A book that offers a series of "survival tips" to help grieving people get back on their feet could also be helpful to those who are living through a wrenching job loss or are facing an unexpected career change.
I recently read a book a colleague wrote about coping with the sudden loss of her husband, who died at age 61 after a fall from a ladder. The book — “Suddenly Single,” by Ruthann Reim McCaffree, a University Place-based life coach and change management consultant — focuses on 10 steps she discovered that she needed to accept the death of her husband, Terry, and to move forward.
Her book is in no way a job-search advice manual, but the themes that McCaffree covers — shock, grief, confusion, recovery, healing — felt surprisingly real and familiar to this veteran employment writer. While I’ve never experienced anything as devastating as the death of a spouse, I was once told to leave a job that I had considered the most rewarding of my career up to that point.
I would never equate a layoff with the irrevocable loss of a loved one, but it was the first time I’d lost control of my career, and it happened during the deepest trough of the Great Recession. Even five years later, just the thought of that day in early 2009 still stings; I can recall the panic and existential fear I felt.
McCaffree, who has done her share of career consulting, says she understands the connection. “I’ve seen clients react to losing their jobs with the same kind of intensity that I felt losing Terry, especially if they were caught by surprise,” she writes. “It is just a shattering blow, stripping away everything that identifies us.”
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Throughout “Suddenly Single,” McCaffree offers a series of “survival tips” to help grieving people get back on their feet. For those who are living through a wrenching job loss or are facing an unexpected career change, many of these tips are just as applicable.
“Find skilled people you trust who will help you.” One of the worst things you can do is to be stoic and think you can go it alone on your new job search. This process may take longer than you think, so don’t be afraid to reach out to the people in your network and let them know that you are looking.
“Eat something good for you every day.” I’m living proof that the first part of your work routine that starts to slip after a layoff is often eating three healthy squares a day. Once the shock wears off, it’s time to put down the cookie dough and potato chips and reacquaint yourself with protein and green veggies.
“Be open to the unlimited ways more can come into your life.” The period after a layoff can be a good time to ponder your work history and to consider whether the path you’re on will make you the happiest. Be open to new possibilities and try to imagine yourself in a different career. “Let yourself be surprised,” McCaffree adds.
“Start to pay attention to those talents and personality traits that are uniquely yours.” Don’t assume that everyone knows what you’re best at based on your work history. Write down the abilities you have that might set you apart from other job seekers, and show how you have applied them. “The parts of us that are as easy as breathing are our natural traits,” McCaffree writes. “Sometimes because they are so easy for us, we think they are equally easy for everyone. Not true.”
“Do something every day that actively gives you energy.” You have to keep moving forward and work at a job search each day, but you also need to reward yourself for small successes. “Tie rewards to the energy expended, and not results,” McCaffree recommends. “If you decide to reward yourself with a nonfat latte for making a stressful phone call and you get the person’s voicemail, go ahead and get the latte. It took effort to even make that call, even if you didn’t get results.”