From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Unemployment: A time to sink or swim
Scarcely a day goes by without one company or another announcing its plans to
"right size", "down size", or plain old lay off hundreds of
workers. Though the news gets old to those who are unaffected, to those who are
suddenly faced with unemployment, a very hard reality lies ahead. In today’s
fast paced society, workers can no longer afford the luxury of taking their jobs
for granted nor can they expect corporate loyalty based on seniority.
Even the employee who has devoted "the best years of his/her life" may
at any time be faced with a lay-off.
This happenstance then begins a chain reaction of events which are not very
pleasant. Much like the break-up of a love relationship, all of the sudden the
individual is faced with a sense of loneliness, insecurity, fear, and a variety
of emotions. To ease the pain, lovers often rebound into the next available
relationship, whether or not it is right for them, and workers often jump into
the first available job, regardless of whether it is the right job for them. In
both cases, jumping into new relationships or new jobs for the sake of security,
often just contributes to our dissatisfaction. Here are a few more thoughts on
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
added tremendously to our understanding of loss and grief with her 5 stage
model of grieving. Since its initial development, these five stages have
helped us understand a variety of events which represent how we cope with
emotional pain. Typically, our first reaction to the loss of a job is denial;
we simply can’t believe its true. A state of shock often sets in which
leaves us feeling numb. Then as the numbness wears off, we typically become angry,
which manifests in blaming others and/or blaming ourselves. In our last
ditch effort to reclaim that which is rightfully ours, the third stage
involves the attempt to bargain... with the boss, with the rejecting
lover, and even God. We think and we hope that maybe if we do something to
change our ways, the nightmare will go away. But when bargaining fails to
help, it is common for depression to set in. This is a point of despair
and a time when our self-esteem is most likely to bottom out. Only by coming
to terms with our loss and achieving a state of acceptance, can we
regenerate our energy, restore self-confidence and get on with our lives.
Remember: Acceptance doesn’t mean we are content to stay the way we are. It
means that we are willing to accept the reality of our situation and move on
when we are ready. Depending upon both the length of our unemployment and our resistance
to change, it is very common to bounce back to former states of anger
and bargaining before we are truly ready to accept change.
Guilt, Shame and Worry seem to come with the package. When one is
terminated from employment, we tend to feel guilty no matter what the circumstances.
Even if the decision had nothing to do with us personally, the fact of
unemployment often creates feelings of shame, rejection, disloyalty,
worthlessness, and fear. Here again, we have choices. If we choose to buy into a
self-concept of inferiority, the future will appear bleak and anxiety may
paralyze us. But if we adopt a feeling of empowerment and curiosity,
job-hunting can become an adventure much like shopping for a new toy.
Maintain a positive internal dialogue. Success often depends on
our ability to restore our self-confidence and ambition, which is achieved
through self-encouragement The true value of achieving an attitude of acceptance
is that it allows us to move away from feelings of helplessness into a state of
pro-activeness. Examples of proactive steps include (1) sharpening up your
resume, (2) calling people to establish a network of others who can be
supportive, helpful and empathetic, and (3) exploring alternative careers
through career counseling , brainstorming, and engaging in job searches.
However, the key to maintaining a pro-active approach is to monitor the way we
talk to ourselves. Success is more readily achieved when we focus on the
positive steps we make and maintain an internal dialogue with ourselves which is
encouraging. When we criticize ourselves, it shows in our faces, in our posture
and it undermines our self-confidence. Remember: Employers are usually more
attracted to self-confident applicants, so we only defeat ourselves through
worry and self-criticism.
4. Your new job is to find your new job. It is rare that jobs come to
us. More likely, we will have to pound the pavement to locate the new place we
want to work. Success is usually achieved through perseverance and persistence.
This is not a time to sleep late and take a passive approach. Get up and get
dressed for work in the morning, plan your employment strategies and follow
through with them. This is not a time to stop working.
5. Begin planning ahead and Never give up. Periods of unemployment
are opportunities to learn new skills, get organized and upgrade your image.
This is also a good time to objectively evaluate your career interests and
expand your knowledge. Whether you choose to read, take a course, or join a
volunteer effort, learning something new is the quickest way to improve your
self-esteem. While these recommendations are designed to help you through your
current employment crisis, the best approach is to develop an ongoing plan for
- Typically we experience the five stages of grief.
Due to society-wide changes in recent decades, workers can no longer expect
to retain the same job for their entire lifetime. As such, we must all be
prepared to look beyond a single means of earning a living. Consider where you
would like to be in five years. Consider possible future careers that would
interest you, and consider back-up plans. Even while you are employed, take time
to learn new skills which may be helpful to you in the future. By adopting a
mode of continuous learning, you’ll keep your brain sharp and you’ll stay
ahead of the game. Since there are no guarantees that our jobs will still be
there tomorrow, it is wise to plan ahead.
Most of us have a variety of interests and abilities. Throughout history,
great hobbies have blossomed into full-time careers. In this country, we are
fortunate to have the freedom to change our career interests at will. In my way
of thinking, one’s work should feel like play. For those who
agree, it comes as no surprise that people find different kinds of work
enjoyable at different stages in their lives. Keeping this in mind, even those
who are happy in their work now should give some thought to alternative
careers in their future. There are so many interesting things to do!
©Copyright, 2001, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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