Layoffs are a traumatic event for those losing jobs.
The personal impact of losing a job is significant. According to the Holmes Social Adjustment Scale, losing a job is ranked as a top stress in someone’s life. Losing a job often means a loss of income, security, a community and a sense of identity.
We grieve the loss of a job like we grieve other human losses. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ classic work on death and dying explains how grief happens in stages:
Denial: “This can’t be happening.”
Anger: “Damn those greedy Wall Street fat cats.”
Bargaining: “If only the market would just stabilize.”
Depression: “I’m a failure.”
Acceptance: “I need to plan for my future.”
No matter what stage you find yourself in, remember these stages are normal, and grieving a loss is a process. What becomes problematic is when people get stuck in one of the stages before acceptance and lose hope, direction and confidence.
What should you do after a layoff?
- Give yourself permission to grieve. Getting a pink slip, no matter the circumstances, is a traumatic and life-changing event. Feeling pain, fear, uncertainty and loss is normal. It’s important to find someone you can talk to about how you are feeling. Take some time — but not too much — to regroup and recharge. You can’t afford to get “stuck.” If you do, seek professional help.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t take it personally or internalize losing your job as part of layoff as a failure on your part. This isn’t about you; it’s about the economy and bottom-line business.
For those with pending layoffs:
- Get your ducks in a row before you leave. Complete all required HR paperwork and investigate your options regarding stock, vacation or time-off pay and insurance. Collect any money (such as expense reports) the company owes you. Gather references while you still have easy access to your colleagues, co-workers and boss. Create a database of everyone you know and who knows your work. Don’t burn any bridges — it’s a small networking world out there.
- Update your resume and highlight results and accomplishments. Run your resume by your current boss or co-workers to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything. While you still have a job, gather representative samples of your work. Hiring managers want to see concrete examples of what you can do. PowerPoint presentations, company collateral or reports you have created will be good to share in job interviews.
- Consider a career change. Your job loss may be an opportunity in disguise. Change, though difficult, is often when we grow the most. Markets, industry, technology and yes, you — all change. Take time to re-evaluate your passions, core values and what matters to you. Identify what you really love to do, activities that energize you vs. those that “drain” you. Career coaches can help you explore how your interests, abilities and experience may fit in other industries or positions and move forward. Perhaps this is your time to go back to school or upgrade your skills to move into another industry or position.
- Develop resilience. Accept change as a natural part of your career life rather than allowing it to derail or deplete you. Job security is a thing of the past. You remain a capable, competent worker. Remember, the economy has cycles and life has peaks and valleys. What matters to your surviving and thriving is how you respond.
- Explore possibilities about what you can create in the next chapter of your career. Spend time getting clear about your vision of what you want to achieve. Be proactive and identify opportunities to grow. Scott Peck, author of “The Road Less Traveled” offers this: “It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.”