Coping with Job Loss

by | March 10, 2009

Many of the questions we've seen on the Interviewing message board have shown some of our readers' difficulties in getting a search started after leaving or losing a job. I thought it might be useful for us to start at the beginning.


One thing is clear about the work culture of the new millennium: nearly all work is now short-term, frequently even careers themselves. You must be prepared for change, whether it suits your style or not. I need to mention the current statistics, which almost all say that the average job is only about three to four years now, a rather dramatic change from 15 years ago when the average was about 10 years.

The following lists some of what I think are imperatives for immediate reaction to the leaving or loss of a job:

1) Understand that there will be an emotional roller coaster, most dramatically during the first few days. This ride will include depression, apathy, denial, anger, and then some more anger. Everyone goes through it, to one degree or another, and I don't believe the people who say they don't.

2) Don't immediately call everyone you know and start sending out resumes, answering ads, and calling recruiters. Chances are that you're not really prepared to immediately start a search after a separation. Don't do a job search "on the rebound." You'll probably say things that you will wish you hadn't. It's also a good thing to share your true feelings about the situation with only a few people - maybe a significant other and/or a friend would be quite enough. You don't want everyone to avoid you ("Uh oh, here comes the whiner..."). Now's the time to adopt the marketing stance that your career - no matter how you perceive the reality - has been sunshine, light, and success. And you want everyone to know about those successes.

Calling everyone you know is NOT networking. Networking is indirect relationship building, quite a different thing.

3) Develop a target. Years ago, in my private practice, I was deluged with people announcing, "I want to be in TV." I never knew what that meant...did it mean television repair? Developing a target is the centerpiece of beginning your search. What is the job function - specifically? What is the desired culture? Geographic location? Size of organization? Do you want to start your own business? Consult? Do you have Dot-com-Virus? This may all involve some extensive self-assessment, with or without outside assistance - but it's necessary.

4) And then, of course, you need to research your target.

5) Create a marketing plan. Stick to it. Work the system; there are no shortcuts, except for the occasional bolt of lightning. Discipline and consistency account for a lot in this process.

6) Be flexible. If you're really listening while developing those relationships, your targets might adjust and shift.

7) Create daily structures and devise techniques for stress alleviation. It's not a terrible thing to do something that you enjoy during this period, something that you couldn't do while working full time.

Losing or leaving your job doesn't carry the stigma it used to, except in your own mind. It's part of the culture now. Everyone, whether they admit it or not, will go through this process sooner or later - probably more than once.

Filed Under: Job Search


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