It’s common today for people to experience several job changes throughout the life of their career. Gone are the days when employment in one place is regarded as the stable norm. Paternalism might still reign in the workplace in some form, but no longer when it comes to guaranteeing anyone a job for life. Younger people in the work force expect job changes and make them. A good economy allows these men and woman to shop around for better employment, but it can be very rough sailing when the economy is in bad shape. Whether your single, living together or a married couple, losing your job is high on the stress list!
A study by Kate Strully, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Albany, New York, suggests that losing your job can make you sick by raising your risk of developing new health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, a stroke or even diabetes, even if you find a new job soon after. So it’s crucial not to become totally overwhelmed by fear.
DON’T SUCCUMB TO THE POWER OF FEAR!
With a troubled economy, new technology and the ever-present bottom line, job loss can happen to you. If it has, you will be tempted to take it personally, but don’t go too far down that road, it ultimately won’t help you to take charge of your life and move forward. You’re going through a roller coaster of emotions. You may be angry, disappointed, humiliated – and most of all – frightened. This is a normal response to the shock of being unemployed. And sooner or later you may probably panic when you think of the mortgage, credit cards payments and regular bills that have to be paid. You wonder where you’re going to get another job, and when. Even if you receive a severance package, it’s won’t be enough to keep you afloat for very long, and it will be significantly less than what you were making at the time you were let go. This is going to be a tremendous challenge for you and for your family, but there are steps you can take to minimize the impact and keep fear under manageable.
I’M ANGRY, SAD, WORRIED AND HUMILIATED! SO WHERE DO I START?
Talk to someone, it will help clear out the negative emotions. Oftentimes your spouse may be as frightened as you are. Your kids can soak up any tension that flows between the two of you. Talk to a good friend, and definitely talk with your spouse. Don’t hide what you feel, or you may run the risk of staying stuck in those negative feelings. If you just clam up, you run the risk of heightening the level of tension since your spouse is going to feel shut out. In all probability, your partner is just as fearful as you are about what the future holds. Lots of marriages can run into trouble in this situation. Keeping quiet won’t help! You’d have to be nearly inhuman not to feel worried! If you’re the kind of person who plays your feelings close to the vest, you’re probably not going to spill yourself all over the place, that’s fine. Just don’t try to deny your concern because it won’t help trying to be “the strong and silent type” when the next steps you have to take will require you to communicate with your spouse, create a plan of action and get out there to secure employment.
WORK TOGETHER AND LOOK AT YOUR FINANCES
The most important thing for you to do is take an honest inventory of your financial situation. If you and your parter or spouse can do this together, great. Record all of your debts, know what you owe and to whom and decide what you can pay monthly. If this is overwhelming for you, then get help. Most communities have some kind of Consumer Credit Counseling Bureau. They’re located in the yellow pages. Make an appointment. They will sit down with you and your spouse and make a plan of action with you so you can pay on your debts. They will also contact the credit card companies and handle payments for you. For this they will require a small fee. Better to pay them rather than to hide your head in the sand and not know what you’re going to do next.
Talk with the bank about your mortgage. You’re not the first person to be downsized, so don’t hesitate to talk with them. They will be much more willing to work with you if you talk with them up front rather than skip payments and then talk. If you have retirement money, take it if you absolutely must, but know it won’t be easy to replace, and it will be counted as income and taxed accordingly, so get some input on taking your money so you’ll know what to expect at tax time. Find out what kind of health insurance payments you will be making through COBRA, you won’t want to let health insurance go.
Make a budget and cut out non-essentials. Cut back big time! If this means not going out to eat, or cutting out cable, and planning family menus more carefully, then do it. Do what you have to do to put yourself in the best possible situation. Know where you stand financially. Denial is your worst enemy. Once you have taken action to look at your whole financial picture and come up with a plan, you can move on to the next step.
