“Your name is on the list.”
Six little words. I remember the day and location as if it was yesterday. At first, I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. A minute ago, I was employed. But with those six words my world turned upside down because it meant I was now unemployed after 25 years with my organization. My job was more than a paycheck. I was fully committed to an organization I loved, working with people I enjoyed and it was a place where I grew up professionally. Unfortunately, the decision to leave wasn’t mine.
Stories like mine happen to millions of people ever year. It’s happened twice in my life and over the years I’ve had cups of coffee with hundreds of other job seekers, hearing their story and journey, which means I know a lot about job loss. I’m convinced that “letting go” of your past job is often the biggest challenge to finding the next job.
I’m referring to the emotional impact related to job loss. You might be one of those who didn’t have an emotional connection to their work and organization, for you it was easier. That’s rare. For the majority, if you’re honest with yourself, you were closely connected to the organization, or the people you worked with, or your work itself, and maybe all of them, which makes leaving it behind a struggle.
When you haven’t made peace with what happened, prospective employers can see it in your face and hear it in your answers. It doesn’t make you an attractive candidate.
To deal with your loss, which is real, we need to lean on God to help us through.
I’ve found there three common challenges associated with unexpected job loss and some ways to help you get past it.
It’s normal to be angry, yet everyone is different about what they are angry about. Some might direct their anger toward the organization, some at the person they reported to, others might blame God, He let it happen. Others might be angry at their circumstances; they don’t want to be unemployed. We aren’t good at dealing with anger, we usually repress, bury it and not deal with it. Anger is like an iceberg, most of it is below the surface, but it can do tremendous damage.
God says, “give it to me, let me hear your anger.”
“Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15).
Here are three suggestions on how you can get your anger out and get past it:
- Shout it out: Find a time when no one is home and just say what’s on your mind. Tell God what you really think. Scream if you’d like. Don’t choose words as if someone is listening, or you think you will offend God, this needs to be what’s on your heart. Crying is okay too, even for guys. Once might not be enough, you might need to do this a couple of times.
- Write it out: Get a pad of paper or a journal and every day for at least two weeks, write out your thoughts to God related to your job loss. Tell him what you are thinking, feeling, who you are mad at, etc. It’s okay to be mad at him. Don’t write it as if someone will read it, this is only for you and God. Yes, you might write some of the same things over and over, it’s okay.
- Talk it out: Meet with someone who will be a good listener, someone you can be totally honest with, and talk out your feelings. You need to be totally honest in what you say, so I recommend a Christian counselor or Pastor.
A common reaction is to wonder why this happened. “Was there something I could have done which would have changed the result and still be employed?” Or, “They told us it was economic, I wonder if there is a hidden reason?” Most people think if they just knew why, it would be easier to accept.
Asking why has happened throughout the ages. Do you remember Job questioning God, who reminded him that He was God?
Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know (Job 42:1-3).
We won’t always know the answer, but God knows best. Knowing an answer won’t change that you are still unemployed.
It’s like Improv (Improvisational) Theatre, unscripted. Those in the scene must respond to what happens to them to keep the scene going, it’s not planned out. In their training, participants learn two key words to be successful, “yes” (acceptance) followed by “and” (moving on). Imagine one participant opening the scene saying, “Three pink unicorns walked into a bar.” If the other participant says, “wait, that’s impossible” or “that doesn’t make sense,” the scene will die. But if they “accept” it as real, they can then move forward with something like, “and the bartender said, ‘Can you show me some ID?’”, which keeps the scene going.
Losing your job wasn’t part of your plans, but you need to say “yes,” accept it has happened, stop asking why “and” begin moving on. Until you do, you’ll be stuck.
“I’m going back”
Some hold out hope that their job loss a mistake by the organization, which they will soon realize and reach out and ask them to return. They can picture that call in their minds. They stay in close contact with their former team members, asking about issues and challenges, so they are ready to return. Others cannot accept they are no longer with the organization, it was part of their identity. They search for and begin applying for jobs at a lower level in the organization with the hope of getting back in the organization. Neither thought process is helpful and they keep you from making progress finding a new job.
Don’t waste your time. Remember what Jesus said to his disciples:
“And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11).
Try saying to yourself, “They don’t know what they had in you. It will be their loss that you aren’t there. You are so gifted, someone is going to be really lucky to get you at their company.” Saying this once won’t make things magically change, but each time you say it will help you in letting go and moving forward.
Your life and career are like a book, made up of chapters. Some are longer than others. It’s time to close the chapter on your past job and with God, begin writing the next chapter in your life and career.
Dale Kreienkamp is the President of Thriving Through Transitions, a consultancy focused on helping organizations and individuals thrive through challenging transitions in the face of change. His book How Long, O Lord, How Long? offers a series of devotions to help the unemployed, and those who love them, navigate this difficult aspect of life.