Lost your Job? Experiencing a sudden or unexpected career change? Worried about your future?
The emotional response to career change is similar to dealing with loss as characterized by Kubler-Ross.
There are typically two stages of denial that occur with sudden or unexpected career transitions. The first stage is typically very brief. There may be a short suspension of belief in which it is hard to imagine that you no longer have that job. The facts are pretty hard to deny, the position was there one day and you were gone the next day. Regardless of the circumstances, it is fairly difficult to deny when this fact when that door has been closed.
The second and more dangerous period of denial occurs when lifestyle is not altered, even though the income has changed. In many cases, denial is subsidized by a severance package, a golden parachute, or unemployment benefits. The employer no longer provides the ongoing checks or benefits coverage, but the income if otherwise subsidized and therefore lifestyle if not substantially altered. This form of denial can be very dangerous and should be quickly resolved. With time the severance package, unemployment benefits, or personal savings will start to diminish and eventually run dry. It is difficult to predict exactly when the next position or career will create a new source of income, and it is difficult to determine how the compensation and benefits will compare to previous position. When the change occurs, it is a very good time to begin assessing your financial responsibilities and expenses.
Each month as the credit cards statements, rent or mortgage, and other expenses arrive, use that as an opportunity to evaluate the necessity of the expenses that you incur. It is a common habit that expenses grow in proportion to an individual’s ability to support the expenses. Clothes, cars, and eating habits are examples of expenses that easily adjust with a person’s ability to sustain the expense. Subscriptions, hobbies, and miscellaneous expenses are often forgotten or disguised personal expenses. Every time that you pay an invoice, consider how that costs compares to your personal hierarchy of needs and how you can be a little more frugal in your expenditures. If you can reduce your expenses now, it will continue to bear fruit, even when your income is restored.
It is natural to be angry when events impact a person’s routines. It is natural to feel anger when events interrupt an individual’s ability to support a family or otherwise jeopardize financial responsibilities. It is natural, but is it productive? If the career change is due to personal lack of performance on the job, then there is nobody to blame but yourself. If the career change is due to financial hardship by the company, thereby resulting in overall job reductions, then there is nobody to blame at the company that is also struggling to survive. Organizations have a responsibility to support clients, customers, shareholders, and the remaining employees to the best of the ability of the company. Whatever the cause of the career change, the natural responses of anger and frustration lack direction and therefore offer no source of consolation.
Do you feel the energy that comes from frustration, anger, or enthusiasm? Emotions charge the body with adrenaline and create energy. Even negative emotions like frustration, anger, or worry can create an emotional charge that can be redirected into positive energy. If you sit still and let negative emotions take control, then you may find yourself drowning in continuous waves of negative thoughts and concerns. Rather than slip into depression or self-pity, use that energy to give you incentive to concentrate on positive projects. For example, invest your energy in reworking your resume. Begin making lists of opportunities and invest your time in researching companies that are showing positive growth. Start educating yourself on other aspects of your industry or profession. Use that energy that makes you shake with frustration to put your fingers to work on the keyboard, flipping pages, or dialing phone numbers. If you still have energy left over after you have worked every possibility, then go for a walk and release that energy with some positive exercise.
The hunt for your next career position may take some time. Economic challenges may restrict the job market and create seemingly overwhelming competition for a limited number of positions. Constant concerns, coupled with a sense of responsibility, can create fertile grounds for depression. If you feel this happening to you, remember that it is a choice and you have control over it. Depression occurs when you allow yourself to feel remorse because events and timelines are not occurring according to your plans. This does not mean that the forces of the universe are working against you, but it could be a strong indication that it is time to change your plans. Sometimes it is necessary to abandon your plans completely and pause to properly evaluate the options available to you. This may mean changing your lifestyle, changing your career, or allowing yourself to take an intermediate transition in another direction. Allow yourself the flexibility to adapt to the situations and opportunities that are available to you. This does not mean that you are settling for less than your full potential, but it does mean that you have the self-confidence to allow yourself to expand your talents and experience in previously unexpected areas. Allow yourself the flexibility to abandon or temporarily shelf those expectations that are causing your depression and give yourself the freedom to adjust your career or lifestyle to take advantage of what is available to you at the moment. When it seems that you cannot make any progress in the direction that you are going then allow yourself to move in the direction that gives your life momentum.
Once you have overcome denial and accepted the sometimes life-altering changes to control your expenses, and after you have overcome or bypassed the feelings of anger or depression, it is natural to begin a process of personal bargaining. This phase is the internal conflict of balances wants and needs with reality and resources. It is a process of justifying small concessions for the greater good. It means offsetting minor sacrifices by placating yourself with some rational of purpose or personal reward.
The process of internal bargaining can be a positive process if it means an awakening realization of the positive outcome of your decisions and actions in contrast to the investment of selective sacrifice. However, it is very important to consider the long term commitment associated with such bargaining. If the sacrifices are worth the return of a lasting career or long term relationship, then it is merely an acknowledgement of personal investment. If the sacrifice results in ethical conflicts or may otherwise require sustained commitment that you are not willing or able to make, then the bargain lacks substance and is doomed to failure. Do not negotiate commitments that you are unwilling or unable to sustain, not even to yourself.
Welcome to the club! There are millions of individuals experiencing various stages of career transitions. You are not alone and you are not really competitors. Each person is looking for the next opportunity to match personal talents and capability with the appropriate corresponding position. Likewise, organizations are searching for the most appropriate candidate in accordance with the job requirements. It is not a competition or a popularity contest. It is a giant puzzle in which all of the pieces are trying to find the perfect fit. As you look for your next opportunity, help those in your network to do the same. If you find a position that is suitable for someone else who is in career transition, take the time to make a recommendation and help good people discover good organizations. Helping others in your fellow career transitioning tribe may encourage them to help one another, and inspire them to help you too. Even if the favors are not returned, you will have the personal satisfaction of helping others.
Once you have accepted that your life has changed, there are countless new opportunities that are open to you. Be ready for new experiences and be prepared for more unexpected challenges. The experiences are all part of the learning process. You could have spent countless months or years in the rut of your routine, but you have been given an unexpected opportunity to apply your talents and experience in new ways. You have been given a personal invitation to expand your capabilities and to meet new friends. It can be unsettling when it is unexpected, but you can use this is an opportunity to invest in yourself and in your future.
Words of Wisdom
“‘There’s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair. The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there. There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.”
– Barack Obama, Election Night Speech
“If government could create jobs and raise children, socialism would have worked.”
– George Gilder
“Emergencies have always been necessary to progress. It was darkness which produced the lamp. It was fog that produced the compass. It was hunger that drove us to exploration. And it took a depression to teach us the real value of a job.”
– Victor Hugo
By: John Mehrmann
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John Mehrmann is author of The Trusted Advocate: Accelerate Success with Authenticity and Integrity, the fundamental guide to achieve extraordinary sales and sustain loyal customers. John Mehrmann is a freelance writer and President of Executive Blueprints Inc., an organization devoted to improving business practices and developing human capital. www.ExecutiveBlueprints.com provides resource materials for trainers, sample Case Studies, and educational articles. www.InstituteforAdvancedLeadership.com provides self-paced tutorials for personal development and tools for trainers. Presentation materials, reference guides and exercises are available for continuous development.