Emotions at Work

Stay Calm if You Lose Your Job - by Barbara Babkirk

You thought it would never happen to you.

Yet, an average of 1.5M Americans lose their jobs each year due to a variety of reasons from restructuring to company closings.

If you’ve been laid off or terminated, you’ll likely feel an initial shock. Then you can expect a series of emotions that come and go in no particular sequence. These emotions often reflect the stages of grief including: denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. It’s important to know that these feelings are normal and that they will pass.

One of the most difficult aspects of being laid off is feeling that something has happened TO you. If you had been thinking about resigning for a while, you might even become self-critical that you didn’t act first.

Rather than dwell on the circumstances, begin to create a plan to regain control of your work life.

You may be asked to sign a document outlining the terms of your separation and requesting certain conditions of confidentiality.

Under these circumstances, you might seek legal counsel before signing to make sure the terms are clear and to determine the fairness of what is offered in light of years of service, position and particular circumstances.

While there is no Maine law that mandates a severance package when a person is laid off or terminated, in my experience, it is common for employers to offer one.

This may include compensation for a period of weeks (often it’s one week of pay for each year of service), continuing health benefits, and outplacement/career counseling services to help you transition to new work. It’s always a surprise to me that not everyone who is offered this service takes advantage of it.

Even if you feel confident about your ability to find work, outplacement/career counseling services are offered by experts, and chances are you’ll learn something that will help you transition more effectively and quickly.

Consider the following tips if you lose your job:

  • Let yourself experience a range of feelings and know that you’ll get back on an even keel later in your job search process.

  • Carefully read the severance agreement from your former employer and whether you want to seek legal counsel before signing.

  • Request outplacement/career transition services and ask to work with a local company. If your employer offers services with a national firm, they are not likely to have information on the local marketplace. (A typical range of outplacement services is from one to three months, often depending on your length of time with the company and the position you held.)

  • Ask your former employer if they will support your pursuing unemployment benefits and whether or not they will provide a reference for you and/or recommendation on LinkedIn.

  • Avoid unproductive conversations with former colleagues who want to “fill you in” on current chatter in the organization. These conversations will impede your efforts to move on and keep you mired in a sea of difficult emotions.

  • Update your resume and LinkedIn profile and line up professional references.

  • Contact your local Career Center and find out how to file for unemployment compensation as well as the amount you’ll receive and when you can expect your first check.

  • Establish a plan of action that focuses on strategic conversations with people in your field or in a new arena you’d like to pursue.

  • Seek assistance from a qualified career counselor/outplacement consultant for help with your plan.

  • Stay positive and think about the outcome you want instead of what you fear might happen.

Discover who you were meant to be - Barbara Babkirk

I was organizing a bookshelf recently and came across an article by author and activist, Parker Palmer, titled “Now I Become Myself.

I took time out from the task at hand to read my newfound treasure. While I believe I had read it before, the article had particular relevancy on this day because of a career counseling client with whom I had just met.

Palmer wrote that we spend the first half of our lives abandoning our essential talents and true nature in quests for approval and ill-fated attempts to establish ourselves in the world.

The sense of a “lost self” increases with age and reveals itself in career and work choices that don’t align with who we are meant to be. That could certainly contribute to the current high incidence of dissatisfaction in the workplace.

It is predictably at midlife and beyond that we find this discrepancy unacceptable and set out to reclaim “the person we’ve always been.”

The serendipity of my finding Palmer’s piece just after meeting with a 42 year old client was uncanny. Jen, as I’ll name her, had just come in stating that, after spending decades in the workforce just “falling into jobs”; she was now excited to take charge of her career.

She was ready to do the work of retracing her life’s path and recognize the truths about herself that would inform new options for her work in the world.

In making connections beyond the obvious about what we’ve done and who we are, we uncover gems that reflect true facets of ourselves.

These treasures can provide precious clues that reveal who we are meant to be and broaden how we see ourselves in the world.

Feeling stuck in your career? Try these steps.

What’s on your career “to do” list that you keep putting off?

Is it updating a resume that’s ten years old? Sending an email to a colleague to ask for introductions? Attending a professional meeting and risk having to tell someone you’re not working or unhappy with your current job?

While it may seem that these tasks are benignly hanging out on a list, they are, in fact, zapping your energy just by being in queue along with other obligations.

When you postpone some action you need to take, you’re not really free from it because it will occupy your thoughts until you act on it.

Completing the task may be simpler than you imagine.

Typically, procrastination is not rooted in poor time management or lack of discipline, but rather, in how we’re framing the action we need to take.

For example, if you need to tap contacts in your career field, but aren’t sure what to say, you might convince yourself that no one will want to help you. With that mindset, there’s no use in making the effort—and so you don’t.

Or, you might need to update your resume or improve your a LinkedIn profile, but you’re unaware of current best practice or how to convey your professional value. So, you make up a story that you’re not really employable which zaps any motivation to move forward.

The following five steps can help you shift from inaction to action and empower you to take charge of your career:

  1. Recognize the career-related task/s you are delaying.

  2. Be honest with yourself about what’s behind your inaction. Is it fear or a lack of knowledge that is keeping you stalled?

  3. Sort out the facts from what you’ve assumed or made up. Do a reality check and/or ask for some help about how to proceed.

  4. Break the task down into manageable steps with adequate timeframes for completion.

  5. Seek help from a professional if you need facts and help getting started and moving forward.

How to deal with things you can’t control

You have choices in life that you may not always recognize…like whether or not to worry or obsess about not having a job or the slow response from prospective employers.

Even when you feel like you don’t, you often have options that can influence the process and perhaps shift the outcome of a situation—it’s all in your response.

By focusing on what is happening externally, you are likely to overlook what’s going on within you—such as your attitude and feelings—two things over which you have direct control.

