • Develop a productive routine immediately. You have a new “job” while you’re making your career change. You’re working for yourself. Get up, get dressed, and keep “work” hours focusing on making your career change. Develop a plan for your week and for your day. Avoid the temptation to just lay back and react. Not only will your career change and job search move more quickly, but also you’ll feel better emotionally and physically.

  • Take extremely good care of yourself. Increase (or start) a daily exercise program. This is one of the most effective ways you can release stress. Eating right is also very important. If, like many of us, you’re carrying around some extra pounds, this is a great time to make changes to a healthy diet that will produce weight control. Since you’re also more likely to suffer illness during times of high stress, be aware of potential symptoms and consult your physician.

  • Find or develop a support group, and increase your networking activities. There are lots of reasons for doing this. First, you need people that will provide support and accountability as you navigate your career change. Many churches have job ministries that help fill this need, or you can assemble your own support group from friends and family. You also need to replace the social aspect of work, so develop a core of people you can talk to during the week. You should also increase your participation in networking activities. Plan to attend several networking events weekly.

  • Add or increase devotional time. Career changes and job searches are spiritual journeys. We’re naturally led to consider our purpose in life and the forces that affect our lives. It is a natural time to draw closer to God, both to seek understanding and to seek help and comfort. A regular quiet time daily, for reading, meditation, prayer, and worship will produce amazing results.

I can’t stress the importance of adopting these strategies enough. Once you do, then your specific career change and job search strategies will fall into place and be much more effective.

If you have questions or would like to correspond with me directly, you can email me at the link shown in the sidebar.

Jim Hughes is a Christian Life Coach helping individuals make successful career changes. To determine if coaching might benefit you in making your career change, visit Mapmaker Coaching.


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