NUMBER ONE PRIORITY
Easy? Not at all. Your self-esteem has taken a real hit and that takes a toll. However, don’t throw the baby out with the bath. You have valuable skills and knowledge, don’t doubt or underestimate that – ever. Build on what you have. Your community college has an ongoing evening education program. You can participate by taking a class in resume writing. Your local library will have books on resume writing if you don’t have a community college. Adult education is offered from many high schools, so check there too. Ask a friend for help if you know anyone who has gone through the same experience. If your company offers you any kind of assistance via human resources, take it. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. If your company doesn’t offer any help and you have the financial resources, hire a coach. Your progress will proceed more smoothly, and your coach will keep you focused, motivated and on track. Hold your head high. The measure of your strength and your courage is to use the resources you have available to you right now!
When you have a resume you feel good about, start networking. Make a list of your friends and colleagues you know, talk with them, ask for names of other people you can talk with. Networking is a great way to find out about employment opportunities that you otherwise might not hear about. Do the other traditional stuff, look through the newspaper ads and meet with headhunters. In other words, check out all the possibilities.
Plan your days, because landing a job will be a full-time job in itself. Keep a log of what you plan to do every day and notate the outcome. This will help you to focus on all that you are doing and it will help you when you become tempted to feel discouraged — just look at your log. You’re active, you have a plan and you’re acting on it. Call back when you don’t hear from a potential employer. Don’t hang back and wait for them to call you. Be assertive when you find something you want to go after.
Having a positive attitude and a strong work ethic will make you very attractive to potential employers. Describe the ways you see yourself as a team player, give examples from your prior work experience. Show your potential employers that you are aware and oriented toward your customers. Anyone who has worked in the marketplace as long as you, has much to contribute. Project that, even if you don’t feel it! Remember, if you put out a sense of discouragement or panic from being downsized, it’s not likely that you’re going to be very attractive to a new employer. Put your best foot forward, and you will begin to feel stronger and more attractive!
STARTING ALL OVER AGAIN?
When you do get hired, depending on your profession and the job market, you may or may not begin your new job at the same salary level that you had at the time you were downsized. You may also have to be willing to travel further and take less vacation time. Again, all that will depend on your specific circumstances. Some people will make less money, and their lifestyles have to change. For them it will feel like starting all over again. Having support from a spouse and a plan of action for yourself will make any transition more doable.
For other individuals, being downsized comes as an opportunity in disguise. Some people pull together a plan of action and go into business for themselves. For them, the downsizing was the push they needed to make a transition to self-employment. If that is the direction you decide to take, cover all your bases and plan well. Starting your own business shouldn’t be a knee-jerk response. Know what it takes and proceed with intentionality, purpose and a solid business plan.
TAKE VERY GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF
Remember, anytime you are stressed over a period of time, you are vulnerable to illness, so take care of yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in all the negative emotions you will have during this transition time, but lingering in the negative won’t get you anywhere. Being hard on yourself by not taking good care of yourself is a recipe for added stress and possibly serious illness. If you have any physical vulnerabilities, stressful times can kick in and cause you problems in areas where you already may have health problems, so beware and be aware! Get enough sleep, eat well and do some form of exercise. These are three important things you can do to take care of yourself and bolster yourself with a steady foot along the road to re-employment.
You’ve probably heard about studies on sleep deprivation. Most of us don’t get enough of it! Sleep renews and body as well as the mind. If you’re dealing with job loss, it’s very important for you to get enough restful sleep. Here’s a few things you can easily do to help yourself. Get the television out of the bedroom, sleep in a darkened room, consciously relax your body when you get into bed. Don’t exercise or eat a big meal before you retire. If you have back problems, try sleeping with a pillow between your legs so your knees don’t rest one upon the other.
Lastly, be willing to learn from the experience. You’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process. Be willing to expend positive energy and create positive steps, each will take you closer to your goal.
Pauline Salvucci, MA
My specialty is coaching men and women at midlife, particularly those living with chronic health conditions and family caregivers who are “sandwiched” between their families and their aging parents. http://www.self-care-online.com