You can have a direct impact on what you think or how you feel—unlike the impact you may have on what goes on around you.

Recently a friend recounted her experience in an airport, missing flight after flight home due to weather conditions. She first felt frustrated as though something was happening to her. While in a sense, this was true, it finally occurred to her that it was also true that she had choices as to how to spend her time and whether or not to be annoyed or good natured about it all.

Tensions ran high as passengers heard the news: no flights were coming or going. For the most part, she saw few people making lemon out of lemonade. They had all unconsciously decided to have a particular mindset about something external to them they could not change.

No matter the circumstances of your life, don’t overlook your attitude or your feelings. By shifting your attention, you might be surprised that you feel better by taking charge in some small way of what’s happening around you.

Find the pause button and get the clarity you need

I recently saw a client I’ll call Anne, who was stressed from overworking—a very common issue these days. She had made the decision to quit her job within a year and wanted to discuss options that would allow for better balance in her life in her next position.

After exploring the issue more in depth, it became clear that Anne was not really in a place to imagine possibilities. She was depleted and not feeling very expansive in her thinking. Anne admitted that the options that came to mind would put her back in the same pattern of overwork.

While her job was hard to manage, she had developed a pattern of saying yes to practically any request that came her way, causing her to feel resentful and tired.

In spite of having accumulated several weeks of vacation, Anne’s work had taken over her life and she had not even thought about time to renew and regroup.

Rather than explore her next work options, we discussed taking time—three consecutive weeks in fact, to renew her spirit and get some much needed R&R.

The other strategy we discussed had to do with how she responded to requests. Her habit of saying yes came from a place of wanting to be of service and needed, but was getting in the way of her experiencing down time or evaluating the way she was spending her time at work.

Anne agreed to experiment with “finding a pause button”. When a request came in, she would, whenever possible, get the information she needed and tell the person she’d get back to them the following day. She would sleep on it and “be with” the request. She would allow some feedback to bubble up from the inside out and let that influence her ultimate decision of how to respond.

I’m confident that shifting the “yes” pattern and taking time to rest and renew will both support Anne’s desire to find new work and a different way of working.

What happens when you take a leap of faith?

I’ve seen several clients recently who took a leap of faith around their work, so I decided the topic was blog material.

While in each scenario, the circumstances surrounding the leap were unique; each person experienced a similar outcome.

Take for example, the person who, after many years as a master teacher, quit teaching, even though he did not have a specific job or even a concrete alternative option in mind.

Another, after a dozen years as a “stay at home mom”, took a business idea seriously and enrolled in a course to help aspiring entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

A third person altered his original “three year plan” of disengaging himself from his family business and decided to leave in a year without any guarantees that his idea to reinvent himself would be successful.

Despite totally different career paths, marketable skills and economic backgrounds, these people had some significant factors in common in their leap of faith stories.

  1. Each had been involved in a long term work scenario that, although not entirely satisfying, was
    comfortable and secure in its own way.

  2. None of the individuals was being forced into a change by external circumstances—the impetus
    was entirely self-driven.

  3. And most interesting to me was that they all experienced a rush of unanticipated support from
    a wide range of places and people once they began to talk about their idea. From offers of
    places to rent for a new business and chance encounters with people with appropriate resources
    and information, to a conversation with a relative that lead to the naming of the
    business—each person felt overwhelmed by the amount of positive energy that their leap of
    faith seemed to release.

The phenomenon of a convergence of helpful resources that counters a somewhat risky endeavor is not new to me. In fact, it’s very common for a person to come in for a career counseling session, identify something they are particularly interested in, and also state why it is a risk.

They create an impasse in their minds and stay in that stuck place. In the instances when the person tips the scale in their thinking in favor of the leap of faith, it doesn’t mean the fear has vanished—it’s just that they have decide to move ahead in spite of it.

In the latter case, I help the person take a few steps toward their desired career to determine if the direction seems right and to gather some momentum for the transition.

A couple weeks later, I’m always delighted to hear a familiar opening remark when the person comes in for a follow-up session: “You won’t believe what happened!”
Then their story unfolds and I hear myriad examples of how their leap of faith idea took on a life of its own and gathered supporters in the process.

After many years witnessing this phenomenon through clients’ stories, I’ve come to believe that there are rewards for taking a leap of faith risk. It would seem that Eleanor Roosevelt had a premonition of these positive outcomes when she said: “Do the thing you think you can not.”

How to shift your fears in any transition

The fear of the unknown that’s inherent in any transition can take its toll on even the most courageous.

There’s just something about a blank slate of possibilities that prompts creative minds to conjure up lists of “what if” scenarios—most of which reflect our fears and impact our hearts and minds.

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear clients expressing trepidation about their career change that’s based entirely on what they fear will happen, as opposed to what they hope will occur.

Any transition involves facing the unknown and that typically triggers anxiety.

While you may believe that your negative projection into the future is necessary to feel prepared for anything that might occur, it actually works against you.

This often spontaneous and habitual thought process is a waste of time, energy and attention because it is likely to interrupt your momentum or stop you in your tracks.

Successfully maneuvering through a transition requires nimbleness and openness to possibilities. Fear elicits the opposite, and has you “pull in the wagons of your life” in anticipation of some threatening outcome.

When you consciously think about what you desire, you create an effective alternative to the scenarios that typically make you want to hide under your bed covers.

I’m not suggesting that you just “think happy thoughts”, but rather, that you focus your attention, breathe, and get clear about the intention and desired outcome(s) for your transition.

While you cannot control all aspects of any change, you can control your thinking and your response to your transition.

In doing so, you will shift your attention from what you don’t want to occur to more appealing prospects. With this shift to a more trusting mindset, you should feel calmer and more able to move forward and complete the tasks that will make you successful.