Staying Hopeful After a Job Loss

Beyond providing us with an income, jobs can serve multiple roles in our lives, such as providing us with a sense of identity and purpose. In these challenging economic times, those who are laid off or facing a potential job loss can find themselves feeling significant stress. In fact, according to an April 2009 poll by the American Psychological Association, 82 percent of American workers whose employers have instituted layoffs report that their stress has increased in the past year as a result of employment changes in their household.

Those who lose their job may feel shocked, sad, angry and fearful, asking themselves anxiously, “What do I do next?” It’s a good question to ask-especially with a hopeful, positive attitude. Staying open to new opportunities is one way to lessen worries and move on with your job search, psychologists recommend. Whether you’ve worked with an employer for less than a year or more than 20 years, change is a constant in life and workplace change is no exception.

It may seem frightening to make a fresh start. But accepting a new job, switching to a different industry, returning to school or starting your own business doesn’t have to mean an overhaul of your identity. Rather, you are finding a new setting in which your skills and strengths are valued and useful. Here are some things you can do to get through the hardship of losing a job and looking for a new one:

Take action right away. It may be tempting to consider a layoff a mini vacation and initially enjoy watching daytime television in your pajamas. After all, it can be a struggle to build the motivation needed to look for a new job. But some research has found that people who wait ultimately have regrets. Those who are successful are the ones who start planning and searching immediately after their final day of work, if not before.

Connect with those around you. It could be tempting to sit at a computer for hours, zapping off your resume to every job opening you can find. But most people find their jobs through a network of people they know. Keep in touch with former co-workers, classmates and friends-anyone who cares about the outcome of your job search. Online social networks can be a valuable way to connect and let people know of your job search. Such a network might serve as both the link to your next job and a critical source of support along the way.

Keep your eyes-and mind-open to new opportunities. Be curious and engage the world around you. Talk to friends about the work they do, attend free seminars and workshops in your community, volunteer for a few hours a week for a cause that means something to you. Sometimes a job opportunity will find you when you aren’t looking. And you may discover you’d enjoy work that is different than what you’ve done previously.

Take care of yourself. You may not feel like doing much of anything. Or you want to spend every moment pouring over job listings. Give yourself a break from the search-go for a walk, meet up with a friend, read a book. Pay attention to how you are managing your stress-some people are more likely to relieve stress by turning to unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking, gambling or emotional eating. Be alert to these behaviors.

Ask for professional support. Job placement agencies and college career offices are two services available to help you find a new job. If you continue to be overwhelmed by stress or find it increasingly difficult to cope with your feelings about job loss, you may want to talk with a psychologist who can help you address your concerns and manage life’s changes.

Special thanks to APA member Dr. Chris Ebberwein for help with this article.


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