A new tomorrow
“Losing your job can be exceptionally stressful,” states Therese Lardner, registered psychologist and careers specialist with Mining Family Matters, an online support network empowering Canadian families in mining, oil and gas. “Research shows that it’s one of the top 10 most stressful life events that you can experience, similar to reconciling a marriage or experiencing poor health of a loved one.”
According to Lardner, it is important for people who have recently lost their job to “remember that it is a process – there will certainly be good days and bad days but you’ve got to hang on for the ride.”
The decision to get out and start to seek employment immediately or to take some time is an individual one.
“How quickly to begin job searching will be different for everybody,” she says. “Some people need time and space to grieve for what has happened and process their thoughts and feelings. Others get started right away. How quickly you can start can be determined by how able you feel to carry out an effective job search.”
Lardner admits that market conditions, such as a downturn in the oil and gas sector, can have a huge impact on a person’s job-searching experience. But the trick is to not focus on the fact that the market is flat but to ensure one gets creative about how one markets one’s skills and experience. She also adds that networking is key to finding success – and that the job loss itself can turn into a positive.
“I can’t tell you how many people I have worked who wish they had the ‘push’ to find a new role sooner,” she says. “Active job seeking following a job loss will force you to really think about what you want to do so job choices are often aligned with an overall career plan. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on your skills, achievements and how far you’ve come over your career.”
Job loss can be a very significant source of stress for both the individual in question and for the spouse.
“Even small demonstrations of daily support are vital,” says Lardner, in speaking of ways in which a spouse may help. “This is a time when the individual can lean on the spouse, friends, and family. Spouses or partners should try hard not to enquire about what the individual is doing all day, as comments like this may cause them to shut down and get defensive. Instead, they can assist with things like proofreading if that’s a strength. They should also be clear on what sort of job the individual is looking for so they can help with networking.”
Lardner cites symptoms such as disrupted sleep patterns (sleeping more/less than usual, trouble going to/staying asleep), increased or decreased appetite and the use of coping mechanisms like alcohol or recreational drugs as signs that the individual may be going through depression or anxiety.
“You need to talk to the person to understand what’s going on with them,” she says. “If you don’t feel equipped to have this discussion, then you need to talk to your doctor or local mental health professional for some ideas on how you could approach the situation. A simple ‘Are you OK?’ is a great place to start.”
Stress and anxiety may also impact one’s family, including children. The impact of such is often dependent upon their ages.
“A very young child may only have the capacity to understand that mummy or daddy isn’t leaving the house and returning as normal,” says Lardner. “An older child may grasp the concept of the job that you do and may understand that you’re looking for another place to do that job. A teenager may be more sensitive to the impact of the job loss. The main thing is to keep the message age appropriate and invite questions. Try to be honest about any of the negatives so that the child understands but, at the same time, highlight the positives – such as having more time to play with them.”
According to Lardner, there are ways that one can help alleviate child stress.
“Try to be a positive role model for coping and talk them through why you’re approaching stress the way you are – like ‘I’m getting really frustrated now so I am going to take a break and come back to this later,’” she advises. “Job loss can often upset the normal household rhythm so try to create a ‘new normal’ to provide some structure and certainty in their lives. Ask if they have any questions or would like to talk about what’s going on and also try to make the most of job search downtime by doing things that raise your energy levels and nurtures your relationship with your kids.”
A new tomorrow
Although landing a new job is certainly cause for celebration – Lardner suggests that one celebrate in a way that’s meaningful – it doesn’t necessarily mark the end of the anxiety.
“Change can be daunting even if we choose it,” she advises. “To reduce some of the stress, you should think through your short- and medium-term goals of your new role. What will you need to learn? Who will you need to get to know? How can you build your reputation and career through this role? What could be some of the new challenges? How will you overcome them?”
By learning how to manage stress, an individual can better cope with job loss and job seeking. This will also have an impact on an individual’s spouse, family and friends. Lardner advises that people maintain motivation and engagement throughout the job loss/job find process. And to help keep stress in check by taking care of oneself through diet and exercise.
“Keeping your motivation up and stress down is a sure-fire way to get through tough organizational change or tough career situations,” she concludes, adding change in itself may be frightening but, in the case of job loss, one is often rewarded with a richer and more fulfilling career.