Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Change

Women and Job Loss: How to Deal With it and Move on

The recent wave of downsizing has raised anxieties across the country. Women are among the thousands of victims of organization’s often ill-advised attempts to cut costs by cutting people. (See our article, “Downsizing: Does It Really Cut Costs” for more information about this topic.)

Are there differences in the way women react when they lose their jobs? There are both commonalities and differences in the way the two sexes experience a major transition like job loss. Let’s explore those.

Job Loss: The Common Experience

All people experience a range of emotions when they have involuntarily lost a job. These include emotions like:

  • Denial
  • Fear/Anxiety
  • Anger/Bitterness
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Confusion
  • Some experience creativity!

ll people also go through transitions. Transition is defined as the psychological adjustment to a change, while change is a situational event. People in transition go through three stages. These are:

  1. Endings: letting go of what was.;
  2. The Wilderness: the confusion of the in-between time;
  3. New Beginnings: finding a new path and reconnecting emotionally.

Are Women Different in Their Responses?

In addition to these commonalities, however, there may be some differences in how men and women experience job loss. In fact, women may actually have an advantage in their ability to cope, for three main reasons.

  1. Identity: While many women have a career as a major source of meaning and identity in their lives, they are a little more likely than men to have multiple identities (families). Therefore, the loss of the job may not be as devastating to a woman as it is to a man who finds his primary self esteem in his work.
  2. Emotional expression: Culturally, women have been given more "permission" to express emotions. When going through the grief process, which always occurs after significant loss, talking about the losses and the emotions can be very healing. Tears, which are also more socially acceptable for women, tend to speed up the grief process and move the person toward rising up and take action.
  3. Social support: Research has demonstrated that women tend to rely more on emotional support from others. For instance, women friends tend to talk about their relationships and feelings, while men friends tend to do an activity together. The ability to share one's real feelings with supportive friends can be a real asset in dealing with a loss.

How to Get Moving if You Lose Your Job

What should you do if you lose your job? Male or female, here are eight important strategies that can ease the transition into a new future.

  1. Right after the "news", allow a little time for the reality to sink in. The shock of "This can't be happening to me" is normal.
  2. Talk to yourself about what is ending and what is not. It is not the end of the world or the end of your career. It's not the end of your ability to contribute meaningfully to the world. It's just the end of this phase of your career, and the beginning of another that you are about to discover.
  3. Deal with the grief process. Grief is the normal reaction after a significant loss. You won't stay there if you face it, feel the hurt, and move through it.
  4. Reassess what's really important to you. Ask yourself, "What am I grieving the most?" This will give you a clue about the important factors in the new opportunities you will discover. For instance, if you will miss the team with whom you were working, you'll know you want a job where people work well together in-groups. If you think longingly about the customers to whom you made a difference, you'll put "contributing something meaningful to the lives of others" at the top of your job criteria as you search.
  5. Take stock of your skills and of the aspects of your personality that can contribute to an organization's success. Don't take anything for granted. No, everyone can't do that!
  6. Contact the people on your database, in your Rolodex, and in the recesses of your mind, letting them know what you have to offer and asking them for referrals. A woman's ability to connect with people can produce through the years many who will be glad to be advocates. Networking is one of your most powerful assets.
  7. Turn the confusion of change into creativity. Interestingly, the research shows that periods of major change are actually our most creative times. Why? Because we have to be! Old habits and methods don't work. Let the lack of structure in your life at this time work for you. Consider possibilities and opportunities you would not have thought of if you had your old job and routine.
  8. Take heart; you will probably look back on this change as a blessing...a difficult one, but a blessing. Studies show that women are very likely to get jobs, even better jobs, after losing theirs. In the process, your success will give you added confidence, strength, and resilience.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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