SURVIVING JOB LOSS
Getting laid off from your job is as big a loss as any other type of relationship (marriage, for example). Jobs are a big part of life. They give shape to our days, we make friends at work, and we take some of our identity from what we do for a living. Losing a job, especially involuntarily, is a big loss that needs to be grieved. Although you may (rarely) keep a connection or two after leaving a job, you lose all those relationships that are made easy by circumstances, the people you talk to every day at work. You lose the structure of your days, when your job determines where you need to be and the large blocks of time you spend there. You also lose the identity of “this is what I do” that you rely on. Suddenly, when someone asks the question “What do you do?” there is awkwardness. Even when you voluntarily leave the job, to retire, or to do something else, there's a very big feeling of loss that needs to be processed.
Loss of Routine
Most people don’t realize how important routine can be in our lives. That morning cup of coffee you carry to your desk or workspace, your favorite break and lunchtime routine, the other people you encounter in everyday interactions, and the full calendar that organizes your work time are things you may not be aware of unless something goes wrong and you are annoyed. But all the things that go smoothly on a daily basis and pass beyond your attention or awareness, are what you’ll miss when they’re gone. The enormity of this loss can be a total surprise because you may have been resenting the time at work which makes it even more upsetting.
To cope during your search for a new job, give yourself a chance to grieve for your old job. Spend a little time noticing everything that you miss. Replicate whatever you can; get up at the same time, make yourself the morning latte you would get on the way to work, take a lunch break at a regular time, perhaps go out to a coffee house with your laptop to do job search, so you’re around other people and don't feel so alone. Establish a routine for job search, so it's not hit and miss, and feels more like the time structure of a job. Also focus on using the extra time you have in constructive ways. In addition to job search, explore some of the hobbies and pastimes you wished you could do when you were so busy working. This is a great time to clean out some closets or start that patio container garden you've been thinking about.
Watch your self-talk
If you are prone to periods of depression, learn to watch what you’re silently telling yourself. It’s a major factor in depression; and job loss can trigger a flood of self-blame. Everyone has running dialog in their heads, which can be negative and self-defeating, or positive and energizing. If these messages are negative, you will feel dissatisfied and depressed, and it will bleed out in what you say to others, and how you appear on job interviews. The good news is that you can choose to replace your negative monologue with something more positive. Self-talk is the most powerful tool you have for turning your negative feelings to positive and your negative interactions with others into positive exchanges.
Take charge of your negative thoughts (that's one thing totally in your control) and turn them around: argue with them, fight them off, wrestle with them. Put energy into it. Let go of whatever you can’t control such as other people, life’s events, loss, disappointment. Stop trying to change what won’t change, accept what is, let it be and live life as it is. I know it’s easier said than done, but once you get a handle on it, life itself is easier. Fretting about what you can’t control is an endless, useless waste of energy you can use elsewhere.
To stop blaming yourself for your job loss, go through those thoughts one at a time and rebut them. You can analyze what went wrong and what went right without being negative about yourself. Most job losses are not the laid-off person's fault, they’re corporate financial decisions. If you think you might have been able to forestall this loss by getting more pro-active, or looking for a new job while you were still employed, then become determined to do that now.
Don't collapse and mope around
Don’t sink into apathetic laziness and hopelessness. If you take some time off, treat it like a vacation. Don’t just mope around home, go out and do things. Be active. Network with friends and family for job search and fun. Go through your wardrobe, and clean out things that are no longer useful. Go over your work attire and make sure it’s ready for job interviews and that new gig. This is a great time to think “out with the old, in with the new” as you clean and clear your closets or your home, it can symbolize letting go of the old situation and preparing for the new. This is a great time, especially if your subsidized by unemployment compensation, to try things you always wanted to do when you were too busy. Take some classes, try new sports, do yoga. Anything positive is a good use of your extra time. Contact friends you haven’t seen for a while and spend time with them. Make a sandwich and some coffee or sun tea and have a picnic lunch out somewhere. Fill your days with fun and productivity.
Get pro-active about interviewing
When you go to a job interview, think in terms of you interviewing them. Go in prepared with the questions you want to ask, what you’d like to know about the prospective new job, and speak up. Remember that you are searching for a situation that’s good for you, not just a job. If you don’t get called back, then assume it wasn’t good for you. Research companies you are applying to, so you know something about the specific company and job when you go in. Get help from an employment counselor “head hunter” person you feel good about. Interview them, too, until you find a good one. Talking about a job interview with the counselor can be a great way to debrief and gain perspective. Don’t just rely on online job hunting sites to find your new place. Network, talk to people you know, go to industry meetings like the Chamber of Commerce or a professional association or union group to find out where the jobs are.
Look at this as an opportunity to re-structure your work life. Have you thought about moving somewhere else? Getting training for a new line of work? Starting your own company? This may be the opportunity you were waiting for. Take the loss of your job as a message from the Universe that it wasn't the right place for you, and take advantage of this new chance to do something better.
Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 35 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 14 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, The Real 13th Step; How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together and How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter. Dr. Tessina was the CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for Love Forever. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance.” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts. She tweets @tinatessina.
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