Categorized | Life

Rebounding From a Layoff

Posted on 06 April 2009

The current economic slowdown cost the U.S. workforce more than 140,000 jobs in January, the highest reported number of layoffs since 1993. These numbers indicate that job security is suffering through a severe shock. And while finding a new job is a hard enough, displaced workers often find it difficult to adjust emotionally to their loss of job security.

Ruth Luban, a career consultant and author of Are You a Corporate Refugee, compares these transitional workers to civilians in foreign war zones. Those displaced by downsizings, mergers, and acquisitions often experience the shock of being involuntarily uprooted with little warning. The loss of security and personal control may even force them to move to a land not of their choosing.

Emotional goals and daily rituals can stabilize us when the ground beneath our feet is gone.

Luban, herself a corporate refugee survivor, identifies with the profound identity crises and grieved reactions of her clients. “I was so over-identified with my work roles that I didn’t know who I was without them,” Luban says. “I felt so lonely, so outside the mainstream of work, and so lost, that I stabbed at anything and everything that even vaguely promised rescue from my angst.”

A Vision That Fits
Re-establishing yourself in the workforce may be a priority, but your career is sure to be compromised in the long run if you do not take time to define your career direction. Luban believes the answer may not lie in a logical, linear career track. You may want to find a separate, more rewarding line of work–one that matches your skills and training. If so, this will require thinking out of the box and may become a time-consuming process.

“Even if you must do temporary or contract work during this period,” Luban says, “you will receive an arms-length view of who you are, as well as insight into what you have earned from each experience. A greater view of these areas will help you fashion what jobs fit you.” After making such a determination, you must hold onto your vision and not compromise–even if an opportunity comes your way that partially satisfies your ambition.

Rescue From Angst
It is also important to let go of your former job and work identity when determining your career direction. Luban describes this transition as a process of wandering in the wilderness. “Among the many things we lose when a job goes away is the structure that gave us security found in our social and collegial connections. What’s left is a gap and a loss of continuity. Emotional goals and daily rituals can stabilize us when the ground beneath our feet is gone.”

While between jobs, Luban encourages you to experiment with new creative ventures and new attitudes toward life. Activities may include working out your emotions in a daily journal, tracing your family tree, doing physical exercise, or just eating a healthy diet. These activities are helpful in identifying the threads of continuity, temperament, and talent that make up the fiber of your identity, she says.

If you are employed and feel your job security is threatened by the slowing economy, be proactive toward updating your skills, finances, health benefits, and 401k options–perhaps even explore other options inside the company. Luban also advises you to shore up your support system. Friends and support groups outside the company can become an emotional lifeboat, helping you to brainstorm and network toward creative job solutions.

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