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Moving Beyond Job Loss

Posted: Updated:
UNEMPLOYED WOMAN

With over 29,000 jobs lost in California in May 2011 and well over 1 million jobs lost in the state since 2007, the repercussion of the economic decline has touched many if not most households in CA. Even with the increase in hiring over the last 6 months, there are still plenty of people without a job. San Francisco and Oakland have the 2nd highest level of job loss in the nation. According to a recent Manpower survey, 13% of employers that were interviewed in the San Francisco Bay Area plan to lay off employees in the 3rd quarter.

As a result of economic trends and our new world of work, the average length of time that an individual stays in a job is now 3 years. Regardless of the business climate, companies are always looking to reduce expenses and labor is one of the highest, so layoffs will continue. In addition, companies seem to be constantly restructuring or reorganizing and downsizing as a result of acquisitions, outsourcing or losing sales and contracts. And the question that is floating around now -- will the tech bubble burst?

Losing a job is one of the most intense emotional events of one's life. Whether it is you or someone you know, it is important to recognize the emotional significance of loss. In many ways it is comparable to the death of a loved one or the ending of a relationship. These endings cause a shift in our reality and sense of self just as an earthquake can shift the earth's axis. Nothing is the same after any major loss; it is almost like being in a fog until you can once again find your way.

A job loss can leave you feeling out of control, especially if you define yourself by the work that you do. It is imperative to recognize that you are much more than your job and the money you earn. Even after your job ends, you are still the same person with the same qualities, skills, strengths and weaknesses.

You may also experience a wide variety of difficult and surprising emotions after the loss, such as shock, sadness, anger and guilt, which are all a very normal part of grieving. There is no right or wrong way to feel or grieve. Grief is a natural emotional response to loss.

The more significant the loss, the more intense are the feelings. While these feelings can often be overwhelming there is just no way to "get over it" as many people might say. This is a process without a start or end date. Allow yourself to feel what you feel, own the feeling and let it out whether it be on paper such as journaling or with a caring friend or counselor, which will release those feelings and clear a space inside to heal and move on.

Recognize that this loss is a major change in your life and often causes a shift in relationships. You no longer have the same relationship with your employer, your co-workers and perhaps even your family and friends. Realize under most circumstances that you did nothing wrong that caused this layoff although it may feel that way. For instance, Cisco's acquisition of Flip Camera didn't work out, so 550 employees in the Bay Area lost their jobs. Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto is now outsourcing some of their human resources functions so once again employees lose their jobs. You may rationally know that the loss of a job has nothing to do with you, but it may not be what you feel in your heart. And it is what is in your heart that truly matters.

The bottom line emotional reaction to job loss in today's economy is fear. Fear encompasses finding a new position, having the financial means to pay your bills and support your family, retirement, medical care, sense of purpose and identity and the very real feeling of being alone. Fear can paralyze and stop you in your tracks so all you want to do is isolate. The media often feeds on fear, because this is what sells. Stepping out of fear into the vision of what you want is the best way to move forward although it is sometimes easier said than done.

Life is filled with losses. To live is to live with loss. Even as youngsters we experience loss. Some of those losses are so profound that we still remember them well into adulthood. This is the nature of human existence.

Remember from the past how you made it through many losses to see the light again. You did it then and you can do it now. Allow the process to unfold. Reduce negative inputs and practice self-care such as exercise, meditating or watching a good movie.

When you get knocked down, the sooner you get up, brush yourself off, learn what you can and get back into life the better you will feel. As you rekindle relationships and step more fully into job search mode, the faster you will move beyond the loss. It is not just for you, but is an inspiration for everyone to see and it can make all the difference.

These ten steps may very well help you to heal and move beyond job loss.

1. Recognize that job loss can be significant with a financial as well as emotional impact.
2. Allow yourself to feel and grieve. There is no right or wrong way to feel.
3. Release feelings by getting support from a caring friend, family member or counselor.
4. Step out of fear and create a vision of what you want.
5. Reduce negative inputs and feelings. Be conscious of your thoughts. You can change them.
6. Practice self-care such as exercise, meditating, volunteering or whatever may be relaxing or enjoyable.
7. Remember from the past how you positively overcame many losses.
8. Create a list of your strengths and accomplishments. These can be used as a boost to your confidence as well as in your resume.
9. Build a structure into your life for job search and self-care.
10. Take action and focus on developing and rekindling relationships one day at a time.

Job Search & Networking Resources in the San Francisco Bay Area

• The Job Forum - www.thejobforum.org - Meets at the San Fran. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday evenings. Helps individuals to plan and conduct an effective job search. Free

• Jewish Vocational Services - www.jvs.org - 415-391-3600
Nonprofit, non-sectarian agency offers career counseling, job search services, workshops and technology access center, job listings. Free; fees for some career counseling services.

• Positive Resource Center - www.positiveresource.org - 415-777-0333
Employment services and benefits counseling for HIV+ San Francisco Bay area residents. Job placement, job search workshops, individual career and employment counseling, computer training. Free

• Job Connections - www.jobconnections.org
Job Search Networking Group. Meets in the East Bay in Danville on Saturday mornings. Free

• CSix Job Search Networking Group - www.csix.org Meets in Saratoga on Thursdays - $10 includes lunch & presentation. Meets in Woodside at Alice's Restaurant on Wednesdays. (Buy own lunch)

• CA One-Stop Centers (Employment Development Department) - provides counseling, workshops, resource library, job club, job retraining, job listings. Free
o San Francisco - 7 centers - www.onetopsf.org
o East Bay - www.eastbayworks.com
o San Mateo - www.peninsulaworks.org
o Sunnyvale - Connect/Nova - www.connect.one-stop.org, www.novaworks.org

Estelle Cimino is a career counselor in private practice in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Monterey. She also works in grief and bereavement counseling at Hospice of the Central Coast. Her website is www.careeractioncenter.com and she can be reached at estelle@careeractioncenter.com.