Monday, 1 November 2010

Recovering from Job Loss

by Phil Rich, Ed.D., MSW, DCSW

Job Vacancies, Employment, Jobs Vacancy

The New Reality of Job Loss

We've seen many changes in the work environment over the past decade and beyond, with multiple layoffs as companies have "down sized" and "right sized." Jobs once secure for life now rarely exist, and people entering the work force today are likely to experience multiple job changes during their careers.

The Impact of Job Loss

Much of the material on job loss and getting back into the work force touches upon the need to "re-mount," instructing the reader to design a plan and get back into the action. Appropriately, they direct the reader to not fall into despair, self pity, or anger. Many friends and family members will also urge the reader to find a way to move on.

But all the pep talks in the world can't necessarily overcome the real and deep reaching impact of job loss. It's important for newly fired people to not feel that there's something wrong with them just because they can't follow the advice of family, friends, and books and simply move on.

The Consequences of Job Loss

There are at least two primary aspects to job loss: "practical" reality, and "emotional" reality. In the first case, job loss also means loss of income and benefits. In the second, there are equally real emotional consequences: effect upon self image, emotional difficulties, fears about the future, and perhaps concerns about how we may be seen by others.

The Work of Recovery and Rebuilding

The chances are that people will find a new job. It may not be their first choice, but it will resolve the practical realities. But a new job doesn't necessarily lead to a satisfactory outcome, financially or emotionally. Regardless of the new job, emotional issues may not be at all resolved.

Unresolved issues may significantly affect the way in which people see themselves. In turn, this will directly influence the way they approach finding a new job, what they will accept for employment, and how they settle into their new job and life style. Accordingly, part of the work in job loss recovery is dealing with the emotional consequences. Seeking and finding a job without recognizing, understanding, and addressing emotional consequences may undermine successful recovery.

Recovering and Rebuilding After Job Loss

"Recovery" describes the ability to work through a challenging time without becoming overcome by circumstances, swept away by emotions, or feeling defeated. It means coming through intact and solvent, and finding yourself, not just back in the saddle, but emotionally satisfied and perhaps stronger and wiser.

The Stages of Recovery and Rebuilding

Viewing recovery as a series of stages, each with a goal and tasks, is useful. It helps people understand their experience as a process that develops and changes over time, and can help them to maintain their composure even when they may feel anxious and insecure. It also helps to know that their experiences are probably quite "normal."

Stage One: Coping.

However it comes, job loss is often quite shocking. This stage begins with a sense of disorientation as people are thrown off balance by this turn of events. The broad goal of this stage is to survive this initial period without doing anything damaging to self, future options, or relationships. Tasks of the stages include:

  • Adjusting to this new reality
  • Handling immediate emotional responses
  • Dealing with issues of self esteem and humiliation
  • Coping with family issues

Stage Two: Surviving.

As people enter this second stage, disillusionment begins to fade. They begin to deal with issues of survival and emotional and financial stability. This stage involves laying the foundation upon which people will re-build their lives, and includes emotional, practical, and financial tasks.

  • Stabilizing immediate life
  • Building support
  • Managing emotions and behaviors
  • Maintaining perspective.

Stage Three: Assessment and Planning.

Building on the stable base created during stage two, the primary goal of this stage is the assessment of needs, skills, and dreams, and primary tasks include:

  • Taking stock of life
  • Assessing choices
  • Developing plans
  • Re-building self image.

Stage Four. Decision Making and Self Renewal.

The work of this stage represents the end of this journey; from basic recovery to self-renewal and self-determination, and involves the active implementation of plans.

  • Implementing decisions
  • Accepting personal responsibility
  • Taking emotional risks
  • Re-gaining self confidence.

Passage to Recovery

There's no "right" pace for this journey, no "correct" length of time spent in each stage. Some may quickly move from one stage to the next; others will have a more difficult time, and may get stuck. But rebuilding after job loss is a process that takes place only over time. How much time will depend on the personality of the individual, his or her approach to life, resilience, and support system.

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