Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

How To Deal With a Pink Slip

1. Understand the three stages of transition...the psychological adjustment to the change.

Though change can happen overnight, transition...the human reactions to change...can take much longer. Transition has three stages:

  1. Endings: Letting go of what was; can be quite emotionally distressing.
  2. The Wilderness: That lost, confusing, in-between time when you’ve pretty much accepted the reality of what you lost, but you haven’t reconnected with a new beginning yet.
  3. New Beginnings: Finding and connecting with a new situation in which you come to feel “at home” and in which both your practical and psychological needs are met.

2. Expect and deal with the emotional roller coaster.

“Handling it well” doesn’t mean that you won’t experience the gamut of emotions...shock and disbelief, anger, anxiety, and yes, grief. The longer you’ve been in a job, the more you’ve personally invested, and the more strongly your identity was tied to your job, the deeper the grief. Allow yourself to feel and express the sadness. (Yes, tears help...even for guys!) You’ll move through them more quickly than if you try to hold them back or pretend you don’t have them.

3. Don’t get stuck in anger and bitterness.

While no one will get through being laid off without some anger, don’t increase the damage to yourself by getting stuck there. People who allow the anger to harden into bitterness and who engage in revenge fantasies or even actual revenge plans rob themselves of their own future. Bitterness colors your attitudes about everything. Beginning a new job with a hostile or negative attitude is not a “New Beginning” at all. Forgive those who you feel wronged you; you’ll do yourself and those you love a favor.

4. Don’t speak discouraging messages to yourself.

Though your work life has been taken away without your permission, your life is far from over. Don’t tell yourself that it is. (Mature workers are more vulnerable to this trap.) Such messages only paralyze you. Focus instead on what you do have...your experiences, your skills, your support people...and get moving.

5. Confront your fears with action.

Fears often lead to avoidance. The truth is, the longer you avoid something, the more frightening it becomes. In this situation, as in all others in life, the best and quickest cure for fear is to confront it. Make a plan, get support, and take some action directly related to facing your fears.

6. Take practical action to protect yourself financially until you can get a job.

Some companies are fairly generous with severance and other financial considerations. Be in the know about where you stand. Seek the facts, not just about what your company is doing but about your own finances. (This is no time to do the ostrich routine.) Talk to creditors, your bank, or whoever else needs to understand what you’re going through and ask for their help until you get through this crisis.

7. Take this opportunity to assess what’s really important to you, what you might enjoy doing more than what you have been doing.

Many of my clients have found that losing their jobs forced them to look at things differently, allowing them to discover new opportunities they wouldn’t have even considered before the loss. Though the Wilderness stage of transition is confusing, it can also be the most creative time. (We’re most creative when we have to be!) What have you always dreamed about doing? What kinds of activities really energize and inspire you? Is it possible that you could find a job or create a business that is more meaningful to you than what you’ve been doing?

8. Rethink and categorize your skill sets.

Don’t tell yourself things like, “I don’t know how to do anything else. I’ve done this forever.” Reassess all the things you have done, both in your job and off the job. Think generically, not industry-specific. Many of these skills, which you’ve probably taken for granted, are valuable and transferable.

9. Network, network, network...it’s the best way to discover new job opportunities.

This is no time to be shy about asking others for leads and referrals. Ask your accountant, your friends, your lawyer, your relatives, whoever. You never know who will “know someone who knows someone.”

10. Always “keep your powder dry”...be prepared.

Learn from this experience that you should always be making those connections, polishing your skills to make you more marketable, and keeping your own attitude contagiously positive. In this unpredictable work world we inhabit, it always pays to stay prepared.

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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