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Coping with Job Loss

Job loss often triggers a period of adjustment and transition with common emotions or phases including disbelief, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It can be difficult to navigate this process. You may sometimes feel out of control or overwhelmed by the stress of it all.

UW CareLink, our faculty and staff assistance program, offers services for you, your family, and household members for 30 days after leaving employment at the University. Services are free and confidential. Call toll-free 1-866-598-3978 for more information and to access services. You may also want to view the resources and tools at the APS HealthLink portal (use "UW" as the company code to log in and register).

UW CareLink counselors provide:


Coping with the Loss of a Job

“When one door closes, another one opens; but it is torture in the hallway.”

If you, like thousands of other individuals are experiencing the loss of a job, you may experience a mix of emotions that can be confusing and at times overwhelming. This resource is designed to help you cope with your situation and to successfully pursue your job search goals..

Job loss can be understood as a period of transition. The quote above recognizes that we experience this transition as a series of stages; the “door” of the past, the “hallway” of the present, and the “door” of the future. Paying attention to these stages can help you understand and manage this transition.

Letting Go of the “Door of the Past”

The loss of a job can be a painful and traumatic event. It is normal to feel rejected and emotionally wounded. Responding to job loss in a healthy way means taking the time to acknowledge your grief over loss you have experienced. You may feel one or more of the following emotions at any given time.

The work of grieving is about paying attention to what you are experiencing, expressing it in a healthy and legitimate way, then letting it go. Be patient. Most people are surprised by the length of time the grieving process can take. Do not allow yourself to become isolated. This is a time to surround yourself with supportive people, whether friends and family or a formal support group.

It is also crucial that you pay attention and notice if you get “stuck” in any of the emotions (other than acceptance). If you (or someone close to you) notices that you are having difficulty coping, it may be time to get an outside perspective from a counselor, a mental health professional or to speak with your physician. This is particularly important if you experience the symptoms of depression for more than two weeks or have concerns that your response is too intense or lasting too long. The UW CareLink Program remains a resource to you for up to 30 days after University employment ends. Call CareLink at 866-598-3978. Access community resources at 211 after your UW CareLink eligibility ends.

Traveling the “Hallway of the Present”

The work of letting go of the “Door of the Past” can free you to travel through the “Hallway of the Present.” If the past was familiar and comforting, the present can appear foggy and uncertain. The focus of this stage of transition is taking some important steps away from the past and toward the future. This involves the following:

Gather Resources

Most people will need to carefully manage their finances in light of the loss of employment. You will need to shift your priorities away from convenience and comfort to the essentials that are necessary for survival. This involves a strategy of conserving present financial resources and identifying new sources of income that can contribute to the “bottom line.”

Take advantage of the fact that you have time on your hands to explore educational opportunities that can enhance your job skills and marketability.

Enlisting the help of family and friends at this time can also be important. It is helpful to express your needs without making anyone feel guilty if they cannot or will not help out.

Build a “Job-search Network“

Job-search experts agree that one of the most effective ways to find a new job is through the people you know. These people can alert you to opportunities that come to their attention. They can also be an advocate for you. Make a list of people you know, and identify those you think will be willing to help with your job search.

Just “Do it”

Your planning and preparation must be followed by effective action.

Opening the “Door to the Future”

Adopt strategies that can contribute to your success as you begin a new job.

“Take Control” – of Yourself

Job loss can leave a lingering sense of loss of control even after you start a new job. This can lead an individual to enter a new job with a high need for control. Be aware of this tendency to avoid alienating new employers and co-workers .

Develop a “Portable Self”

You may find that you are reluctant to invest a great deal in a new job if you are afraid that it too may end unexpectedly. While it may be hard, committing yourself to a new position is the best way to demonstrate your value to a new employer, and to become the kind of employee the employer will want to retain in tough times.

Have a “Plan B”

Once you have a new job, take the opportunity to develop a financial plan that will leave you in a more secure position to face future uncertainties. One of the best ways to do this is to “save before you spend”. If you plan your savings based on what you have left over at the end of the month, you may find that you rarely have anything left over. Instead, make saving a priority and make your spending fit your savings plan

Enter with Enthusiasm

A new job is a new opportunity to create a productive future with your new employer. Enthusiasm can wear off after the job is no longer new. Avoid comparing your new situation with your old one. A positive attitude can not only make a less than perfect situation more fun, it also has the best way of inviting future improvements in that situation. Stay in the present and show the most enthusiasm you can to convince your employer that they made a good choice when they hired you.

Conclusion

Understanding and knowing how to respond the experiences and emotions you will face as a result of job loss can greatly increase your chances of successfully landing a new job. Job-loss and transition is a journey most of us have to take more than once in our lives. Having good information and a good plan can shorten the trip and help you to avoid the pitfalls you may confront along the way.

Adapted from - Steven J. Geske, LMFT
© January 2002 – APS Healthcare Inc., all rights reserved

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