Job loss is considered as stressful as divorce or relocation, giving the “victim” a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability. The emotional roller coaster that accompanies loss of employment ranges from shock and denial to anger and withdrawal. As many identify themselves with their jobs (thinking, “My job is my life”), job loss also brings a loss of their self-esteem and self-worth.
While in some cases losing one’s job does not come as a complete surprise, many people finding themselves in this emotionally taxing situation can take months to regroup and find the courage or motivation to start looking for a new job.
How Does Job Loss Affect Older Employees?
For employees with 25 plus years of experience, one of the biggest hurdles is that downsizing, outsourcing and restructuring have all contributed to the elimination of many mid-level management roles that they would typically occupy. For many, their skills and job functions no longer fit organizations; simply put, they are outdated.
To add to the challenge, because of technical advances, companies can achieve more with fewer employees. As companies outsource certain functions to other organizations (in many cases international suppliers that provide a faster and less expensive service), they eliminate internal career opportunities and create further redundancies amongst certain layers of the organization.
To stay in the race, older employees looking for a new job must acquire new skills and develop an attitude of compromise and flexibility. Most likely, salaries and benefits may be less competitive, so employees must not only adjust their expectations, but also adjust their financial goals and spending habits.
For them, getting back into the workforce as soon as possible is critical, as any extended employment gaps significantly decrease their chances of getting hired.
Are Younger Employees Safe?
For younger employees, career transition may be less traumatic but it can still pose a few challenges. They are typically linked to lack of experience and less-developed technical and inter-personal skills.
Many young employees choose frequent job changes and short assignments, which although acceptable in some cases, when excessive, can also negatively influence an employer’s decision to hire.
Younger employees need to become comfortable with longer-term loyalty. While changing companies every year can be exciting and refreshing, it seldom helps them build a solid reputation and progress to more senior roles. Loyalty, reliability, and demonstrating strong and consistent performance results over a longer period are the key ingredients to getting a senior managerial role.
A Fresh Start
Thankfully, and despite all the drama that accompanies it, career transition is often a blessing in disguise. Laid-off people often admit later on that they were unhappy at work, and that they no longer felt motivated, challenged or excited by their job. Admitting that takes courage and a certain degree of self-awareness. Doing something about it before losing one’s job takes even more courage, especially when the employee has other factors to consider, such as a family or mortgage.
But regardless of how they got there, employees dealing with job loss should try to consider the situation they are in as the beginning of the road rather than the end of it. This is their chance to start fresh, dig deep inside to discover what they love doing and are good at, and then find the right opportunity (which often includes self-employment and starting their own business) that provides not just a pay check but also meaningful and rewarding work.